Thursday, May 21, 2020

Chinook's Final Great Adventure at the South Pole

The Bee (Danville, VA)
24 Feb. 1928, front page
Sled Expert Getting Canines in Condition for Voyage to South Pole   
Richmond, Va. Feb 24 - (AP) - Commander Richard Evelyn Byrd has recently visited Monalancet [sic], N. H., on a tour of inspection of his dog teams now being trained there for his projected trip to the south pole where three dog teams are in training, according to information here.  
     These dogs are being trained by Arthur T. Walden, noted sled-dog expert, who will be Byrd's do chief of the south pole expedition.  Mr. Walden, in addition to training the dogs, is now breaking in three assistants. They are W. D. Vaughan, A. D. Crocker, and S. C. Crocker, all Harvard graduates.  
   A hundred dogs carefully selected, with seven dogs to a team, will be taken by Commander Byrd.  At present only three teams are being groomed.  One lead dog is hitched in front, while the six others are hitched in pairs behind.  One of these dogs now being groomed is the famous Chinook, hero of many Arctic expeditions.
     Each dog team will haul 2,000 pounds over the Antarctic snow and ice and will be used in equipping the various supply bases which Byrd will establish before he makes his final dash by airplane to the bottom of the world.  Approximately 3,500 miles will have to be covered by the dog teams in establishing these bases.  
     The trail will lead across the 500 miles of the practically flat Ross ice barrier, which extends from the Bay of Whale to the mountain barrier marking the beginning of the vast, unexplored south polar continent.  The first step will be to build a base on the barrier far enough in from the Bay of Whale to insure against breaking off or floating away from the ice ring.  Then the dog teams will be sent out in the direction of the pole to mark possible landing places for the three planes to be taken along.
     Commander Byrd expects to mark out the bases every 200 miles, using his planes to carry food and fuel supplies until the barrier is reached.  At the mountain barrier the final base will be established about 350 miles from the ultimate goal.
     The remaining 80 dogs to be taken will be assembled in Greenland and shipped to this country by Inspector Joy of the Northwest mounted police, an old friend of the commander.  The problem of transporting the dogs through the torrid zone is a serious one and may require special refrigeration.
     Among the equipment Commander Byrd inspected while at Monalancet [sic] was the "umbrella type" tent, a new design to be used on the expedition...."

Arthur Treadwell Walden gained fame, along with Chinook, as a sled dog racer.  He learned to race in Alaska and Yukon during the Gold Rush of 1898, and came home to establish a kennel in Wonalancet, New Hampshire. He won races all over New England, and bred Chinook from one of Admiral Peary's sled dogs and one of his own farm dogs.  Chinook and his descendants were such good racers and pets that he continued to work on the breed for years.  

The Byrd Expedition to the South Pole was in 1928 to 1930.  Arthur T. Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire was named as the lead dog trainer, and he shipped the dogs from New York in the fall of 1928 by boat to Antarctica.  The base camp "Little America" was established on the Ross Ice Shelf, and the dog teams hauled cargo for the explorers.  Byrd returned to North America in June 1930, and the dogs were shipped ahead.  Walden had trained 100 dogs for the expedition, and Chinook was the father of 50 of the sled dogs.  

Sadly, in January 1929 Chinook, the lead dog, and favorite of Walden, disappeared from the camp.  There were conflicting stories, but it seems that Chinook wandered off and ever returned.  Newspapers around the world carried the news, including the front page of the New York Times.  

Hamilton Daily News, Hamilton, Ohio, front page, 25 April 1930

Chinook Said Goodbye!
Just an Arctic Dog But Master Weeps
As He Praises Him
"New York, April 28 - (AP) Arthur T. Walden, veteran of a thousand snowy trails, who were down to Antarctica as chief dog driver on the Byrd expedition, came home on the ice-scarred whaler C. A. Larsen today.
     Sixty-eight dogs came back with him - heroes, their job well done.
     But Chinook, their undisputed king when they sailed from Norfolk a year and a half ago - Chinook, who always slept at the foot of his master's bed - was not among them.
     And Chinook's master will never return to Antarctica.
     The gray-haired Walden, who was driving dog teams in Alaska before the gold rush of '98, paid his tribute to Chinook.
     As he finished he turned away, and his keen blue eyes - so intensely blue in his race, reddened by nearly 40 years on the trails- were filled with tears.
     "I'll never be half the man Chinook was," he said simply.
     "It was January 17 a year ago, his twelfth birthday, that Chinook passed away. The going was pretty hard down there, and you see, Chinook was an old dog.
      "The day before he went away, three of the other dogs pitched on him and put him down.  That was the first time Chinook had ever been off his feet in a fight in his life.  I guess he realized then that he was through.
      "That night he said good-bye to me.  Three times in the night he woke me up, putting his paw on my face.  He didn't whine or anything but he seemed to be trying to tell me something.
      "I didn't harness him the next morning, but as I started down the trail he followed me a little way.  Then he just - disappeared.
      "One of the men said he saw him last, a long way off on the barrier, going away.  That's the way they do, you know.  When they realize they're through, they just go off by themselves and die.  Chinook never came back.
      "Chinook was the grandest lead dog I've ever seen.  And he was more than a dog.  I miss the old fellow more all the time.  Often at night I dream about him.
      "Well - he didn't die in the harness.  But he died with his boots on.  And he was more of a man than I'll ever be."


Chinook's disappearance was covered world wide. After returning to New Hampshire, Arthur Walden was disinterested in continuing to race and breed his dogs. The Chinook Kennels in Wonalancet continued to operate under the Seeley family.  They bred Chinooks and Huskies for racers, pets, and for the US government.  The Chinooks continued to be excellent sled dogs, and wonderful pets that were friendly and gentle. Arthur T. Walden lived at the farm in Wonalancet, where he died in a fire in 1947.

Although the original dog, Chinook was gone, his story lived on as can be seen from the "Junior Pages" of the Jersey Journal, Secaucus, New Jersey, on 2 February 1929
"Dear Juniors,
Did you notice that the newspapers this week gave several columns of space to a story about a dog? The dog is Chinook, one of the big brown Eskimo huskies which went with Com. Byrd to the South Pole. Chinook was a "lead dog" and most faithful. On his twelfth birthday he went out into the snow and ice and never returned and the whole Byrd camp mourn his loss... Walden the man who trains the dogs and to whom they respond like soldiers in an army, is heart-sick at the loss of his most faithful dog... It isn't often that dogs get so prominent a place in a newspaper as these dogs with the Byrd expedition have. I hope the Juniors have been following these stories and I hope you will read this one about fine old Chinook... Doesn't it please you to know these dogs who deserve honor are getting it?  Yours sincerely, THE EDITOR"

This blog post is part 3 of a series of stories about Chinook. I'll be posting more about Chinook's legacy next week.

Part 1 "Who was Chinook?":

Part 2 "Chinook's Operation":


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Chinook's Great Adventure at the South Pole", Nutfield Genealogy, posted May 21, 2020, ( accessed [access date]).

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