Ursa (left) and Morrie at Mawson, in front of husky Arne.
Image: Diana Patterson
Source: Diana Patterson
Two of the last huskies in Antarctica are now on display in Melbourne Museum's main foyer.
For most of their lives Morrie and Ursa were inseparable. Born in the same litter in September 1985, they trained alongside one another and worked as a pair in the dog teams. Once, when both dogs escaped the station together, they were seen jumping over snow drifts in perfect unison.
Along with other huskies they hauled equipment for expeditions along the Antarctic coastline, mostly for surveys of penguin rookeries near Mawson station. They did this for over six years.
Morrie was the larger dog, and one of the hardest working on the station. He was also one of the best at escaping! Although a great favourite with expeditioners, many considered him the ugliest dog in Antarctica, his appearance not helped by losing his ears in fights with other dogs.
Leaner and lighter, Ursa was literally overshadowed by his brother. Although more easily distracted by wildlife and scent marks from other huskies, he was nevertheless just as hard a worker.
By 1993 they were too old for regular work. When younger huskies were moved to the USA to continue their working lives, Morrie and Ursa stayed behind with four other older dogs. Their last run was a trip along the coastline to raise funds for Community Aid Abroad.
In December 1993 the remaining Australian huskies were removed from Mawson station, in accordance with an Antarctic environmental treaty. Morrie was the last Australian dog to step off the continent.
Morrie and Ursa lived in retirement for over six years with one of their former carers from Antarctica. In this time they appeared at a number of public shows to help raise awareness of the role huskies played in Antarctica. In the warmer environment of Victoria, they also shed much of their thick fur!
Morrie passed away in February 2000, and Ursa followed a year and a half later, in October 2001.