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Adventure Magazine

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True Grit
A voice from the past recounts his involvement in the 1925 serum run that saved Nome, Alaska, from a deadly disease.

"Hero" is probably the last word Edgar Nollner would have used to describe himself. But to the people of Nome, Alaska—and to the entire country—he became just that when he and his dog team participated in the 1925 serum run from Nenana to Nome, helping to thwart a diphtheria epidemic.

Another musher had originally been asked to run the tenth leg of the relay, but he wanted to know how much he would be paid before agreeing to participate. Given the dire need to transport the antitoxin quickly, money wasn't an issue for Nollner, and he readily volunteered. He and his dogs transported the serum across a 24-mile (39-kilometer) stretch from Whiskey Creek to Galena amid a particularly violent snowstorm.

The last surviving participant in the serum run, Nollner died in 1999 at the age of 94. His obituary in the New York Times inspired authors Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury to pen the The Cruelest Miles, an account of the five-and-a-half-day adventure.

These audio excerpts are from a 1980 interview with Nollner that was part of a Bureau of Land Management oral history project to preserve the memory of life on the original Iditarod trail. This year, due to a lack of snow along the now customary course, the Iditarod was run on the original 1925 trail for the first time in its history.

—By Katherine Koss

Read an excerpt from The Cruelest Miles as it appeared in the August issue of Adventure here >>

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Audio: Edgar Nollner (:31)

Audio: Edgar Nollner (:57)

Audio: Edgar Nollner (1:00)

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Related Web Site

Tracking the Ghosts of the Yukon
Discover the story behind the story as Adventure explores the creation of The Cruelest Miles.

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August 2003

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