Huskies

A husky silhouetted by a coloured sunset in Antarctica
Vida the husky in Antarctica, 1980 (Photo: Tony Everett)
A small husky puppy nurses on the mother, who looks tiredA husky completely covered by snow, appears to be sleepingA male expeditioner bathes a husky at Davis stationMan in snow with husky, his beard icy, leans on the dogHusky team on a snowy plateau, lead a sled and are surrounded by expeditionersAn expeditioner holds two large husky pupsAn expeditioner in profile holds a husky pupHuskies resting together in the snow while one hooded expeditioner attends to themBlack and white photo of expeditioner driving team of huskies towards camera.Taken from the sled, the back of six huskies is visibleA large husky lays down in a crate on the deck of the Aurora Australis icebreakerSpread out on the helicopter landing pad of a ship are crates with huskies in front

In general terms, ‘husky’ is sometimes used to refer to snow or northern hemisphere dogs, and can include a wide range of breeds. Originally breed in Greenland and Labrador, these dogs are especially suited to cold and windy conditions. Their thick double-layered coats provide excellent protection against the extreme environment.

Dog sledge teams were first used in Antarctica in 1898 by the British Antarctic Expedition. Husky teams wore harnesses to haul 50–90 kilograms of supplies on a sledge. The number of dogs used in a sledge team varied depending on the weight of the load.

Huskies were introduced into the Australian Antarctic program in 1954 at Australia’s first station, Mawson. Strong and willing workers, they were used for travel in the field for almost 40 years. In addition to being a reliable form of transport, huskies provided companionship and loyalty to Antarctic expeditioners.

In 1991, Antarctic Treaty members introduced the Protocol on Environmental Protection which banned all introduced species, except humans, from the Antarctic. In 1992, it was with a great deal of sadness that the last six remaining huskies left Mawson and the Australian Antarctic Territory. The older dogs lived out their days in Australia, while the younger ones enjoyed a new life as working dogs in Minnesota, US.