||Robert Peary in the Arctic
Under order to observe tides for C&GS during North Pole
expedition. Image courtesy: NOAA
Peary Claims the North Pole (1898-1909)
Between 1886 and 1909, the Peary Arctic
Club, led by US Navy engineer Robert Peary, organized 8 expeditions
to the Arctic. In 1891-1892 and 1893-95, he crossed the Greenland
ice cap and learned Inuit survival techniques. He next sought
to retrieve an ancient meteorite in 1896 and 1897. In 1898-1902
he made his first attempts to reach the North Pole, losing several
toes to frostbite. This handicap would plague him for the rest
of his career. In 1906 he made swift progress at first, but
then open water and a gale forced him to turn back short of
the Pole, at 87°06'N. Finally, by Peary's account, he reached
the North Pole in April 1909 with his longstanding companion
Matthew Henson and four natives. At the same time that Peary
was revealing his claim, Dr. Frederick Cook also claimed to
have sledged to the Pole. When it was discovered that Cook had
lied about summiting the tallest mountain in North America,
Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley), his credibility was irrevocably
damaged. A Congressional vote declared Peary the victor. However,
questions persist whether Peary exaggerated distances traveled
in his final push for the Pole.
Berton, P., The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest
Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909, Viking Penguin, New
York, 672 pp., 1988.
Cole, Diane, "Staking a Claim: Who was first to the top of the world? And why it may not matter", U.S. News and World Report, posted online August 6th, 2006.
Holland, C., ed., Farthest North: The Quest for the North
Pole, Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, 311 pp., 1994.