Animals at the Pole

Over New Year’s, I traveled to Antarctica.  Before I left, I spent a lot of time reading accounts of Arctic and Antarctic exploration.  Many expeditions in search of both poles included dogs and ponies on their expedition teams.  In the mid-1800’s and early 1900’s the animals were inevitably placed in cramped and exposed quarters, living almost side by side with the sailors and explorers on board the expedition ship.  Many of the trip descriptions included funny stories about the individual personalities of the dogs and ponies.  Some of them made it back home, to live surprisingly conventional lives in England or elsewhere, but many of them didn’t make it back.  As a salute to the efforts of these unsung Antarctic heroes, the New York Times reported in September that navigational waypoints for air traffic in Antarctica will be renamed for the dogs and ponies who supported Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen’s 1911-12 race to the South Pole.

Herbert Ponting/British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13

For an interesting read, check out South Pole Ponies (I ran across an old copy at my local library), or any of the many accounts of the Scott and Amundsen expeditions.

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