Balto

by Bethany from Roseville

"Each dog on Kaasen's team had an important position, but it was the leader, Balto, who guided them through safely."
Balto and sledder Gunnar Kaasen (www.baltostory.net (unknown creator))
Balto and sledder Gunnar Kaasen (www.baltostory.net (unknown creator))

There are a lot of different features that one must have to be a hero. A hero is typically known as a person who is noble and courageous, one who helps others and is admired by many. I disagree with this analysis; a hero does not have to be a person. My hero is not a human, and yet he saved lives while risking his. He never gave up in tough times and persevered for the benefit of those who never cared for him. My hero is Balto, the sled dog who saved the city of Nome, and though he may not be the expected species, he is more of a hero than most humans ever will be.

Balto was born in the year 1919 in Nome, Alaska. He was a mostly-black Siberian husky, though some believe he was part wolf. Balto was born and raised as a sled dog for his owner, Gunnar Kaasen. However, Balto was known to be a poor leader. He was never put in the front during a run, and his reputation was subpar. This all changed when something hit the city of Nome in the dead of winter: diphtheria. 


Balto and his team after reaching Nome. (www.animalplanet.com ())
Balto and his team after reaching Nome. (www.animalplanet.com ())

Diphtheria is a disease that, at the time, was deadly. It causes sores, bleeding, swollen necks, swollen glands, and especially troubled breathing. Diphtheria swept through Nome, and nearly the entire child population was diagnosed with the epidemic. Nome called for help and discovered that the closest serum was nearly one thousand miles away in Anchorage. Transporting the cure was nearly impossible; the helicopters couldn't fly in the weather, the boats were iced in, and the train tracks were covered. There was only one thing left to do: travel by sled.

Kaasen with Balto after Serum Run ( www.nytimes.com)
Kaasen with Balto after Serum Run ( www.nytimes.com)

Relay teams were set up over the state for the Serum Run of 1925. Gunnar Kaasen, Balto's sledder, waited to cover the final leg of the race to Nome. Due to injured dogs, he reluctantly put Balto as his lead. It took over five days for the serum to reach Kaasen's team, and then they were off on the hardest ride they'd ever taken.

Balto led his team through a brutal blizzard. There was so much snow that Gunnar Kaasen recalled, ''I honestly could not lift a hand to my face and say I saw a single finger.'' Balto raced through winds of 50 mph, blinding snow, dangerous terrain, and subzero temperatures that were as little as -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Gunnar and his dogs lost the trail many times in the storm, but never Balto. When the team had nothing left and Kaasen decided to rest for the night, Balto pulled forward and never paused his journey. He even saved Kaasen from drowning in the freezing Topkok River. Because of Balto, Gunnar Kaasen's sled dog team covered the 53 treacherous miles to Nome in just 20 hours. The city was saved, and Balto was a hero."It was Balto who led the way," Kaasen told a reporter. "The credit is his."

The word of Balto spread like a wildfire. Soon, the once unwanted sled dog was the nation's topic; everyone was in awe. Kaasen and Balto toured throughout the country by popular demand. Multiple movies, such as ''Balto the Sled Dog'', were made. A statue of Balto was put up in Central Park with a plaque reading, ''Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925.'' The famous sled dog race known as The Iditarod, which is held annually in Alaska, is the same course as the Serum Run and is dedicated to Balto and the other sled dogs involved in 1925. 

As you can see, Balto, though now dead, is a major hero with a story that will live on forever. He is heroic for many reasons, like how his actions saved an entire city. However, it is not just that he helped others. Balto beat the odds; he proved everyone wrong. Balto's tale gives hope to all other underdogs, those who feel like they can't do anything, and those who have been told that they're not good enough--or that they just can't. So, Balto the sled dog has been a huge help, not only in the past, but now and for many years to come.

Page created on 12/11/2014 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 12/11/2014 12:00:00 AM

Related Links

A Race for Life - A story of Balto and the Hero Dogs of Alaska
Spirit of a Racer - The story of Balto and other day-to-day sled dogs

Extra Info

Books: The Bravest Dog Ever: The Story of Balto; The Incredible Life of Balto; Balto and the Great Race

Movies: Balto; The True Story of Balto; Balto, the Dog who Saved Nome; Balto the Sled Dog

Bibliography

unknown. "Sled Dogs and the Serum Run of 1925." [Online] Available www.pbs.org/sled-dogs.

unknown. "Balto." [Online] Available www.wikipedia.com/balto.

unknown. "Balto the Sled Dog of Nome." [Online] Available www.centralparknyc.org/balto.

unknown. "Balto the Siberian Husky." [Online] Available www.sibrescue.com/balto.

unknown. "Balto Central Park ." [Online] Available www.nycgovparks.org/monuments.