Disasters

The 1925 Serum Run to Nome

What might have been the most important "sled dog race" that will ever be run in Alaska ended in Nome on February 2, 1925, when Gunner Kaassen drove his tired dog team down an almost deserted First Avenue. At stake were the lives of countless Nome children who had been exposed to the dread disease, diphtheria. Kaassen was one of the 20 drivers who took part in the record 674 mile relay race from Nenana to Nome. He delivered 300,000 units of antitoxin serum to Dr. Curtis Welch. The serum arrived in Nome just one week after leaving Anchorage and 127½ hours from Nenana. It was on January 21 that Dr. Welch first diagnosed the diphtheria outbreak in Nome, and immediately sent telegraph messages to Fairbanks, Anchorage, Seward and Juneau, asking for help. The only serum in Alaska was found in Anchorage, where Dr. J.B. Beeson had 300,000 units at the Alaska Railroad Hospital. The problem was to get it to Nome in the shortest time possible. The only two planes available were in Fairbanks and had been dismantled and stored for the winter. A pair of pilots offered to attempt the flight if the planes could be made ready, but it was left to Alaska's governor to decide. Many thought dog teams were the only reliable answer. In Juneau, Governor Scott C. Bone decided on dog teams. He ordered an additional supply of antitoxin from Seattle. Then he called on the Northern Commercial Company, as the largest organization in the Yukon River area, to arrange for relay teams. Men of the Army Signal Corps, at their scattered telegraph stations, also assisted. In Nome, Dr. Welch and the mayor, George Maynard, discussed ways to get the serum to Nome. They suggested sending the serum to Nenana by rail and then sending a team to the rail line, or asking a fast team to start the antitoxin down the Tanana and Yukon Rivers and have a team from Nome meet it about half way. At Anchorage, Dr. Beeson packed the serum in a cylinder, which he wrapped in an insulating quilt. The whole parcel was then tied up in canvas for further protection. The parcel left Anchorage by train on Monday, January 26, in the charge of conductor Frank Knight of

the Alaska Railroad. It was at 11 p.m. on Tuesday that the train reached Nenana and Knight turned over the parcel to the first driver, William "Wild Bill" Shannon. Shannon carried the serum 52 miles to Tolovana with his nine big malemutes in weather that averaged -52˚F, where he handed it over to Dave Green. Green carried the serum 31 miles to Manley Hot Springs with his 8 dogs in temperatures of -30˚F with 20 MPH winds and a wind chill of -72˚F and handed it over to Johnny Folger. Folger, an Athabascan, went the 28 miles to Fish Lake with eight dogs, bad weather, and no serious problems. Sam Joseph, another Athabascan, picked the serum up there and carried it 67 miles to Tanana, with the temperatures still dropping. Titus Nickoli wasn’t a mail carrier but a trapper. With his 7 village dogs and -34˚F weather he carried it 34 miles to Kallands. Dave Corning carried it 24 miles to Nine Mile Cabin with an average of 8 MPH and -42˚F weather. Edgar Kalland and his 7 dogs picked it up at Nine Mile Cabin and went 30 miles to Kokrines in temperatures of -44˚F. Harry Pitka carried it another 30 miles to Ruby with an average of 9 MPH in temperatures of -47˚F and total white-out conditions. Billy McCarty carried it 28 miles to Whiskey Creek with his team of 7 dogs and -43˚F. Edgar Nollner, another Athabascan, left Whiskey Creek at 7P and carried the serum to Galena in 3 hours with a team of 7 dogs and -40˚F temperatures. His brother, George Nollner, with the same dog team carried it from Galena to Bishop Mountain, 18 miles. It was too dark for the dogs to lope, they could only trot.

