Dog travel is seldom over smooth unobstructed ice fields. Sometimes it is over frozen bays where the tide has thrown up rough hummocks and ridges. I have been, under such conditions, nearly half a day crossing the mouth of a river one mile wide. Often the trail leads over high hills, with long hard steep climbs to be made and sometimes dangerous descents. In traveling over sea ice, especially in the late winter and spring, and always when an off shore wind prevails, there is danger of encountering bad ice, and breaking through, or having the ice “go abroad,” and cutting you off from shore. When the tide has smashed the ice, it is often necessary to drive the team on the “ballicaders,” or ice barricade, a narrow strip of ice clinging to the rocky shore. This is sometimes scarce wide enough for the komatik, and the greatest skill is necessary on the part of the driver to keep the komatik from slipping off the ballicader and falling and pulling the dogs into the sea.
When the snow is soft some one on snowshoes must go in advance of the dogs and pack the trail for them. Where traveling is rough, and in up-hill work, it is more than often necessary to pull with the dogs, and lift the komatik over obstructions.
In descending steep slopes the driver has a thick hoop of woven walrus hide, which he throws over the nose of one of the runners to serve as a drag. Even then, the descent may be rapid and exciting, and not a little dangerous for dogs and men. The driver throws himself on his side on the komatik clinging to it with both hands. His legs extend forward at the side of the sledge, he sticks his heels into the snow ahead to retard the progress, in imminent danger of a broken leg.
Winter settles early in Labrador and northern Newfoundland. Snow comes, the sea smokes, and then one morning men wake up to find a field of ice where waves were lapping the day before and where boats have sailed all summer.
Then it is that Doctor Grenfell sets out with his dogs and komatik over the great silent snow waste to visit his far scattered patients. Adventures meet him at every turn and some exciting experiences he has had, as we shall see.
[D] Afternoon is referred to as “evening” by Labradormen.
[E] In Alaska they say “Mush,” but this is never heard in Labrador.
FACING AN ARCTIC BLIZZARD
The leader of Doctor Grenfell’s dog team at St. Anthony, Newfoundland, is Gypsy, a big black and white fellow, friendly as ever a good dog can be, and trained to a nicety, always obedient and prompt in responding to the driver’s commands. Running next behind Gypsy, and pulling side by side, are Tiger and Spider. Tiger is a large, good-natured red and white fellow, and Spider, his brother, is black and white. The next is Spot, a great white fellow