Sunday, Jan. 04, 2009

Leonhard Seppala

In 1925, more than 20 men and their dogs helped rush an emergency package of medicine nearly 675 miles to Nome, Alaska, which faced a deadly outbreak of diphtheria. As principal musher, Seppala battled blizzard conditions and icy terrain, eventually traveling more than twice as far as his colleagues. The "Great Race of Mercy," as it was later known, is now commemorated annually with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, originally known as the "Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Race." Eventually, Seppala's name faded into obscurity — at least outside of Alaska. Today, most people think not of the man, but of the mutt, Balto, who led the final leg of the race, and whose achievement is marked by a life-sized statue that sits in Manhattan's Central Park.