The sleds are a master piece of design for their efficiency and endurance in that extreme environment. The long runners distribute the weight evenly over a large area. That makes it possible to travel over quite thin ice. It is not uncommon for the eager hunter to go out where the ice is too thin and have the sled break through it. The powerful Huskies generally pull the sled to safety, with driver hanging on to the rear and shouting to the dogs to pull! However, drownings of men and dogs do occur periodically.
Before iron strips were available, the hunters used a mixture of mud, moss, and their own pee to make a runner coating that was fast and durable. The runners were made slicker by the hunter peeing on them. Urine freezes harder than water, and as long as it stayed frozen, it provided a hard surface with a very low coefficient of friction.
The sled boards are lashed together with strips of skin. This makes the sled very flexible and provides a much more comfortable ride. I noticed right away how the sleds I rode on gave a surprisingly comfortable ride as they flexed over the rough ice.
Once some Americans at Thule AB designed their 'improved' sled, complete with brass screws. On the trail, the screws worked out of the wood because of the constant flexing on the rough ice and the sled fell apart. It is hard to improve on a design that has been tested over 4000 years.
© Copyright 1999, revised 2014 by Lawrence Rodrigues
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