Sled Dog Team Rests Under Explosion of Northern Lights
In the early hours of February 17, 2016, musher Laura Neese entered the Braeburn, Yukon checkpoint during the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race. She then set about the task of caring for her team under a spectacular display of northern lights, or aurora.
The Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race is a 1,000 mile race which spans northern areas of Alaska and Canada's Yukon Territory. On even years, as in 2016, the race starts in Fairbanks, Alaska and heads east into Canada. Mushers race by dog team from checkpoint to checkpoint, stopping to rest, care for their animals, and care for themselves and their equipment. Sometimes the teams stop at designated checkpoints - other times, they will pull off the trail and find a good spot to take a break. At designated checkpoints such as Braeburn, mushers will "check in" with a checker who logs their time, and also makes sure they have all their required equipment. This required equipment includes survival gear such as an ax and arctic sleeping bag for the musher. For the dogs, they are required to have booties for each member of the dog team, and enough food in case they have to stop and camp somewhere other than a checkpoint. After this check in, the mushers parks their team, lays out straw for each of the dogs for a nice warm bed, then begins cooking a hot meal for the dogs. While the dogs are resting, the musher and a veterinarian go about the task of checking each dog to make sure it is healthy and well. The musher will rub joints and apply cream to feet to keep them healthy. The veterinarian will ensure the team is well, and note this in a log book which must be kept with the musher at all times. This ensures that veterinarians at each checkpoint see the condition of the animals, and spot any problems.
In this video, you will see all of this. You will see the musher, Laura Neese (in dark clothing), caring for her team. The persons in red and blue are part of the veterinarian team, checking the log book and the dogs. You can see the cooker in the foreground, fire blazing as she is preparing a hot meal for her dogs who are resting on their straw beds.
It was a very cold night, about -30F below zero. Just before Laura and her team arrived at the checkpoint, there was a faint aurora display. Almost on queue as she was settling them in for their rest, the sky exploded with movement and color. Braeburn, Yukon is on the remote Klondike Highway, just south of the arctic circle and often receives spectacular aurora displays. The light you see in the center of the sky is actually the moon, rising up as the display raged on for several hours. What an amazing display of nature's beauty!