News / USA

Alaska's Iditarod Sled-Dog Race Starts with Ceremonial Jaunt

The lead dogs of musher Brent Sass race down 4th Avenue at the ceremonial start to the Iditarod dog sled race in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, Mar. 2, 2013.
The lead dogs of musher Brent Sass race down 4th Avenue at the ceremonial start to the Iditarod dog sled race in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, Mar. 2, 2013.
Reuters
Dozens of mushers and their sled-dog teams on Saturday will mark a ceremonial start to Alaska's famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race that will take contestants through nearly 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of wilderness during the next week.
    
The 11-mile (18-km) jaunt through the state's largest city of Anchorage sets the stage for the Sunday start of a race that commemorates a 1925 rescue mission that carried diphtheria serum to Nome by sled-dog relay. Some 69 mushers, some from as far away as Jamaica and New Zealand, are expected to take part.
    
"Saturday is an opportunity to interact with mushers, watch dog teams excited to leave the starting line, travel 11 miles of the city streets and call it a day," said race Executive Director Stan Hooley. "There is much more of an opportunity to touch and feel the race, and celebrate this great race."
    
Timed racing will start on Sunday when the mushers reach Willow, a small community about 80 miles (130 km) north of Anchorage. The competition will eventually see them glide into Nome, a city on the coast of the Bering Sea.
    
They will hit 21 checkpoints with distances between stops ranging from 18 to 85 miles before reaching the finish line in Nome. Race officials peg the distance at 975 miles, not accounting for any topographical changes.
    
Most races last slightly longer than nine days, and the winner will receive $50,400 and a new truck. Other top finishers will also be awarded cash prizes from the race purse, which totals over $650,000. Each musher is required to take a 24-hour rest and two separate eight-hour stops. None can be combined.
    
"Anyone who has attended both the ceremonial start in Anchorage and the re-start in Willow, one of the first things they notice is the mindset of the dogs," Hooley said. "They sense the difference between the purpose of those two days. That's a fascinating thing to see."
    
Unpredictability of race
    
Of the 69 mushers, nearly one-fourth are rookies. While most live in Alaska, some not far from Sunday's starting line, the lineup comes replete with international flavor including mushers from Norway, Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Sweden.
    
Even as Saturday's start remains ceremonial, it creates anticipation of what new feats could be accomplished this year. Each race seems to produce signature performances.
    
Three years ago, John Baker became the first Eskimo to post a win, clocking in a record eight days, 18 hours, 46 minutes. A year later, 26-year-old Dallas Seavey became the youngest musher to win. Last year, his father Mitch become the oldest.
    
In nearly 20 years as executive director, Hooley said Baker's victory remains vivid.
    
"It put an exclamation point on how special this race is to Alaska and how it galvanizes seemingly everyone in the entire state," Hooley said. "For him to be the first Native Alaskan to win in many years brought forth a whole new level of emotion, excitement and statewide pride I hadn't felt before."
    
The only thing predictable about the race is its unpredictability.
    
"The unique thing about the Iditarod is there is no norm," said Dallas Seavey, after completing construction of his new sled, made in part with aluminum shaft hockey sticks. "It's not like NASCAR racing cars going around a track. You and your dogs are overcoming tremendous variables and adversity. That's what this race is about."

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs