Cold Chain Logistics, Human Interest, Life Science Shipping

Dogsled Teams Triumph in 1925 Serum Run to Nome

August 10, 2023
1925 Serum Run to Nome

A Seemingly Impossible Serum Delivery Almost 100 Years Ago

Written By: Liza Zhukov

Just 200 miles below the arctic circle in Alaska lies a small town by the name of Nome, which suffered an outbreak of Diphtheria in the winter of 1924-1925. The symptoms of this bacterial disease include inflammation of mucous membranes that prevents steady breathing and swallowing, along with heart and nerve damage, and potentially death.

Dr. Curtis Welch and his team of four nurses were the only medical personnel in the entirety of Nome, and after four children passed away from what was hypothesized to be tonsillitis, they reached the grave conclusion that it was in fact Diphtheria. There had been an order placed for Diphtheria antitoxin, the vaccine for the disease, but due to the incoming winter weather and port closure, the vaccines could only be delivered in the springtime. Air delivery was not an option either, as it was too dangerous to fly in the winter conditions. 

The Solution: Dogsled Teams

The plan consisted of multiple handoffs between different dog sled teams all the way from the town of Nenana to Nome. There would be twenty mushers involved, and 160 dogs over the entire course of the relay, a total of 674 miles. The fastest time recorded for the trek prior to this stunt was nine days, which would have been too late for many of the infected inhabitants of Nome. Mushers would travel between 18 to 40 miles, with the most being completed by Leonhard Seppala, a renowned dogsled driver that was known across Alaska.

1925 Serum Run to Nome

The Challenges the Mushers and Dogs Faced

The mushers and their dogs faced many challenges, with the weather conditions reaching temperatures as low as -62 Degrees Fahrenheit. Many mushers had difficulty with visibility, barely being able to see past their outstretched hands. Despite these challenges, the mushers remained focused, committed, and determined to help the Alaskan community. Although the delivery was miraculously completed in just five-and-a-half days, several dogs died in pursuit of the delivery and one musher developed frostbite so severe that his hands froze to the handle on his sled. In the end it was the drive to help others that assisted in pushing through until the vaccines reached those in need. 

To read more about this incredible story, click on these links below:

Logistics in 1925 vs. Today

Logistics is the foundation for businesses across the globe, solving issues that revolve around transportation, deadlines, and communication. With the incredible progress that has been made over the last several decades in the development of technology, it is easy to say that delivering a package is more seamless compared to that of one-hundred years ago.

Although Mercury does not work with sled dogs, we help clients deliver time-sensitive biological specimen. The small outbreak was contained before it had the potential to be classified as an epidemic, but unfortunately Covid-19 is a different story. Once positive tests for the disease started popping up in countries all over the world in 2020, it was not long before it was declared a world pandemic. In an attempt to prevent the spread from becoming worse, testing sites were established in accessible places for the public, and testing kits were later available to be bought over the counter to be taken at home and receive quicker results. 

These tests were significant for the safety of friends, family, immunocompromised, and the rest of the population. As the demand for these grew, it was necessary for companies to be able to deliver these tests at the right time, to the right people, at the right place, and in the correct condition. Mercury is trusted with packages with the utmost importance, providing customers with answers to their questions and incredible attentiveness to their wants and needs. 

Guide to Shipping with Hazardous Materials

Guide to Shipping Hazardous Materials

We have put together a guide on shipping dangerous goods (DG).


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