Explorers Heart – Vaughn and Spirit, a Siberian



His Harvard studies ended the night he read this headline: BYRD TO THE SOUTH POLE. The next morning, Vaughan, an expert dog musher (who at age 12 has lashed his Flexible Flyer to his German shepherd, Rex), knocked on Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Beacon Hill door to offer his services, gratis. Byrd’s 1929 mission was to make the first flight over to the South Pole; Vaughan’s was to train and care for the 97 dogs that supported the effort. As a gift for that pivotal role on the 14-month expedition, Byrd named a 10,302 foot Antarctic peak Mount Vaughan. Closer to home, Vaughan drove a sled in the 1932 Winter Olympics and W.W. II led 209 rescue dogs at the battle of Bulge.  At 68, after falling on hard times, Vaughan moved to Alaska and shoveled snow in exchange for meals. The Iditarod dogsled race saved him. Not only did he marry one of his dog handlers (Carolyn Muegge, 37 years his junior), but the competition rekindled his spirit. He took the reins 13 times, the last at age 86. None of his accomplishments, though, eclipses that of his ascent of Mount Vaughan in 1994 – three days shy of his 89th birthday.

“I haven’t done anything that anyone else couldn’t have done.”, he says. “I just did it.”

– Vanity Fair, May 2002


Photographed with Spirit, a Siberian husky, in Cooper Landing,

Alaska, on October 16, 2001.