Local couple hosts sled dog crew
Jennifer and James Gasperini have had some unusual guests since December at their Woodbury home on Manning Avenue.
The couple is hosting two teams of Siberian husky dogs. The dogs are in training for a three-month trip to Greenland with their owner, Mille Porsild and four other explorers.
The dogs, explorers and gear will leave for their sub-arctic trek on March 17.
The GoNorth team will be connected with classrooms of children from kindergarten to 12th grade as they explore the sub-arctic, study climate changes and visit with the Inuit people who live there.
The teams, trained and cared for by Tim Robinson and Andrea Verdegan, have been seen by many residents in rural areas of Woodbury and Cottage Grove along Manning Avenue (Highway 95) pulling two all-terrain vehicles.
The four-wheelers run in low gear so the dogs will feel the approximate weight of the 1,500 pounds of gear they will have to pull in the sub-arctic.
On March 2 and 3, Porsild told the handlers to work the dogs for seven hours each day as the departure date nears.
The dogs are currently eating raw chicken and fat to build up their muscles, Robinson said. In the arctic, they will get dry food designed to give them the thousands of calories they will need.
The vision and plans to educate children about climate change, the people of the sub-arctic, and the virtues of sustainable development drive Porsild to make the fifth sub-arctic trip.
"Thinking about the kids inspires me during long hours on the trail," she said from her office at the University of Minnesota, a partner in the GoNorth project.
The students get real life experiences and have fun learning, Porsild said.
"When they study how igloos are made, they are learning the geometry they hate to do," she said. "It's amazing how much responsibility they take."
Porsild's grandfather set up the first research station in Greenland.
In her native Denmark, she heard stories about the sub-arctic from him and her father and intended to grow up and move there.
In 1992, Porsild, then 18 years old, was invited by polar explorer Will Steger to northern Minnesota to take care of his sled dogs.
Her plans to live in Greenland took a turn after traveling with Steger that summer from Winnipeg to Yellowknife in Canada, one of her favorite trips.
"I was completely captivated," she said.
After her experience with Steger, she headed off on her own but stayed involved with organizing expeditions.
"Obsessed with education," her expeditions led her to a partnership with the university to develop online classes.
Porsild is temporarily living in Afton.
For more information, go to polarhusky.com.