To see the line on the map that traces the 1993 expedition of dogsledder Pam Flowers is to be astounded at the length and location of her journey. The intrepid woman and her eight dogs mushed for 2,500 miles along the coast of the frozen Arctic Ocean, from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Repulse Bay, in the far north of the frigid Nunavut Territory of Canada.
4-6 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. Representatives of the Gateway Sled Dog Club and Siberian Husky Club of Greater St. Louis will be on hand with dogs and sleds. Call 314-984-8644 for more info on the free event.
The trip, a re-creation of the 1923 journey of explorer Knud Rasmussen and two Inuit companions, took 11 months -- 5.5 months of traveling and 5.5 months of waiting in the town of Gjoa Haven on Nunavut's King William Island for a long summer to finally freeze up again.
The adventure was every bit as hard as you might imagine. Though Flowers had experience running the celebrated Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and traveling to the magnetic North Pole, her experiences did not prepare her for the rough ice she had to laboriously chop away to get through, the windstorms that stopped her progress, her beloved lead dog's running away for 12 days, the death of her cookstove, her near-drowning after falling through ice and her dogs' decision to take on a polar bear and her cub.
"I don't know if I could have prevented that [bear attack]," says Flowers. "I'm sure the dogs saw that bear as a dog, because it was far enough off that it probably looked like a dog to them, 'cause dogs have an instinctive fear of bears and normally they will not chase after a bear."
Flowers and her eight charges survived, and she wrote a book about their frozen mission, Alone Across the Arctic: One Woman's Epic Journey by Dog Team.
"When I finished this trip," she says, "I knew that I had a lot more courage than I thought I had."