ANTARCTIC DOGS AND PONIES….. YOU PROBABLY NEVER KNEW…..SERVED MAN TO REACH THE SOUTH POLE, OVER 100 YEARS AGO!
Written in the sky
Scott's hut at Cape Evans has been restored and preserved as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area, as has a cross on Observation Hill, Ross Island, erected in 1913 as a tribute to the lost party. And the map of Antarctica is dotted with physical features that bear the names of the men who first explored it. There is the Amundsen Sea, the Shackleton Ice Shelf and Scott Island. Also, of course, there's the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, a permanent research facility at the geographic South Pole, now occupied year-round by scientists.
But the ponies and dogs who made these voyages possible were largely forgotten. "The animals never got their due credit," says Smith. "There's a statue around, here and there. And as a poet, I saw this as not just a heroic/romantic period of history, but one of neglect for the animals who made it possible for the success of the brave men. They literally could not have done it without the animals. They didn't have the technology."
Commemorating individual animals with names in Antarctica wasn't an option. "International rules prohibit the animals having any physical feature of Antarctica named after them," Smith says. And so Smith turned his attention toward the sky. Two years prior to the 100th anniversary of Amundsen and Scott's reaching the South Pole, Smith launched a one-man campaign to rename 11 navigational waypoints after six of Amundsen's dogs and five of Scott's ponies.
It was no easy task. "Several international and government agencies had to agree to it," Smith says. "Human factors
James Pigg, called Jimmy, was named after a drunk and disorderly huntsman from the English comic novel, Hanciloy Cross, by Robert Smith Surtees. He seems to have been something of a comic character himself, as Lt. Edward Evans described him as a "friendly little rogue "!
Jimmy Pigg was one of the weaker ponies on the expedition, and he was sent hack early from the depot-laying journey in the spring of 1911. But under the attentive care of his handier. Petty Officer Patrick Keohane, he rallied to become a valued member of the trek toward the Pole “Jimmy Pigg kept up splendidly with the other ponies,” wrote Scott on November 26 "It is always rather dismal work walking over the great snow plain when sky and surface merge in one pail of dead whiteness, but it is cheering to be in such good company with everything going on steadily and well."
played in—who gets the credit; whose turf is it, and why should anyone listen to an Air Force officer in the level of government at which this had to get approved. This was all 'extra work' for people; it was not a requirement for anyone to prioritize its completion from agency to agency."
But Smith persevered: "First, I had to get people interested and made them aware of what I wanted to do. I started with the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Department of State, the National Science Foundation and the New Zealand Air Traffic Control responsible for the airspace. Once I had complied agreement among them (and I found out later there were those who thought the project would never get anywhere), I worked with the Air Traffic Control agency to develop the five-letter names."
Smith researched the names of all of the animals on the two expeditions, to determine which ones lived and which ones didn't, as well as how they died. "I did this to evaluate which ones 'deserved' to get the waypoints named after them," he says. The names he chose were six of Amundsen's sled dogs—Per, Helge, Lasse, Mylius, Frithjof and Uroa—as well as five of Scott's ponies: Snippets, Jimmy Pigg, Bones, Jehu and Nobby.
"Once the names were developed, I had to work with the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which makes the maps, to get the new chart printed in time," Smith adds. "I had to coordinate with all the embassies in the United States and internationally who would be affected so no one got blind-sided. And I had to get the Department of State on board and get their continued blessing and backup. I sent official letters to all the ambassadors and their staffs, and all the other agencies' leadership, which were all way over my head."
But Smith's work did all come together. In November 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presented a copy of the new aeronautical map at a meeting of the U.S. Antarctic Center and Antarctica New Zealand in Christchurch, with the comments: "The map has many benefits, but one especially unusual feature. As a reminder of the sacrifices it took to conquer the conditions on the continent, 11 of the waypoints have been named after the unsung heroes of Antarctic exploration —the dogs and ponies that made those early trips possible. In the story of the Antarctic, the names of the explorers are well-known and famous, but now they're joined by the likes of Helge and Snippet and Bones and Nobby."
Commemorative first editions of this chart can now be found in three museums: Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand; the AKC Museum of the Dog in St. Louis, Missouri; and the Kerry County Museum in Tralee, Ireland.
National rivalry may have driven the initial quest for the Pole, but today international cooperation governs the use of the southern continent. "The second reason I did this was to unite the countries involved for national bridge-building," says Smith. "This small gesture gave the U.S. Embassy another way to bond with Norway, Great Britain and New Zealand over this celebration of the chart and the 100-year anniversary. It's 'global poetry' for me."
E Q U U S— JANUARY 2016