It's the tenth birthday of this blog! And I'm celebrating it not with an INDog post, but with this photo- essay about another breed of landrace dog far, far away: the Greenland Dog!
We met Greenland Dogs and other gorgeous 'Polar' dogs in Svalbard this summer when we finally went on an Arctic trip - something we've been wanting to do for years!
Before embarking on a seven day cruise-expedition to North Spitsbergen, we spent a couple of days in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of the Svalbard Archipelago.
At 78 degrees latitude this is the northernmost human settlement on the planet. It's actually a charming little town in an odd way, despite its somewhat bleak industrial appearance.
For instance, you see signs like this:
And sled dogs all over the place! Some have signs pasted on their kennels requesting people not to touch them (because a lot of people actually do silly things like trying to pet every dog they see). There are photos of some of these dogs at the end of this post.
Our own sled dog experience had been booked months in advance, with a family-run company called Green Dog. I was as excited about finally meeting sled dogs as I was about seeing polar bears, walruses and auks. All so exotic to someone from the tropics!
We reached Longyearbyen at around 1.00 p.m. after a long flight north from Oslo. A couple of hours later our guide from Green Dog came to pick us up from the hotel and drive us to the dog kennels along with five other visitors.
In June they use a special kind of dog cart and not sleds with blades, since there isn't a lot of snow on the ground at this season.
The dogs here, generally described as 'polar dogs', are actually of different breeds and mixes between those breeds. Some are Greenland Dogs, an aboriginal breed genetically identical to the Inuit Dog.* They are quite large robust dogs with broad skulls. Others are Alaskan Huskies, mix breeds of no rigidly defined type: they are selected strictly for performance as sled dogs, and mostly have a slender build and narrower heads than the Greenland Dogs.
|At the dog kennels|
|Typical Greenland Dog (with a name from Norse mythology!)|
|Greenland Dog mother and pup, keenly watching us|
|The Greenland Dog pup is taken out for cuddles!|
|This Alaskan Malamute doesn't belong to Green Dog; he is a pet and was just visiting with his owner|
|An Alaskan Husky|
We spent some time meeting the dogs (and playing with puppies - there were several!) All the dogs were extremely friendly and looked very healthy. And they were all just raring to go!
Then we went to the changing room to put on the company's special thick overalls, boots and gloves, to protect us from the icy wind. The actual temperature there was around 2 degrees Celsius, but the wind chill factor made the effective temperature lower.
The dogs were harnessed in teams of eight, with us guests helping to hold them.
The leading cart was driven by one of our two guides, Jimmy. Our cart was right behind it, driven by Kiran: his first and possibly only experience of driving a dog team! A third cart was behind us.
This is Kiran with our lead dogs, Willow and Chilli.
Willow was quite a handful at first, he was so excited to be out and running! But he calmed down after a bit of energy had been worked off, and after Jimmy had turned back a few times to make sure he stayed on course.
These photos take me back there! We loved the austere beauty of this treeless landscape. It was hard to select just a few pictures, so be warned, there are LOTS!
|We took frequent breaks for the dogs to splash in the water and drink. Our guide told us polar dogs are most comfortable at -20 degrees C, so 2 degrees is rather warm for them!|
|Svalbard Reindeer seen from the dog cart|
|Above and below: Some dogs about town|
Photos: Kiran Khalap, Rajashree Khalap
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