Shep

Son of Vida and Charlie

This is a post-script to the events of Mawson in 1980 worthy of a mention.

Born during a blizzard at Mawson 26th of July 1980 were 5 pups. The parents were Vida (bitch) and Charlie (sire). The parents had been carefully chosen by dog men Tom Maggs and Kevin Shepherd after exhaustive examination of the breeding records of the Mawson Huskies.

Vida was brought to Mawson from Scott base, along with Noogis, in 1979 to introduce new bloodlines into the Mawson dogs. These two had already been bred together in late 1979 and had produced Jumbuck, Brian and Adelle. Charlie was chosen as the best suited would-be father because we realised that he was the last of a particular line of good working dogs.

In preparation for the pups, a kennel or "maternity ward" was built outside Shackleton dongas, close to where both dog men lived. On the day that Vida was to give birth she became very restless and entered Shackleton dongas. The weather being particularly severe (blizzard), we set up a temporary "nest" for her in an empty donga. But at the last minute, she rushed into Tom Maggs donga, made herself comfortable on a pair of Tom's overalls and gave birth to her pups there.

Shep

The five pups of Charlie and Vida consisted of four dogs and one bitch. Their names were Streaky, Siber, Chuck, Shep and Madams. Naming of three of the pups was decided by lottery, the other two being named by the two dog men. The dog men gave them the names Chuck (son of Charlie) and Madams (in honour of Radio Australia compare Mary Adams). Streaky's name was derived from one of Syd Kirkby's dogs from his Enderby Land surveying days, Siber referred to a dog of Steve Harris, and Shep was named by expeditioner Garry Hardie after dog man Kev Shepherd. Shep then immediately became "Shep's dog" and received special attention from the dog man.

The pups as usual were allowed to roam the station until summer returned, when they were introduced to the dog lines with the adult dogs to keep them from pestering the odd stray seal or penguin which made its way to the station.

Shep's first serious sledge trip was with David Robinson, Alan Winter and Kev Shepherd to Rumdoodle, behind Mawson, in December 1980. It was one of those fine warm Antarctic summer days, with a wet layer on the ice, making traction difficult for the dogs. He quickly showed signs of exhaustion and Shep (the dog man) soon took pity on him, placing him on the sled. From that humble beginning he grew into one of Mawson's strongest sled dogs.

Just as when he was born, Shep died in 1982 in a blizzard, during a working trip on the sea-ice. The blizzard was so intense that Shep and several other dogs were buried quickly by snow drifts. There was a very strong sense of grief felt by the men at the station. The news was received by his former dog men Tom and Shep with equal sadness.

His body was kept and returned to Australia, and eventually he was preserved to be placed on display at the Antarctic Division Headquarters where he may now be seen by visitors, a tribute to the little recognised, hard working dogs used by Australia on the AAE and ANARE expeditions.

It was by accident that during a visit to the Antarctic Division I discovered a Husky on display. As I approached I immediately recognised him. My heart stopped, and I just stood and stared, remembering happier times with my old friend. At first I wondered how they could do this to him, but seeing him in fine shape, I realised that it would give many people an appreciation of the working dogs of Mawson, and who better to represent them than Shep.

In memory of an old friend from
Kev "Shep" Shepherd
November, 1989