Posted by: cochinblogger | September 22, 2010

The Shit-Eating Heroes of the Antarctic

I finished South Pole (Double Take) by Catherine Charley (which I had bought for my older son) over a weekend. It’s about the thrilling race in the early 20th century to be the first to reach the South Pole, the protagonists being Scott and Amundsen. I present two canine excerpts from the book that explain the curious title of this post:

Amundsen had great confidence in the dogs he had brought with him, specially chosen from northern Greenland. Huskies were used to pulling loaded sledges on long journeys at speed over snow and ice. And, most importantly, they were able to stay outside at night with no extra shelter built for them. The dogs could curl themselves into a snow-hole and remain warm, as they sweated through their tongues, not their coats. The dogs were Amundsen’s main priority on the voyage south. The animals were well looked after as Amundsen believed that the whole success of the expedition depended on them.

And now for the queer part:

By now a system of tunnels and storerooms had been built in the snow around their hut. Part of this network allowed the dogs to come down the tunnel to eat the toilet waste — a husky habit that saved the party the horrible job of clearing out the latrines.

Probably the extreme environment in which the huskies usually live accounts for this disgusting habit; they are apparently like goats in that they will eat almost anything.

It was the heroism and endurance of these huskies during the long haul that enabled Amundsen to reach the South Pole, a risky endeavor in the days before radio or wireless.

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