Coast Guard continues Iditarod musher sponsorship

17th Coast Guard District NewsANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Coast Guard proudly continues its sponsorship the 11-year Iditarod Trail Sled Dog racing veteran, Ken Anderson, in his 2012 Iditarod race attempt extending more than 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome beginning at the Anchorage ceremonial race start Saturday.

This is the 40th running of the Iditarod, Anderson’s 12th year running the race and the Coast Guard’s third year sponsoring him. Anderson randomly picked the 39th starting position out of 67 mushers placing just behind the middle of the pack and in prime position to excel through the race.

The Coast Guard sponsored Anderson in 2010 and 2011. He has finished the Iditarod race in the top five three times, with fourth place finishes in 2008 and 2010 and a ninth place finish in last year’s race.

“It’s a huge honor for one of our nation’s prestigious military services to sponsor me,” said Anderson. “During the Iditarod race it’s one team in a remote area with no help nearby, and the Coast Guard knows this as they often fly alone into inclement weather throughout remote regions of Alaska.”

Coast Guard District 17command mirrors Anderson’s excitement towards the Iditarod’s continued support of dog sled teams and their historical use by the Alaska natives and explorers of the Last Frontier.

“There are many ties between the Coast Guard and dog sleds, it is a big part of our history,” said Capt. Norman Custard, District 17 chief of staff.

115 years ago in November 1897, after learning of 265 whalers being stranded in the Arctic, the Revenue Cutter Bear led by Capt. Francis Tuttle sailed from Port Townsend, Wash. Too late in the year for the cutter to push through the Bering Sea ice, it was decided the rescue party must go overland by dog sled, stop at a station to obtain reindeer and enlist Alaskan Natives to assist. Led by Lt. David H. Jarvis and second-in-command was Lt. Ellsworth P. Bertholf.

The Overland Expedition left from Cape Vancouver, Alaska, on Dec. 16, 1897. On March 26, 1898, on what Jarvis described in his mission report as “a beautiful clear day”, the relief party sighted the most westerly of the icebound whaling vessels. Jarvis describes the vessel, the Belvedere, as banked up with snow with little visible except her spars and rigging.

“We drew up alongside at 4 P.M., and going aboard announced ourselves and our mission, but it was some time before the first astonishment and incredulousness could wear off and a welcome be extended to us,” said Jarvis.

Both Jarvis and Bertholf currently have large Coast Guard cutters named after them. Bertholf served as the first commandant of the Coast Guard.

After 1,500 miles, the group reached Point Barrow on March 29, 1898, with 382 reindeer saving all of the trapped whalers. The following summer, the cutter Bear reached Point Barrow and the expedition officers rejoined their ship.

“This is a great sponsorship for the Coast Guard to be involved in We could not have asked for a better person to marry up with as a sponsorship. Ken is a superb role model, a superb musher, he epitomizes the core values of the Coast Guard, honor, respect and devotion to duty,” said Custard.

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