How Tech Is Changing Alaskan Dog-Sledding

The Iditarod is said to be "The Last Great Race on Earth." But can true adventurers still exist with the assistance of technology?

The Iditarod sled dog race has been taking place every year since 1973. Over several decades there have been quite a few advancements in technology that have had a profound impact on how the mushers complete the trail. The advancement that's had the greatest effect is most likely the invention of GPS. But using GPS technology during the Iditarod has actually been quite a controversial issue.

RELATED: The Race to the End of the World

One device in particular called Spot is now attached to every musher's sled before the race begins. Spot has a panic button that will deploy emergency rescue immediately upon activation, should the racer find him or herself in a dire situation. At first thought it's easy to see this as a good thing, however, it's been argued that the ability to be rescued at any given moment along the way actually makes it more difficult to finish the race. One musher, Dan Seavey, said of his experience with the device, "At the last minute a race judge came running over and attached a GPS Spot tracker to my sled, and told me it had an emergency SOS button I could push if I needed to be rescued. I (and many other mushers) told him I'd rather not know that. It's harder to be tough if there's an easy way out."

Another musher, Cindy Abbott, actually did use the emergency Spot button during last year's race and has since regretted her decision. "I knew I was scratching," she said. "It was OK. I understand. But I wished they hadn't had the button on there." On the other hand, we want to make sure all of the Iditarod racers are as safe as possible and live to tell their stories. Proponents of the technology are confident that overtime the racers will adapt and that GPS will do nothing but improve the quality of their experience.

Watch more Seeker:

What's Life Really Like in a French Nudist Colony?

Read more about GPS and the Iditarod:

The Guardian: Can you still call yourself an adventurer if you use a GPS safety beacon?