Eight Below: The Real Story

Ice, snow, nowhere to go . . .

Eight Below The Real Story

In 2006, Disney released “Eight Below”, a film that tells the story of a pack of abandoned sled dogs and their struggle to survive the hostile Antarctic landscape. What you may not know is that this film is based on the Japanese film “Antarctica” (1983), and that both of these films are based on the true story of the ill-fated 1958 Japanese expedition to Antarctica.

Antarctic Expedition

The Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition Program (JARE) had established a research station in 1957 on East Ongul Island. The Syowa Station, as it was called, was to host a team of researchers for the first over-winter expedition. There was a team of 11 researchers, supported by a team of 15 dogs. The dogs, all males, were Sakhalin Huskies (in Japan the breed is known as Karafuto-ken). The dogs were there to pull sledges to and from the base.

The idea was for the team to spend an entire year at the base, with another team to replace them the following year. Unfortunately, the relief team’s boat became stuck in ice too far from the base to be of any assistance. The researchers, and their dogs, were stranded. The researchers were soon evacuated by helicopter, but the 15 dogs had to be left behind.

Taro and Jiro

The dogs were left tied up, with enough food to last them for a few days. Although the JARE was criticised for abandoning the dogs, it seems that evacuating the dogs would have been an unacceptable risk to the human team and their rescuers.

A team of researchers returned to the research station in 1959, and found seven of the dogs dead, still chained up. Unexpectedly, the other dogs had been able to break free and leave the base. The team stumbled upon the dogs Taro and Jiro not for from the research station.

Taro and Jiro were brothers and the youngest members of the husky pack at three years of age. Somehow the pair had survived the harsh Antarctic environment for 11 months. They hadn’t even resorted to cannibalism, leaving the bodies of their pack mates untouched and unspoiled.  To this day it is uncertain how the survived. It is speculated that they learnt to hunt and managed to catch penguins or seals, eating just enough to survive for all those months.

Returning as heroes

Taro and Jiro were rescued and taken back to Japan where they were greeted as heroes by the public. The Karafuto-ken breed’s popularity skyrocketed, and they remained popular up until the 1990s.

Jiro continued to work as a sledge dog at Syowa Station until his death by natural causes in 1960. Taro was returned to Sapporo, his hometown, and lived at Hokkaido University until his death in 1970. Both dogs were embalmed. Jiro’s body can be seen the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno District, Tokyo, and Taro’s body is on display at the Museum of National Treasures at the Botanical Garden of Hokkaido University. There is a monument dedicated to the brothers and the rest of their pack at the base of Tokyo Tower, erected by the Japanese Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Films

Film-maker Koreyoshi Kurahara  immortalised the tale of Jiro and Taro in his 1983 film “Antarctica” (Nankyoku Monogatari”). The film depicts how the pack might have been able to escape their chains and struggle to survive the Antarctic winter, based on the data available to the film’s director. “Antarctica” was extremely popular and was nominated for several international awards. It features a beautiful score by Vangelis, and hauntingly beautiful imagery, such as scenes of the dogs gazing up at the flickering light of the Aurora.

“Eight Below” was Disney’s take on the story. The story is Americanised, so the team stationed in the Sotuh Pole is now American, with a pack of eight huskies (both Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies) forced to contend with survival in Antarctica. The film is somewhat “Disneyfied”: far more of the dogs survive than in real life (six out of eight survive the film). Nevertheless, the film tells and effective, inspiring, and even tender story of courage and companionship, and is well worth watching if only for the fantastic canine actors.

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The following is needed to bring a puppy into Dubai:


  1. All dogs entering Dubai from a low-risk country at least 15 weeks old, and those entering from a high-risk country must be at least 27 weeks old.
  2. Microchip – All dogs entering and residing in Dubai must be equipped with either a 9 or 15 digit microchip.
  3. Import Permit – All dogs entering Dubai must be equipped with a Special Permit from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Valid for 30 days.
  4. Vaccinations* – Depending on the country of origin, your pet might need a rabies shot on top of all the age appropriate vaccinations. Dubai specific vaccinations: Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Parvo Virus, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Rabies.
  5. Rabies Titer Test * – All dogs entering Dubai must be tested for rabies no later than 14 days before the planned travel date. ( Only from specific
  6. Parasite check - All pets travelling to Dubai must receive preventive treatments against internal and external parasites in the 14 days before travel by an authorised and competent vet.
  7. Health Check – A Health Check by a veterinarian is mandatory in order to obtain permissions to enter Dubai.
  8. Pet Passport – This document verifies that the puppy is fully healthy and up-to-date on their vaccinations.


