Not Past It - Balto Wasn’t The (Only) Hero

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On January 20th. 1925.

Dr. Curtis Welch was making his rounds at the local hospital in Nome, a tiny remote City about halfway up the western coast of Alaska that afternoon.


He checked in on a three year.

Old boy named Billy Barnett Billy was showing a host of alarming, new symptoms, sunken eyes, dark lips and difficulty breathing.

And when dr.

Welch saw Billy in that condition, it confirmed, this terrible suspicion.


He had Billy had a deadly bacterial infection called diphtheria within hours, Billy succumbed to his illness.

He was the third child.

Dr. Welch had seen died of the disease.


So he sounded the alarm gnome was stricken with diphtheria.

The only way dr.

Welch could stop.

It was with an antitoxin for the disease.

He sent word out pleading for a delivery of antitoxin as soon as possible and who might the heroic couriers be?


But dogs sled dogs.

Some of these dogs become Legends, but their Fame would disguise the darker side of their hero’s journey.

From gimlet media.


This is not past it a show about the stories.

We can’t quite leave behind every episode.

We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.

I’m Samantha lawmen 97 years ago this week and the early morning of February s 1925.


The city of Nome was set to receive its first delivery of life-saving.

Toxin transported by dogs braving, the treacherous elements of a freezing Alaskan winter.

So stay stay, stay tuned.


To tell the story of the journey that became known as the great race of Mercy.

I’m handing the mic to our producer and dog lover, Sarah Craig.

In the freezing cold of a January night in 1925, a little boy named Alfred John was bundled up in his Caribou leg skin.


Boots heading to the train station in nenana, a small settlement in the Alaskan interior.

He would always ask his mother, you know, can we go down?

So I can, you know, wave to the conductor and see what’s coming in and they bundled up and walk down to the station.


This is Debbie Miller a long time, Alaskan resident and the author of The Great serum race.

A children’s book about the sled dog Journey, She interviewed Alfred later in his life.

He remembers thinking how strange it was that there was a dog team that was getting ready to go out in the middle of the night.


That was very odd.

And then Alfred watched one, man, unload, a package tied up with red ribbons.

He saw the package getting strapped onto the sled.

Getting covered in a black bear.


Alfred didn’t know it.


But this package was filled with 300,000 units of diphtheria, antitoxin or Sarah.

It was bound for the small coastal city of Nome, nearly 700 miles directly west of that train station in an Ana little Alfred was witnessing.


The start of the great race of Mercy.

The people of Nome were desperately waiting for this delivery.

There were just over 1,000 residents.

They’re made up of a Asking Natives and white settlers, many of whom had come to Alaska to strike it rich mining for gold by the end of January 1925.


Nome was in the grips of a diphtheria outbreak.

There were over 20 confirmed cases and children were dying.

The only doctor in Nome.

Dr. Curtis Welch had lived there for 18 years and he hadn’t seen anything this bad since the 1918 flu pandemic.


He knew how incredibly Contagious, tooth area was and he knew he had no time to lose.

He was afraid that the whole young population could be wiped out.

He immediately went to the Town Council and said, you’ve got to have a quarantine.


You’ve got to close the public schools.

Children cannot associate with each other because it’s so highly contagious.

Diphtheria is much deadlier to Children than it is to adults.

Nearly 20% of kids who got it during the 20s.


I’d the disease is known as the Strangling Angel because children’s throats get so inflamed that they can suffocate the bacteria creates toxins that can also enter the heart causing heart, failure, and paralysis, and dr.


Welch has only remaining supply of the antitoxin that he needed to treat.

It had expired.

At that point.

It was all hands on deck.

We need this serum.

We need help.

And so he sent a telegram.

And you know, it just basically a few words saying we have an outbreak of diphtheria.


Urgently need help.

January 22nd.

An epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable here.


I am an urgent need of 1 million units of diphtheria antitoxin, stop.

Getting the antitoxin to Nome would be challenging.


They could deliver it by airplane, but it was likely the new flight technology wouldn’t be able to withstand the freezing cold.

So really there was just one reliable option.

Here’s Laney, Salisbury, the co-author of the cruelest miles, a book about the sled dog Journey.


If you wanted to get anywhere in Alaska, in 1925, you needed a dog team.

A dog team consists of a musher who leads a pack of dogs, harness to the sled in pairs with a lead dog out front.


That dog uses his sense of smell to guide the team.

Some mushers used Alaskan Malamutes, tough strong bone dogs, who could pull a lot of weight but weren’t very fast.

Others had Siberian Huskies.

A breed known for Speed and stamina because of their smaller size many of the mushers working in Ask at this time or indigenous and they had inherited centuries of traditional knowledge about how to live with dogs and how to use them to travel for many Native drivers.


