Let's start with a bit of good news. In the time since I last posted, four more mushers arrived in Nome, including Lance Mackey (his 14th time under the burled arch) and friend of Seeing Double Jessica Klejka. That puts 23 teams successfully into the finish.
Now, to the not so good news. First, we saw Jason Campeau scratch in White Mountain and Robert Bundtzen in Elim. And then we get the headline, "Three teams rescued by helicopter near Safety checkpoint"!! What? Mushers lost or stranded and rescued by snowmachine? Yes. But helicopter? Not that I can recall. And certainly not in this dramatic a fashion.
Remember that special weather statement I referenced in Race Update 8, just before the twins scratched in Unalakleet? I wish I had a snapshot of it, as the link has gone stale, but I distinctly recall it talking about how the high winds in particular were likely to cause water to come up through the ice along the coast. And it sounds like that's exactly what happened. Three mushers and their dog teams, including friend Tom Knolmayer as well as Sean Underwood and Matthew Failor, ended up stranded in overflow near Safety. One or more of them hit the SOS button on their Spot GPS trackers and a team of search and rescue personnel from Nome on snowmachines met members of the Alaska Army National Guard in helicopter at their location. It sounds like the teams had to be actively helped out of open water to safety, and ultimately the humans were flown out while the snowmachiners got the dog teams back to Nome.
Back to good news - everyone involved in that incident, dogs included, is ok! The hospital in Nome cleared the humans and Iditarod head veterinarian Stu Nelson cleared all of the dogs. Thank goodness. But, wow... what a harrowing adventure after some 950 miles!
Obviously these three mushers joined the astoundingly long list of those that had to step out of the Iditarod before reaching Nome this year. Our scratch tally is at 23, a hair over 40% of the field.
Ok, so 23 in Nome, 23 headed home. And the remaining 11? These poor dears are still out there, and they were last reported in Elim (mile 852) figuring out what the heck to do. Continued problems with overflow on the trail forced these teams, who had all technically checked out of Elim headed to White Mountain, to return back to checkpoint. But the five Iditarod veterans and six rookies appear to have hit the trail again this morning with GPS trackers showing them all running, with Martin Buser leading the way around mile 864 and the rest of the teams within 4 miles behind him.
Dog speed, mushers. And to everyone else trying to get home, or maybe just get basic supplies from their local store, good luck out there. Stay safe.