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Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial

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Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial - picture 1
Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial - picture 2
Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial - picture 3
Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial - picture 4 Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial - picture 5
Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial - picture 6

These pictures show the bronze sculpture of a husky sledge dog of the type used by the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica between 1945 and 1993.

The sculpture stands outside the entrance to BAS headquarters in Cambridge England. It was made by sculptor David Cemmick and unveiled on the 4th of July 2009. Ex Fids Hwfa Jones, Graham Wright and Dick Harbour began the project and raised the funds to pay for the statue.

The sentiments behind the erection of the statue are best summed up by the words of Hwfa Jones and Graham Wright:

"We would like to thank all the people from around the world who have donated to the Fund to ensure this monument has been created. Still so fresh in the minds of those who sledged with dogs, the monument represents a thousand personal stories; most of which will never be told in any official documents. These dogs made possible almost all the overland journeys in the 20th century and shared in the discovery of the continent from which they are now forever banned."

"We would also like to thank BAS through John Pye for providing the excellent site. After looking through hundreds of pictures of Antarctic husky sledge dogs we realised that they demonstrated so many differing shapes that everybody's idea of what a husky dog looked like would be different so the statue is just a typical husky dog. David Cemmick, the sculptor, even visited live huskies to get some idea of their size and proportions. One striking feature was that the majority of the dogs had a tail that curled to the left, and many people commented on the harness. Dick Harbour provided the sculptor with an original dog collar and harness that even smelt of dog after 50 years! We sincerely hope the monument lives up to the memories of all those who sledged with the dogs in Antarctica"

What follows is the story of the inception of the statue from the initial idea through the fund raising and modeling.

Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial Fund, launch - Hwfa Jones - October 2006

From a recent article in the Telegraph saluting Wally Herbert as the first to the North Pole it is evident that the public has almost completely forgotten that the true 'first to the Poles' were not those now listed in the history books but the sledge dogs that dragged the loads and our heroes to glory. To the South, neither Amundsen nor Scott (who used dogs to lay so many of his depots) would have reached the South Pole without them.

In the early days these magnificent animals were often treated abominably. They were beaten, starved, slaughtered and even eaten. As late as 1973 hundreds of dogs were ordered to be shot in Antarctica for 'environmental reasons' by tearful dog drivers. Coincidentally the new world of exploration by aircraft and snowmobiles was being embraced at that time.

British sledge drivers treated their dogs well and had a great affection for them tinged with some guilt.

A Stonington team at work in 1972 - photo, Drummy Small

At the recent 'Z Fids' Reunion I was touched by the stories so many Fids told me of their experiences with their dogs and many had felt guilty of being harsh with them, perhaps not relating this to the great stress they were under in sometimes 'life threatening' situations. Certainly there was to my knowledge never a case of any Fid refusing to travel and yet the danger of crevasses / sea ice/ blizzards / exposure was very real and in many cases initially an absolute shock to many young men who had never seen even a glacier before. Others were adamant that the mass shootings in 1973 (over 100 dogs and pups) at Stonington (and sometimes even to dogs in the field by their drivers at the end of long field trips) was a disgrace that had long been 'kept quiet'

Virtually all of British Antarctic Territory was surveyed and mapped by scientists working as teams with dogs which are now banned from the continent forever.

The Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial Fund has been set up by men of the British Antarctic Survey (The Fids) to mark the outstanding contribution of our polar dogs to exploration. More than 100 people have contributed so far. From comments at the recent reunion the most popular option is likely to be a Bronze statue, of a typical strong shouldered 'British Husky'. The cost from one sculptor at Lakeland Creations is estimated at £3,500 to £5,000. We should perhaps have a target of £6000 and there could even be a competition for the design.

General:

  • There should just be one single memorial to all the British Dogs

  • Drawings / model should be approved as suitable before manufacture by a representative group of Fids.

  • We should aim to get this done and the memorial placed within 2 years

Funding:

  • Graham Wright (BAS 1969 - 74) has opened a bank account in the name of 'The Antarctic Sledge Dog Memorial Fund'. The account has been opened with more than £500 from sales of "The Doggy Men" The book is a contribution to starting a Memorial fund. I printed 1000 and all the sales money goes to the memorial till (together with any donations) we get enough to go ahead. After that (If there are any books left) it'll be on sale for me to recover the printing costs.
     

Type of memorial:

  • Bronze Dog with inscription (All the dog teams?)

  • Bronze Plaque - (All the dogs and teams listed?)
     

