Dogs of Mawson
by D. Blaby
Mawson is one of the two bases in the Antarctic which is fortunate enough to have working dog teams. There are two such teams each consisting of nine dogs.
Traveling by this mode of transport is the best way to see the Antarctic. This is partially due to the fact that this was how the early pioneers explored the continent, thus appealing to the romantic within us all. The other favourable aspect of this mode of transport is its speed and size giving full perspective of the environment.
Physically the dogs are harnessed with shoulder straps connected to a central trace and not the traditional fan-type trace known in the northern hemisphere. A typical dog line-up would then look as below
It is important for the dog man to know and understand his dogs. Therefore to obtain the best working relationship they must be treated as individuals. Unlike domestic dogs in Australia the Husky has a greater love for man which he readily displays to each and every expeditioner. For example he has adapted to many changes of leadership and at no stage exhibits aggression towards man. However they can become very hostile towards each other, especially out of their own bloodline.
Because of their ancestry in the cross between the wolf and the Greenland husky they are most suited to the harsh environment of the Antarctic. Their hearty appetite is satisfied by fresh meat and Pemican (concentrated meat and cereal).
Whilst care of the Huskies is primarily the responsibility of the dog men, everyone on the station has the opportunity to take part in their care as well as their recreational use. It was pleasing to know that every expeditioner took part in the voluntary dog feeding roster system.
Special thanks go to our two dog men Tom Maggs and Kev Shepherd ably assisted by many of the men at Mawson. Tom and Kevin gave up many hours of their spare time to ensure the dogs were organised and well cared for.