22 year old Charlie Evans went the 30 miles to Nulato, in 5 hours and temperatures of -64˚F. He had no rabbit skins to cover the groin area of his dogs, and 2 of them began to freeze as they ran. Tommy Patsy went the next 36 miles in 3½ hours to Kaltag passing the half-way point of the race and arriving in Kaltag at noon on Friday, January 30th. At Kaltag, an Athabascan river pilot known as Jack Screw, picked the serum up and took it away from the Yukon River and over a mountain pass, the 40 miles to Old Woman Cabin. The weather was growing worse and he had to face a blinding snowstorm. Victor Anagick, an Eskimo, carried it 34 miles to Unalakleet. Another Eskimo, Myles Gonangnan, carried it 40 miles to Shaktoolik. He had to break the trail the entire way and everyone said it was one of the worst snow storms in history. It took 12 hours for his team of 8 dogs to make the run. He reached Shaktoolik exhausted and frostbitten. Henry or Harry Ivanoff, part Eskimo and part Russian, started from Shaktoolik to Golovin with the serum. Half a mile along the trail, the dog team picked up the scent of reindeer and became tangled in their harnesses. As Ivanoff was struggling to untangle his team, he was met by Leonhard Seppala from Nome. Leonhard Seppala had left Nome intending to rest at Nulato and return with the serum. But he met Ivanoff at Shaktoolik where he took the serum and turned around, heading back for Nome. He carried the serum back over Norton Sound with the thermometer -30˚F. Seppala had to face into a merciless gale and in the darkness retrace his route across the uncertain ice. When Seppala turned the serum over to Charlie Olson in Golovin, after carrying it 124 miles, he and his team, including the famous lead dog, Togo, had traveled a total of 260 miles. Charlie Olson met Seppala in Golovin for the 25 mile run to Bluff. The snowstorm had turned the weather into a blizzard, with 50 MPH winds and a temperature of -30˚F. He and his 7 dogs were knocked off of the trail several times by gusts. In 4 hours and 15 minutes he reached Bluff with frostbitten fingers to prove that he had fought the storm. Olson turned the serum over to Gunnar Kaasen, who took it the remaining 53 miles to Nome. Gunnar Kaassen left Bluff at 10P that night to run the last stretch. Rumor has it that he bypassed Ed Rohn, who was waiting at Safety to take the serum the last segment of the relay. Kaasen had to battle 80 MPH winds and had to trust his lead dog, “Balto”, to follow the trail.

He made it to Nome, but not with out mishaps. Once his sled tipped and he lost the serum in a snowdrift. But Kaassen and the lifesaving diptheria serum reached Nome just in time, and a diptheria epidemic was prevented. Balto, Kaassen's lead dog, owned by Seppala, and was memorialized with a statue in Central Park in New York City. Seppala always felt that his lead dog, Togo, didn't get enough recognition for his 260 mile effort. After Togo died, Seppala had him custom mounted and he is now on display at Iditarod® Headquarters in Wasilla. Balto is on display in Cleveland at the Museum of Natural History.

Created from information provided by the Iditarod Website.

Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau P. O. Box 240, Nome, AK 99762 907 443-6624 * www.nomealaska.org 5/4 - #7

Nome: Storm of 1913

Nome, Alaska, Oct.7.-Nome's business district practically swept away; hundred of thousands of dollars in property lost; five hundred homeless; ruin and destruction and desolation everywhere, and the end not in sight, is the condition existing here today, as a result of a storm that broke with tremendous fury early yesterday morning and continues unabated. There have been no lives lost.

One mile of Front Street has been washed away. The Elite baths and hotel, a four story building, crashed to the ground at the mercy of the waves at 3 a.m. yesterday. Huge walls of water rushed swirling and eddying over the wreckage and a din like the roar of cannon (sic) struck terror to the people.

The scenes in Front Street yesterday were indescribable. Jewelry stores, warehouses, dry goods stores, restaurants, saloons-all this section of Front Street, has been swept out. Breakers forty feet high swept over Front Street. All hands were commandeered to aid in securing the effects of the stricken businessmen. Thousands of dollars worth of goods have been swept out to sea and with winter at hand a famine is feared, as the provisions and stores of the city have been practically wiped out.

Every building along the beach side of Front Street is in ruins. The Board of Trade saloon and restaurant was among the earlier buildings to suffer destruction.

The life saving station is swept away. Nome spent a night of horror last night. The blackness added to the terror of the scene and the terrific wind and rain continued with greater fury.

