Early in Seeing Double's career, things weren't always as organized as they are today. But these seemingly tangled jumbles were always straightened out in time by the nimble fingers that first constructed them. Nowadays, the many bits and pieces of this complicated assembly practically dance into a work of art like a writhing bundle of tropical snakes being charmed. But then and now, Anna and Kristy build their own ganglines, allowing them to modify things on the fly and make any repairs required along the way.
But do you really know all the pieces that make up this lifeline for the dog team? Let's learn more about the components of a gangline, what it is made of, and why all this lets it do what it does. I bet you'll learn one thing here that surprises you.
A gangline, at least how Kristy and Anna have set it up, consists of a mainline portion or central gangline, which for the twins running a 14 dog team 2-by-2 is 48 feet long. Each individual 2-dog section spans 7 feet. Each dog can be secured by the neckline, which is 16 inches long, the tug line, which is 48 inches, or both. The tug line will almost always be attached when when the team is pulling down the trail, as it connects to the base of the dog's harness to the central line and thus harnesses its pulling power. It seems the majority of mushers also run with the necklines attached to each dog's collar, as it keeps the team in tighter formation. But you can run a dog without the neckline attached if they operate best in a more free-wheeling configuration. And it's nice when camping out to release the tug line only leaving the neckline attached so the dog can move around and rest comfortably.
All of these various pieces are connected by loops in the rope or snaps. This basically makes everything entirely adjustable out on the trail, in case a musher takes a dog off the line to ride in the basket or be returned, decides to run a dog in single-lead or solo on the line, or if a piece needs to be fixed or replaced. Ever heard of a "fid"? I hadn't. This is a tool used to make knots in the rope to create loops or attach snaps. Then there's the bridle. This is the core piece that connects the central gangline, and thus your team and every ounce of that pulling power, to the sled. A hefty carabiner plays a key role here. Another crucial item involving strong rope and knots you'd bet your life on? The snow hook attached at the rear of the musher's sled that acts as a parking brake for the team when stopped. As well as the snub line, which is used to tie off a team to a stationary object like your parked dog truck or a really robust tree if there's not enough snow for the snow hook to catch.
Without the parking brake line deployed, what does this amount to in total length, assuming 14 dogs running 2-by-2, from the lead dogs' noses to the back of the runners of one of the twins' sleds?
Holy sweet peanut butter, that's 60 feet! Your average semi truck trailer (without the driver's cab) is only 53 feet.
I've heard it said that sled dogs are some of the strongest draft animals, given their weight and size, in the world. What sort of material are the twins using to hang on to all that power?
Anna and Kristy get most of their overall rigging supplies from Mountain Ridge. The rope is a 16-strand Polyethylene that is cable-filled. The cable is galvanized aircraft quality. This type of rope remains fairly flexible in very cold temperatures (although it can become brittle for extended periods at or below -40F) and it doesn't fray. The central cable line adds strength and helps ensure anxious chewers on your dog team don't chew themselves or anyone else loose. The various segments of rope, color coded for their function and diameter, range in diameter from 1/4 inch on necklines to 3/8" and 1/2".
How strong is this stuff? I struggled to find good tensile strength charts for the cable-filled polyethylene rope the twins use. But a hollow braid (no cable) rope that is 16-strand and 1/4" in diameter has a tensile strength of 1,170 pounds. The 3/8" diameter hollow-braid? 1,800 pounds. Yep, that's some strong stuff.
And that, folks concludes our walk Over the Gangline! I hope you learned something that earns you points in a trivia contest one day. And I managed to sneak a reference to one of my favorite movies into this year's blog. Far out, man.