Balto, Togo, and the rest of the Iditarod dogs

Balto after his run

In 1924 a diphtheria outbreak was starting to happen in the ice-locked city of Nome, Alaska.  The only doctor, Curtis Welch, had requested a supply of diphtheria antitoxin since his supply was expired but it did not arrive with the last ship that arrived to Nome. Shortly after the last ship left before the port closed (and after the port closed) the first child started to show symptoms but the doctor diagnosed it as tonsillitis since no other cases appeared.  Though December and January a large number of tonsillitis cases and by January 20th, 1925 the first official case of diphtheria was diagnosed.

Due to the highly contagious nature of the disease the city of Nome was put under quarantine.   Dr. Welch sent out a telegram message informing the governor in Juneau as well as the US Public Health Service in Washington DC informing them of the quarantine and requested 1 million units of antitoxin.  The port was closed, no roads existed into the city, and the planes were already dismantled for the winter and the only way the antitoxin could get to Nome was via dog sled team (at the time used for US Mail service) via the Iditarod trial (from Nenana to Nome) which was 674 miles long and normally took 25 days to complete.

Knowing that 25 days was too long to save the people in Nome and the surrounding area a relay of sled dog teams was set up.  20 teams would make the run in 5 days (arriving in Nome on Feb 1st, 1925).

On January 27 Leonhand Seppala and his dog team, led by Togo, left Nome for his hand-off point in Shaktoolik but he was late due to storms in the region.  On January 31 Henry Ivanoff was waiting as a backup and took the serum with him.  Henry was just outside of Shaktoolik when he met up with Leonhand and handed off the serum.

Togo after his run.

Hearing word that the outbreak in Nome was getting worse, Leonhand and Togo turned the sled around back into the storm that night.  They rested only for a few hours at Issacâ’s Point before heading back out into the storm.  Leonhand and Togo arrived at the next handoff point, Golovin, where he handed off the serum to Charley Olsen at 3PM on Feb 1st.

At 7PM and after suffering serious setbacks, Charle arrived at Bluff where he handed the serum off to Gunnar Kaasen and his lead dog, Balto.  Gunnar waited to see if the storm would get better but though the night it got worse, he left Bluff at 10PM.  The weather was so bad at times he could not see the dogs closest to him.  Ed Rohn, who was supposed to receive the serum was not prepared (he thought Gunnar had been delayed) so Gunnar and Balto continued onto Nome.  Gunnar and Balto arrived at Nome at 5:30AM.

The teams covered 647 miles in 127.5 hours which at the time was a world record for any condition.  Some of the dogs did not survive the run and some humans suffered injuries mainly frostbite but the Iditarod Run saved countless lived in Nome.  Every human and dog team who took part in this run deserve to be recognized as a hero but it is considered that Togo’s team and Balto’s team were the most pivotal.

Here is the list of all teams:

    • January 27
      • Bill Shannon (suffered hypothermia and severe frostbite to his face and lost 4 dogs)
        • 52 miles
    • January 28
      • Edgar Kallands (suffered frostbite to his hands)
        • 31 miles
      • Dan Green
        • 28 miles
      • Johnny Folger
        • 26 miles
    • January 29
      • Sam Joseph
        • 34 miles
      • Titus Nikolai
        • 24 miles
      • Dan Corning
        • 30 miles
      • Harry Pitka
        • 30 miles
      • Bill McCarty
        • 28 miles
      • Edgar Nollner
        • 24 miles
    • January 30
      • George Nollner
        • 18 miles
      • Charlie Evans (two dogs died in this run)
        • 30 miles
      • Tommy Patsy
        • 36 miles
      • Jackscrew
        • 40 miles
      • Victor Anagick
        • 34 miles
    • January 31
      • Myles Gonangnan
        • 40 miles
      • Henry Icanoff – replaced by Leonhand Seppala (a few miles)
      • Leonhand Seppala and Togo
        • 91 miles
    • February 1
      • Charlie Olson
        • 25 miles
      • Gunnar Kassen and Balto
        • 53 miles


To commemorate this run the Iditarod Race was commissioned in 1973 and is run annually.’,