The Cruelest Miles – Book Report

It’s all a part of the history of the great state of Alaska and the Iditarod itself – the Serum Run of 1925, Balto, Togo, Dr. Welch, Nurse Morgan, Governor Bone and 20 brave mushers who carried the anti-toxin from Nenana to Nome. The Cruelest Miles, written by cousins, Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury, is a story full of details about Nome’s 1925 diphtheria epidemic and the great race by dog team to get the life saving serum to Nome. My handler and I read this book. It gives a far more detailed account of what went on back in 1925 than you can find in the movies or books about Balto or the Serum Run. When you read about the fierce weather with frigid temperatures, strong winds, wicked storms and treacherous ground blizzards, you’ll feel like you’re on the runners with Leonard Seppala and all the other drivers.

In 1925 like today, no roads or railroads went to Nome. Snow machines hadn’t been invented yet. Once the Bering Sea was frozen over, Nome was completely isolated. There were only two possible ways to transport the serum the 674 miles from Nenana to Nome – airplane or dog team. Learn about the dangers of delivering the serum by airplane and the dangers faced by the dogs and mushers. The risks and rewards were many whether the serum got to Nome by the unproven airplane or by the tried and true dogs and their drivers. The decision on how the serum would reach the sick children was left up to the Governor of Alaska.

Read about Nome and the people living there.  Read about the trail, the dogs, the drivers, the roadhouses, the horrific weather, crossing Norton Bay and the challenge of keeping the serum from freezing.  Read about how the relay was halted when the temperatures reached 60 degrees below zero but because there was no way to communicate with the driver on the trail, the serum kept moving.  Read about the chance meeting of Seppala and Henry Ivanoff on Norton Bay outside of Shaktoolik as Ivanoff carried the serum toward Golovin.  This book is a true adventure thriller.  I could hardly put it down!


Well, you know that the serum made it to Nome by Dog Team in a remarkably short time. You know that Balto was the lead dog of the team that carried the life saving serum into Nome. You know that the serum arrived in time to prevent an epidemic of Diphtheria. You know a lot about the Serum Run but there’s plenty more to learn by reading The Cruelest Miles.

Nearly all the other dogs at Just Guts Kennel have read The Cruelest Miles. It’s Blackjack’s turn next.  You should read it too.  For sure it’s my all time favorite book and it makes me really proud to be a sled dog.

Born to Run,