Samuel Balto

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Samuel Balto
Born Samuel Johannesen Balto
(1861-05-05)May 5, 1861
Karasjok, Norway
Died 1921
Alaska, USA
Occupation Explorer, adventurer

Samuel Johannesen Balto (May 5, 1861 – 1921) was a Norwegian - Sami explorer and adventurer. The legendary sled dog Balto was named after Samuel Balto.[1]


Samuel Johannesen Balto was born in Karasjok in Finnmark county, Norway. He had worked as a lumberjack, as well as in reindeer herding and fishing. Balto was recruited by Fridtjof Nansen for Nansen's Trans-Greenland Expedition in 1888. Balto participated in the first recorded crossing of the interior of Greenland, together with Nansen and four other expedition members of the Jason.[2]

In 1898, Balto emigrated to the United States, and eventually became a gold miner at Nome, Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. Samuel Balto staked three claims at a site called Balto Creek. In 1900, he led a large group of Sami hired as reindeer herdsmen during the Manitoba Expedition in Alaska. Samuel Balto, together with 113 other people from Finnmark were hired by Sheldon Jackson to be involved in the introduction of reindeer in Alaska. Jackson promoted a plan to import reindeer from Russia to introduce reindeer husbandry to the Inupiaq as a solution to their loss of subsistence resources. Emigrants were responsible for transporting goods and mail from Nome, Alaska to gold mining workers up the Yukon River valley in the central parts of Alaska. Samuel Balto signed a two year contract as a reindeer herder.[3][4][5]

The sled dog Balto, who became famous during the 1925 serum run to Nome, which transported diphtheria medication across the U.S. territory of Alaska to combat an epidemic, was named after Samuel Balto.[6]


Other sources[edit]

  • Jackson, Sheldon Alaska and Missions on the north Pacific Coast (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. 1880)
  • Nansen, Fridtjof (tr. H.M. Gepp) The First Crossing of Greenland (London: Longmans, Green and Co. 1890)
  • Salisbury, Gay; Laney Salisbury The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race against an Epidemic (New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2003) ISBN 0-393-01962-4.

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