  • Location:

    • Port Lockroy is the favoured location looking S.E. across the Continent where our sledge dogs operated. Port Lockroy is accessible to almost everyone who visits Antarctica. Actually a great tourist attraction and most Fids going South would be likely to drop in at Port Lockroy at some time and be able to see the memorial.
       

    Getting it there:

    • I guess it would be nice to have the dog on display in the UK then see it sail down, visiting the bases before being set at the chosen location by Fids down there. Chris has got the ships! I guess this would result in quite a lot of publicity so all the Fids would get to hear about it.

    • This memorial is important to so many individual 'Fids'. As a country it's about time we joined so many other nations in Antarctica in remembering the contribution of our sledge dogs.


    Update November 2007

    It's just about a year now since a few FIDS got together and decided to do something to record the contribution of British Sledge Dogs to the British Antarctic Survey.

    With a minimum of fuss a small team got together. Graham Wright would act as Treasurer; Hwfa Jones would do the secretarial work. Richard Harbour kindly offered to liaise with the BAS Club.

    Publicity was freely given by Andy Smith of Z FIDS, Paul Ward of 'Cool Antarctica' and Sue Hamilton of 'The Fan Hitch'. Brigid Wainwright & Keith Holmes provided information & research, plus many others too numerous to name who contacted us with information and help.

    We had in fact an ad hoc committee of hundreds of FIDS and friends. The Treasurer Graham Wright has informed me that:

    The Fund now stands at over £3000

    The growth of the fund to the target of £6,000 and the casting of a full size dog is now certain. We expect to commission the bronze sculpture of a typical British Antarctic Husky early in the New Year 2008 together with a plaque naming all the British Antarctic Dog Teams.

    We are currently looking at locations in Antarctica to site the memorial and were delighted to accept Chris Rapley's offer kind offer of transportation south when the time comes.

    As I write this two sculptors are making final adjustments to their drawings and models to take account of the comments from all the FIDS who have made suggestions to improve the early sketches. The sculptors have in addition looked at hundreds of photographs of dogs to make the bronze as typical as we can remember. It is likely that one of the sculptors will cast the dog and the other the memorial plaque

    For Sale - "Sledging on Sea Ice" -  fine art print

    For Sale - "The Doggy Men" - book


    Written to help contribute some initial funding for the memorial and can be bought for £5 (minimum) +£1 postage (£1 per book UK, £2.50 outside of the UK, or the actual postage cost if you require more than 1 copy.

    Provisional List of Dog Teams, BAT, 1944 onwards
     - K.D. Holmes 2 January 2007

    Admirals
    Amazons
    Beatles
    Brigantes
    Celts
    Churchmen
    Citizens
    Counties
    Debs
    Drinks
    Follies
    Huns
    Gaels
    Gangsters (Julian's team)
    Giants
    Girls
    Gods
    Goobers
    Goons
    Guards
    Hairybreeks
    Heroes
    Hobbits
    Huns
    Komats
    Ladies
    Mobsters
    Moomins
    Number Ones (Julian's team)
    Odds and Ends
    Picts
    Players
    Smokos
    Spartans
    Terrors
    Trads
    Trogs
    Vikings


    Update April 2009

    At a February meeting at the British Antarctic Survey Headquarters in Cambridge it was agreed that the Bronze will be set at the entrance to the BAS Building.

    The full size statue is being cast from an enlargement of the model (below) and will be in position for the opening of the Memorial Garden at the BAS Club AGM on Saturday 4th July 2009. It is planned that there will be an 'Official Opening' at a later date. We expect to be able to provide much more information next month as the final casting is completed, but at this stage all looks to be progressing smoothly. Thanks to the contributions of FIDs and friends from all over the world the project will be completed in less than 3 years; an amazing achievement.

    On 15th December 2008 Graham Wright and Hwfa Jones drove north to the Lake District where the sculptors (David Cemmic and Sebastian Wylder) displayed the small (6 inch high) wax model.

    The model was absolutely excellent and much more realistic than can possibly be shown with 2D photographs. Indeed it was difficult to describe anything other than small corrections which will be acted upon over the next few weeks.

    Graham and Hwfa have already noted that:

    • The bridge of the nose needs to be fraction wider

    • The tail needs to be slightly less substantial - i.e. more detailing will resolve this

    • The harness needs to be a little wider at the withers.

    The sculpture is representative of all the British Antarctic huskies so the facial expression will never exactly match any one dog and deliberately so.


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