At 10 o'clock this morning it is feared the entire business section of Nome will be carried away. The people are working hopefully and with the spirit of the times are facing the situation bravely.

It is estimated that fully five hundred people are homeless.

Every building on the sand spit has been washed away excepting the cold storage plant. This building is weakening and may go any minute. The workers are unable to cope with the water and are confining their efforts to moving goods to places of safety.

The storm first broke Saturday morning. A fifty-mile gale blew but this velocity was soon increased to sixty miles, according to weather observations.

By noon yesterday the calamity was almost at its height. The suddenness with which the storm increased left the city entirely unprepared to receive it. Sunday the storm raged and notice was posted that the steamer Victoria would not sail for Seattle until its abatement. Little alarm was felt in Nome Sunday. By midnight the first signs of approaching destruction were in evidence. The fire bells were rung to summon the people, but before the hastily called meeting had assembled the waved began to pour onto Front Street. Each receding comber carried debris with it.

Daily Alaska Dispatch, Juneau, AK 8 Oct 1913

Nome: Fire of 1905

SEATTLE, Sept. 24.— The steamer Olympia arrived last night from Nome where she left September 15 with news of the fire which wiped out several blocks in the heart of the city on the morning of September 13. The Post Intelligencer's special correspondent at Nome says of the fire:

Fire of 1905.jpg

"The fire started at 3 o'clock in the morning In the Alaska saloon building, owned by Deau & O'Reilly, and was not checked until forty-three business buildings on bath sides of Front street were destroyed. Some twenty or more cabins In the rear of the buildings on the north side of Front street were also destroyed. That the fire was checked in the west was solely due to the prompt action of Scheid & Co., assisted by many willing hands. In the short space of forty-five minutes Scheid & Co. had taken two boilers to the lagoon on River street, made connections with a pump, attached a hose and a stream was playing on the burning buildings. A second boiler was soon in position and another line of hose attached, and then only . did the hundreds of people watching the fire breathe a sigh of relief. „ • ,

When the fire started and during its progress there was little wind. So far as known up to the sailing of the Olympia there were no fatalities. The fire Is supposed to have been caused by the upsetting of a kerosene lamp. An alarm was promptly turned in, but by the time the chemical arrived the flames had gained such headway that little check could be made. »

The inflammable nature of the buildings caused the fire to spread rapidly and this was accelerated by the explosion of gasoline tanks in the buildings on both sides of the street. With each explosion the burning gasoline was scattered far and wide. In the narrow street the heat was so intense that fighting the fire from that quarter became impossible.

The losses are: D. Bianchi, Tacoma grocery, $6000; Monogram saloon, $4000; King & King, grocery; $500; city hall, $5000; Hunter saloon, $8000; Carmen building, $7000; Eagle saloon, $2000: Pioneer building, $3000; bowling alley, $1000; Monte Carlo building, $3000; A. B. C. saloon, $4000; Eldorado building, $4000; Eldorado saloon, $3000; Northern ealoon, $5000; Columbia building, $5000; New York store, $3000; Alaska building, I $10,000; Mather building, $5000; Second Class saloon building, $4000; Secon'l Class saloon, $2500; Royal cafe, $5000; Monopole cigar building, $2000; Royal cafe building, $5000; Gem cigar store, damage $500; Nome cigar store, damage $500; Reception building, $5000; Alaskan Telephone & Telegraph company, $2000; Pacific Cold Storage company, $500; J. V. Bursik clothing store, $8000; Simonsen Brothers, owners of the building. $2000; Dr. Wesley, loss on building, $1500; W. A. Boyce, machine shop, $3000; North Pole bakery, $3500; Lucy J. Campbell, $1300; Butler & Jose building, $2500; H. O. Butler, druggist, $4000; Elite bath house, $6000; J. P. Parker & Co., grocers, $5000; Horseshoe restaurant, $1000; C. J. Junte, barber shop, $2000; North Star restaurant, $3000; Emporium clothing store, $3000; Delmonlco restaurant and building, $3000; The Hub saloon, $20*000; Mrs. S. Carscadden, $1500; Klondike restaurant, $2000.

-Los Angeles Herald, Volume 32, Number 359, 25 September 1905