I mean, driving a dog team is part of their history and it’s something that has been with them for a very long time.

It’s all based on Native technology.

Did you make your own sled?


You wish to make your own supplies on hand?

Would you make them out of birch?

Mmm, Hickory Runners.

This is a gardener.

One of the mushers who participated Nona isn’t alive today, but I found interviews with him and many other mushers in an oral history project archived at the University of Alaska Anchorage.


Dogsled technology came from the descendants of Alaska, natives who use Birch and hickory wood to keep their sleds lightweight.

They’d also figured out ways of keeping their dogs feet protected and preparing the sleds Runners with ice.

So they would Glide more easily, but it would be a long shot to get the antitoxin to Nome safely.


Everyone was worried that if the bottles were going to break.

So they got wrapped up in all sorts of sealskin and Furs to make sure it had some protection, but it did.

They were worried, it would freeze.

Dr. Welch was also scared that more children would die.

And that the outbreak would Spread outside of known.


Normally it would take about 25 days for dogs to make the mail trail run from nenana.

All the way to Nome.

They had to figure out a way to speed that up.

So they decided on having a relay a relay would be the only possible way to cover the nearly 700 Mile Trail in time to stop the disease from spreading, the governor of Alaska, sent the orders out via telegram, January.


Sixth, please, engage real a dog teams to carry antitoxin, to Tanana, and thence, to Ruby there to be met by team from Nome, stop.

Please, expedite situation, reported serious stop.

Alaska didn’t have all that many people at the time.


So everyone knew each other, they knew who was reliable, and who had a team of dogs big enough in order to take part in this relay.

They recruited 20 mushers with their dog teams.

Two-thirds were Alaska, natives.

Some of them were mail carriers.



Freight haulers, each was asked to cover about 20 to 50 miles of the Frozen Trail and they waited for their turn at the closest Roadhouse a type of rest stop.

On January 27th, the first musher, took off Wild, Bill Shannon left that train station in Tanana, and mushed into the dark night.


And that little boy Alfred he waved.

Goodbye Shannon traveled 52 miles before handing off the sarum to the next musher.

And this would continue Roadhouse to Roadhouse musher to musher, while they pressed on through the remote Alaskan Wilderness.


The rest of the United States was close.

Tracking their progress.

It was making news on the radio and in newspapers across the mainland, Kansas City Star January, 29th, waiting for Shannon.

At Tolo, Vana was Jim calland.

Another of the North’s, famous mushers with a string of Fleet, dog.


So, see a nitrous January 30th, three minutes after reaching Ruby. 350 miles from.


The antitoxin was on its way to call Tag, 200 miles to the West, Boston Globe.

Of January 30th at eight o’clock yesterday morning.


The third team was 42 miles to the Yukon river.

The trail, the mushers traveled, followed the Yukon, then the Tanana River wound its way over the Alaska mountain range and then hug the coastline where conditions were often stormy and treacherous.


There were a few trees to protect from the elements and there were many River Crossings where one wrong move, could mean death.

Could you see Trail markings at all.

You don’t receive.

Could see the dogs are just like flying above the clouds up.


They knew when they were young.

This is Charles Evans and Alaskan athabascan interviewed for that.

Same oral history project.

He was the 12th musher on the relay.

And at this point, he was 325 miles into the nearly 700 mile Journey.


What time did you start that?

Run that service for clock in the morning?


Dark 62 blows year when it’s really cold.

If you didn’t catch that, he said it was 62 below.


The temperatures were so extreme Evans.

Lost two of his dogs, to the cold.

He reportedly harnessed himself to the front of the pack and help pull.

The sled.

Other mushers were getting frostbitten, some saw their skin turned black one musher had to have hot water poured over his And because they froze to his sleds.



Okay, when it was that cold 1650, 60 below that by the dogs quite a bit.

I guess that lead if you don’t force them, it’s all right.

Okay, you can’t draw them hard top.

Decrease your lungs and your travel to freeze inside it.


This is the native musher Edgar no longer.


No longer had a close relationship with his dogs.

He had to because he was depending on them to make it over.

The trail went seven jokes that gray ones.


And two black rims.

The lead dog will call Dixie.

Bad good jokes till smart dogs, too.

These and other smart dogs.

Ended up being the key to the entire race because the worst part of the trail was still to come a stretch called the ice factory.


After the break the sled dogs, who become Legends and you just might have heard of one of them.

We left the great race of Mercy, with 2/3 of the relay completed.


There was only about 170 miles to go.

It was getting really close to Nome, which is still in the throes of the diphtheria epidemic and that was heavy on the mind of the 18th.

