Braving Antarctica, 64 Years Later
Norman Vaughan to lead last dog team on continent
TEN minutes after Admiral Richard Byrd arrived by ship at the Ross Ice Barrier in Antarctica in late 1928, he turned to a young Norman Vaughan and said, "Vaughan, hitch up a team. You're going with me." The goal was to find a place for Little America, the legendary base camp for Byrd's exploration.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Vaughan, eager beyond words as a young adventurer, hitched up a dog sled team. He became the first American ever to drive a dog sled team in the Antarctic.
Today, 64 years later, the extraordinary Vaughan, now a mere 87 with no change in his sense of adventure, will dog sled again into the Antarctic as the leader of the Mount Vaughan Antarctic Expedition.
"This will be the last dog team allowed in," says Vaughan of the $1.1 million expedition scheduled to begin in November of 1993, "and I'm so eager to do it I can hardly wait." A new treaty signed by the countries engaged in antarctic exploration calls for the removal of all dogs by April 1994 to prevent the possibility of canine disease being introduced to indigenous wildlife.
During the expedition, Vaughan and his 50-year-old wife, Carolyn, will attempt to climb "his" antarctic mountain, the 10,302-foot Mt. Vaughan, named in his honor for the contributions he made to the Byrd expedition in 1929.
In a unique telecommunications network coordinated by the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., millions of schools will receive direct reports from the expedition.
"The kids will share the scientific studies we will be doing," says Vaughan, who sees the expedition as primarily educational. "In the future some of them may be the ones who will have to review the antarctic treaty. Our trip could be the beginning of their appreciation for the antarctic environment."
Vaughan, a robust role model for anyone, over or under 80, has completed the 1,500-mile Iditarod race in Alaska six times. His wife has competed in the race three times. "I say of armchairs, throw them away," he says, his voice booming during a Monitor interview the day before the expedition was announced at the Museum of Science here. "Be active all your life," he says, in what may be an iceberg-sized understatement.
His list of accomplishments and adventures are jaw-dropping: During World War II, Vaughan eventually became the head of United States Search and Rescue for the North Atlantic. He commanded dozens of drivers and 425 dogs on various rescue missions. In 1942 he found six American P-38 planes and two B-17 bombers that had crashed during a blizzard in the Greenland Ice Sheet. During the Battle of the Bulge he led a rescue effort that involved about 200 dogs.
In the 1932 Olympics, the only year in which dog sledding was a demonstration sport, Vaughan finished 10th. He has brought dog sled teams to three presidential inaugural parades, and when Pope John II visited Alaska in 1981, Vaughan taught him how to drive a dog sled team. In 1968 Vaughan drove a snowmobile from his Alaska log cabin to Boston, a distance of 5,700 miles.