* The United Arab Emirates classifies all countries into two rabies categories:
  • Low-risk countries: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Falkland Island, Fiji, Finland, French Polynesia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Montenegro, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Portugal, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UK, and Vanuatu.
  • High-risk countries: All other countries are considered high-risk countries.
** Only for puppies from high-risk countries
Travel Requirements

The following is needed to bring a puppy into Abu Dhabi:


  1. All dogs entering Abu Dhabi from a low-risk country at least 15 weeks old, and those entering from a high-risk country must be at least 27 weeks old.
  2. Microchip – All dogs entering and residing in Abu Dhabi must be equipped with either a 9 or 15 digit microchip.
  3. Import Permit – All dogs entering Abu Dhabi must be equipped with a Special Permit from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Valid for 30 days.
  4. Vaccinations* – Depending on the country of origin, your pet might need a rabies shot on top of all the age appropriate vaccinations. Abu Dhabi specific vaccinations: Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Parvo Virus, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Rabies.
  5. Rabies Titer Test * – All dogs entering Abu Dhabi must be tested for rabies no later than 14 days before the planned travel date. ( Only from specific
  6. Parasite check - All pets travelling to Abu Dhabi must receive preventive treatments against internal and external parasites in the 14 days before travel by an authorised and competent vet.
  7. Health Check – A Health Check by a veterinarian is mandatory in order to obtain permissions to enter Abu Dhabi.
  8. Pet Passport – This document verifies that the puppy is fully healthy and up-to-date on their vaccinations.


* The United Arab Emirates classifies all countries into two rabies categories:
  • Low-risk countries: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Falkland Island, Fiji, Finland, French Polynesia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Montenegro, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Portugal, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UK, and Vanuatu.
  • High-risk countries: All other countries are considered high-risk countries.
** Only for puppies from high-risk countries
Travel Requirements

The following is needed to bring a puppy into Hong Kong:


  1. All dogs entering Hong Kong must be at least 3 months old.
  2. Microchip – All dogs entering and residing in Hong Kong must be equipped with either a 9 or 15-digit microchip.
  3. Import Permit – All dogs entering Hong Kong must be equipped with a Special Permit from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. Valid for up to 6 months.
  4. Vaccinations* – Depending on the country of origin, your pet might need a rabies shot on top of all the age appropriate vaccinations. Hong Kong specific vaccinations: Canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis, canine parvovirus and rabies.
  5. Health Check – A Health Check by a veterinarian is mandatory in order to obtain permissions to enter Hong Kong.
  6. Pet Passport – This document verifies that the puppy is fully healthy and up-to-date on their vaccinations.
  7. Captain’s Affidavit – Document to be provided by the airline personnel confirming that your dog has not left its crate or interacted with other pets at any point during the journey.


* Hong Kong classifies countries into 3 groups. Vaccinations against rabies are only required from Groups 2 & 3.
  • Group 1: Rabies-free countries (at least 6 months of residency) Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Bailiwick of Jersey.
  • Group 2: Rabies-controlled (at least 4 months of residency) Austria, Bahrain, Bermuda, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Guam, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Vanuatu, Bahamas, Belgium, Brunei, Cayman Island, Denmark, France, Gibraltar, Iceland, Jamaica, Maldives, Mauritius, New Caledonia, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands, USA (Continental), Virgin Islands.
  • Group 3: All other countries.
** Only for puppies from high-risk countries
Travel Requirements

The following is needed to bring a puppy into Switzerland:


  1. All pets entering Switzerland must be equipped with a 15-digit microchip that is compliant with ISO 11784/11785.
  2. Dogs must be vaccinated against distemper.
  3. Rabies vaccinations are mandatory. Dogs must receive their first rabies vaccine at least 21 days before entering the country.*
  4. The state veterinarian of the origin country must equip the dog with a valid Health Certificate.
  5. Import Permit – all dogs entering from a 3rd level rabies country must carry an import permit issued at least three weeks in advance. Entry points through Basel, Geneva, Zurich.
  6. Different regulations depending on whether it is a commercial purchase or individual and where the dog is coming from.


* Specifications differ for booster shots. ** Switzerland categorises countries by level of risk of rabies in three levels.
  • Level 1: All EU Member States and Andorra, Switzerland, Faeroe Islands, Gibraltar, Greenland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Northern Ireland, Norway, San Marino, Vatican City State.
  • Level 2 (Low Risk of Rabies): Ascension Island, United Arab Emirates, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Aruba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Barbados, Bahrain, Bermuda,Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, Belarus, Canada, Chile, Curaçao, Fiji, Falkland Islands, Great Britain (including Crown dependencies), Hong Kong, Jamaica, Japan, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Cayman Islands, Saint Lucia, North Macedonia, Montserrat, Mauritius, Mexico, Malaysia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Russia, Singapore, Saint Helena, Sint Marteen, Trinidad and Tobago, Taiwan, United States of America, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna.
  • Level 3: All other countries are considered as having a high risk of rabies.
Travel Requirements