Emily Schwing, NNN - Northwest News Network


Halfway to Nome, the real racing has begun as Iditarod dog teams make their way to Ruby, the first stop along the Yukon River. Somewhere in the next 134 miles, teams must take a mandatory eight-hour layover, but gaps are starting to open up in the field. The challenge for mushers now is how and when they will decide to make their big moves.

The first dog team in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has reached the midway point of of Ruby on the Yukon River, 495 miles along the Iditarod trail. Jeff King’s team was not only the first team to arrive, but is the only team to travel this far without taking 24 hours rest. Download Audio

Iditarod is far more than dog racing. Small Alaska communities celebrate the arrival of longer days and the people in the community. McGrath hosts an auction fundraiser each year when the Iditarod rolls through to raise money for a local organization and a family in need. KNOM’s Emily Schwing stopped into the bar Tuesday night to get a first hand look at what the auction is all about. Download Audio

Mushers seem to be pushing their dogs a little farther down the trail this year before they opt to take their mandatory 24-hour rest. It’s a move Jeff King predicted at the ceremonial start of the race in Anchorage.

Long before the race ever starts, mushers pack their drop bags with gear and food to so that they have options for where and when to take their 24-hour mandatory rest along the Iditarod Trail. This year, some of them tried something new, while others are doing what they know. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes clear who has the winning strategy now that dog teams are starting to come off their long rest.

Iditarod dog teams have travelled more than 300 miles down the trail in the last three days. Defending champion Dallas Seavey. Says they’ve reached a turning point in the race.

Mushers have reached a point in the Iditarod where rest becomes strategic. Overnight, a number of them opted to push their teams further down the trail, while others chose to hunker down for a mandatory 24-hour rest. The majority of mushers who arrived first into McGrath, didn’t stay long, but some of their decisions earlier in the race, might offer clues about their race plans.

The village of Nikolai was bustling all day as dog teams pulled in and out of the sixth checkpoint on the Iditarod trail. After teams have passed over some of the roughest trail, the race reaches a turning point. From here, mushers will evaluate their dogs as they try to decide how best to execute a their race plans. Download Audio

The vast majority of mushers driving dog teams in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race are veterans. The field of rookies is small and their goals are varied, but they’re all taking cues from seasoned veterans.

In the first couple days of racing, Iditarod dog teams are running along some of the roughest parts of trail reported on this year’s Iditarod. But the actual trail may not be the challenge. A handful of mushers are sick and others are making an effort to keep their dogs race ready. Listen Now
A team leaves the gate at the Iditarod ceremonial start on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Photo by Patrick Yack/Alaska Public Media)

It was busy overnight in Skwentna as teams passed through the second checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail and made their way into the Alaska Range. Teams are shaking out the kinks early as they settle into race mode.

Red, white and blue flags flew high at this year’s Iditarod start line, but they weren’t the flags one might expect at an American race. These flags bear the Scandinavian cross and they were flown by fans who came out to cheer on more than ten percent of the race field. There are more Scandinavians in this year’s Iditarod than ever before. Iditarod - Day 1

The 44th annual Iditarod trail sled dog race gets underway on Sunday, although the festive ceremonial start in Anchorage happens tomorrow. This is one of the largest fields in the race's history at 85 mushers signed up to start. KNOM News Director Emily Schwing and Alaska Public Media's Zachariah Hughes will be reporting from the trail. Before they take off, let's find out who they're keeping an eye on and what to watch out for along the trail. Download Audio

The warm winter has extended far north of Anchorage as well. The spring season for bearded seals, or ugruk, has come nearly two months early for some hunters in Western Alaska. Warm weather makes the hunt a little easier, but locals are concerned about precarious sea ice and unpredictable weather. Download Audio

One of the warmest winters on record in Alaska means the spring season for bearded seals, or ugruk , has come nearly two months early for some hunters in Western Alaska. Warm weather makes the hunt a little easier, but locals are concerned about precarious sea ice and unpredictable weather. Listen now

A team of biologists left for Saint Lawrence Island on Wednesday to consult with local walrus hunters in Savoonga and Gambell. Jim MacCracken heads the Alaska program for marine mammals management with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He says biologists are eager to collect traditional knowledge from hunters and community members. Download Audio

For the first time, scientists have documented the prevalence of two biotoxins in Alaska’s marine mammal population above the Arctic Circle. That’s according to a new study out Thursday in the Journal Harmful Algae. But it’s not clear if algal toxins have always existed in the Arctic, because scientist never looked before now. Download Audio

The Coast Guard Cutter Sherman had to return to Dutch Harbor a few days early this week. The cutter and its crew were forced to turn back from a regular patrol in the Bering Sea when one of the ship’s diesel engines malfunctioned.

Billions of dollars worth of drilling equipment and support vessels operated by Royal Dutch Shell are sitting out in the Bay in front of Dutch Harbor this week. The company has plans to take most of that equipment north for exploratory drilling operations later this summer. Many of the local businesses benefit from the oil giant’s presence. Download Audio

Two men have been sentenced in U.S. District Court to serve 21 months in federal prison for burglarizing the post office in Sand Point. Download Audio