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On January 27, 1925, "Wild Bill" Shannon and his dog team set out from Nenana, Alaska on the first leg of the relay to Nome.

The last leg reached Nome on Monday, February 2 at 5:30 in the morning. Dr. Welch was awakened by a persistent knocking on his front door. When he opened it he found an exhausted Gunnar Kaasen, the musher of the final leg of the relay. Kaasen handed him a twenty pound, fur-and-canvas-covered package containing the 300,000 units of serum. In the street were his 13 dogs harnessed to a sled, their heads and bushy tails hanging almost to the ground. They had covered the last fifty-three miles of the epic relay in seven and a half hours. These dogs, and the teams that preceeded them, had traversed 674 ice-and-snow covered miles in less than five days. They delivered to Dr. Welch the life-saving serum that within a week would break the back of the diphtheria epidemic.

Almost forgotten is the fact that five days later a second batch of serum arrived in Seward Alaska. It was shipped in record time by train to Nenana and again relayed by dog teams as far as Unalakeleet (a little of 200 miles from Nome). Many of the original mushers were in the second run.

In 1966-67 Dorothy Page and Joe Redington Sr. organized the first Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race to commemorate the serum relay. In 1973 the race was expanded to its present course.

More Facts About the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race:

Photo by Rob Stapleton

First Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (1967) Winner: Dick Wilmarth, Red 9 Devil, AK, in 20 days, 49 minutes, 41 seconds.

First Woman Winner: Libby Riddles, Teller, AK, in 18 days, 20 minutes, 17 seconds in 1985.

Fastest Running: Martin Buser, Big Lake, Alaska, in 08 days 22 hours 46 minutes and 02 seconds in 2002.

Most Wins: Rick Swenson, Two Rivers, AK. with 5 wins.

Most Wins by Woman Musher: Susan Butcher, Manley, AK. with 4 wins.

Links To Related Web Sites

Iditarod Trail
Sled Dog Race

  • The Iditarod Fact Book: A Complete Guide to the Last Great Race Edited by Sue Mattson

    An entertaining and informative guide to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

    Click here to purchase The Iditarod Fact Book

  • Iditarod Country: Exploring the Route of the Last Great Race by Tricia Brown, Jeff Schultz (Photographer), Christine Ummel (Editor)

    Follow the historic route connecting Athabascan and Eskimo villages, abandoned gold-mining towns, remote lodges, and homesteads across 1,100-miles of Alaska.

    Click here to purchase Iditarod Country

  • The Race to Nome by Kenneth A. Ungermann

    This fascinating book tells the story of the original serum relay.

    Click here to purchase The Race to Nome

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Copyright © 1995-2016 Robin Chew | Email: | Revised: April 17, 2009