Musher our Norwegian man named Leonard seppala.

He had a daughter in Nome, and when he picked up the package on January 31st, he wanted to go as fast as possible.


Leonhard seppala.

Was a really well-known dog.


Here’s W.

Again, the children’s book author, people knew him as being the top racer.

He won all the races.

So he was the first person that people thought of when they thought of who’s going to take the syrup, who has the best dog team and it was Leonard.


Seppala had assembled a prize team of sled dogs who were known for their speed and their expertise.

And the one dog who Rose Above All the Rest was his beloved, lead, dog named Toto.

Go Togo was a dark brown and gray Siberian Husky, you could easily pick him out from the pack because it tip of one of his ears was missing.


He was 12 years old at the time of the relay old, for a sled dog, but over those years, he and Leonard developed a Bond that started when Togo was just a puppy.

The Story Goes that Leonard was on a work trip and left eight-month-old Toko behind the next day.


He woke up in his campsite expecting just a normal morning and who should be there, but Togo, and he’s like in shock because Tocco had jumped over this six foot high fence and escaped the kennel and ran something like 75 miles through the night in a blizzard conditions, and he starts thinking.



This dog is a natural-born leader after that Togo and Leonard were inseparable.

They went on to smash records.

Leonard, picked up the nickname, King of the trail.

So it made sense that Leonard was the obvious choice for the next leg of the relay.


The longest and most dangerous section on the trail.

It was a section that included a 42-mile stretch across the ice of the Bering Sea.

The safe option would be to skirt the sound since the ice could break up at any moment and Leonard could drown or drift out to sea, but if he chose to cross, you would save at least a day’s Drive.


You knew that every hour counted, he wanted to get that Sturm to know him as fast as he possibly could.

So he took the risk.

Cogo navigated the ice through a pitch.

Black blizzard with deafening wins.


Leonard had to trust in the worst thing.

A musher could do would be to second-guess their dogs because they’re cute into things.

The musher isn’t aware of how ice just under their feet or the direction of the trail during a whiteout.

They reach land 8:00 that evening after an incredibly exhausting 84 mild day that night.


Seppala could hear the ice on the sound exploding, which sounded like gunshots.

Debbie says, he was lucky to have crossed when he did the next day, the wind blew all the ice that they had traveled across out to sea.

You know, in a matter of hours, they could have been gone.


In the end, They Carried the Sarah, more than twice.

The distance of any other musher 91 Miles when seppala got to the next Road House.

He handed the serum to the next musher who then handed it to another Norwegian, man, Gunnar kaasen in Carson’s, 24 years in.



He had never faced conditions.

Like these with wind speeds reaching over 70 mph and snow was coming down fast.

If costin didn’t leave now.

The trail would become impassable with snow drifts.


He knew he didn’t have time to wait off.

They went with the serum and they ran into serious winds.

Brutal winds at one point.

The the sled flipped over in the wind and the surname went flying out of the sled and there’s very little visibility because of the blowing snow and at one point he takes off his Mittens.


And he’s just grasping through the snow trying to feel the package and he’s thinking for a, you know, the few moments that the sermons gone, but he, you know, groped and found it last it back onto the sled and kept on going.


The wind was so strong that causton couldn’t call directions to his to lead dogs Balto and fox.

He relied on them to find the trail on their own, sniffing it out through the snow, the wind and the pitch dark.

On February 2nd as Dawn was rising over the tundra Balto and fox led the cerumen to Nome, heading straight for the doctors door.


It was very early hours of the morning and he knocked on the door and dr.

Welsh was pretty shocked and amazed that the Sturm was there that it had, they had done it in five and a half days.

Dr. Welch immediately, took the package to the hospital to warm it up within a few hours.


The serum was clear and ready for use Welch started giving it to the patients who had the worst cases.

The day after the ceremony has delivered newspapers all over.

The u.s.

Went wild with the story publishing celebratory articles about the successful relay and one dog seem to be getting all the glory Balto the Centralia Courier February 13th in the race, to Nome, Balto.


Picked out the trail when causin could not even see his wheel, dog, because of the blinding, snowstorm the value of such a dog cannot be estimated and do Hours and sense.

He appeared in parades and people wanted to take his picture, then they decided to build a statue of him in Central Park, which was quite a honor.


So he became a celebrity.

This is why you might have heard of Balto.

His Celebrity Status lasted through the 90s.

And into today.

He was even voiced by Kevin Bacon in an animated film in 1995 and now watching the race I’m running it.


Hey, They’re starting wish me luck.



What are you nuts?

Steal kids around here.

He’s gonna turn you into kibble.

One has let the hands go.

You’d think this would be the end of the story.


A successful relay children saved.

