Rescue Mission

Today in History, February 2: 1925 – The children were dying. The last ship had left, and they were iced in. They may as well be living on Mars, considering the distance and conditions. It was 50 below, windswept and icy. By the time the ice thawed and the next ship arrived, they would most likely all be dead, here within a few miles of the North Pole. A diphtheria epidemic had begun in Nome, Alaska. The only doctor, in desperation, sent a telegraph, “An epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable here STOP I am in urgent need of one million units of diphtheria antitoxin STOP Mail is only form of transportation STOP I have made application to Commissioner of Health of the Territories for antitoxin already STOP There are about 3000 white natives in the district.” The native population was unaccustomed to disease…and would most likely be wiped out completely. Supplies of medicine were sent to the Port of Seward, and after many rough men and their teams of Huskies forced their way across 674 miles of the most harsh territory on Earth, the antidote was delivered to Nome on this date in 1925. Had it been a decade in the future, an aircraft could have easily delivered the medicine, but not in 1925. Then it took heroes to save 10,000 souls and perhaps more had the virus spread in the region. A hazardous trip across mountain ranges and frozen tundra that normally took 30 days was made in FIVE…because it had to be. Thus was born the modern Iditarod Race, to commemorate the event.

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