And a hero, dog.

That was celebrated throughout the country for his bravery.

But back in Nome after the race was over.

Lots of people were dissatisfied, that Balto was getting all the credit including leonhard seppala.


He felt Otto was a newspaper dog.

And that Togo was the real true Alaskan lead, dog, that deserved all the world’s attention.

And I think that’s why leonhard seppala became so upset when the wrong dog.

Got all the glory.


As he put it, you wanted Togo to get the credit later in his life.

He talked about his love for Togo, an interview with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

They had the government Ogle, some value than best different homes in the hot, my dog.

Octo go.


Who is the best dog I ever had only weighed 50 pounds, but he was terribly, strong and fast.

Giving credit, where credit is due is one of the best ways we can recognize someone’s hard work.

Someone’s heroism.

It’s a way of signaling, which virtues, we, as a society, hold important.


And this case lending a helping hand to those in need and putting your life on the line to do.

So Togo was the dog that led his team over the longest and most Dangerous section of the relay and it makes sense that seppala wanted the American public to honor him for his skills and his effort.


But if we all agree that Togo was the only one who should have gotten the fame and the attention that wouldn’t be the full truth either.

There’s more of the story that needs to be broken wide open.

I think it’s important to understand that the sarum Run was a genuinely historic heroic thing.


This is Paul long to cook.

He’s Inuit and native to Northwest Alaska.

He’s also the former director of the Alaskan, native.

He’s department at the University of Alaska Anchorage and he heard about this story from his father.

But the Pioneer Alaska version, which predominates does leave out.


Almost all the mushers who are involved in, actually making the serum run happen and it leaves out the traditional knowledge that made the dog team routes possible in the first place.

The native mushers weren’t given their fair share of the credit for their sacrifice and heroism.


But while I was reporting this story, I learned that credit wasn’t the only thing that native communities in Alaska were robbed of.

I thought this was a story about an epidemic in Nome, that diptheria had been contained within the city’s boundaries that the children had been saved and that was the end of it.


But when I talked to Paul, I realized that there were other Demux around this time.

Close to Nome.

Paul’s father, who was in USA.

Was a young boy during the diphtheria epidemic and was witnessed two, similar epidemics that went unnoticed and unreported.


My dad had stories that at one time, they were in Seneca, Alaska Village up the coast on, and the sickness was so dramatic that people had to dig a mass grave.

They couldn’t individually.


Take care of them like my great uncle and my granddad and my dad was one of seven siblings that survived the epidemic and watched as they were bearing.

The rest, firstly, the rest of the community Paul says that one of the reasons, the death tolls were so high in these native communities was because medical help was prioritized for white residents.


It’s ironic when you consider that the medicine wouldn’t have made it to know without the knowledge of the Native mushers, who participated and without the use of native technology, the Birchwood slides to carry the sarum, the squirrel-skin parkas and reindeer boots known as mukluks to keep the mushers warm.


The newspaper articles, the movies, even the Bronze Statues, they all missed the real story.

It’s not about Balto or about Togo.

It’s not about who gets the credit.

It’s about, who received the help and who didn’t Not past.


It is a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.

This episode was produced by Sarah Craig, next week.

It’s Valentine’s Day.

And we got some special messages for you messages in a bottle.

It’s a metaphor.


We’re all sort of alone, but we’re not alone at being alone.

And that’s the ocean out there.

Full of messages.

In bottles, which to me, I Envision them, as just friends.

I haven’t met yet.

The rest of our team is producer.

Amy, Padula.

Our associate producers are Julie, Carly and Ramona Philip.



Newcomb is our production assistant.

The supervising producer is Erica Morrison editing by moral Waltz, Andrea be Scott and Zach Stewart, Ponte fact-checking, by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Hans Dale.

She original music by sack 6th, Ave.


Willie Green, Jay blasts and Bobby Lord.

Our theme song is toe:, Hannah by cocoa with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman, the executive producer and DSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte.


The executive producer from gimlet is Abbie.

Ruzicka special, thanks to John A Lie.

One of the mushers who participated but whose name was never reported to Robin.


Matilda Hughes be 0.

So Carlson Megan a bait.

Kevin Keeler Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.


And polar regions collection and archives oral history program.

And to Lydia Pole, Green, Dan, Behar, Emily wiedemann list, Styles and Nabil.

Cholan pot follow, not past it.

Now, to listen, for free exclusively on Spotify.

Click the little bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes.


You can follow me on Twitter at Simone, polenin.

Thanks for hanging.

We’ll see you next week.

You will not believe this, but there is a large Raven outside my Endo calling.



Well, I guess should we are you hearing the Raven?

Oh, he just flew away.

Okay, here we go.