Great Controversy Who Discovered the North Pole Part 1 Frederick Cook

About the controversy over who really discovered the North Pole, Frederick Cook's side of the story.





Responding to a newspaper ad, 26-year-old New York-born Dr. Frederick Cook applied for a position as surgeon on an Arctic expedition in 1891. The expedition's leader, U.S. Navy Lieut. Robert Peary, hired him, and the two men became friends during the next two years on the Greenland glaciers. Peary praised Cook for his skills both as a doctor and as an explorer.

After leaving Peary in 1892, Cook explored Greenland in 1893 and 1894 and then returned to New York to practice medicine. But by 1897 he was off on an Antarctic expedition. For his role in this expedition, he was knighted by the king of Belgium. In 1901 he rejoined Peary in Greenland.

Cook continued to seek out challenges. In 1906 he claimed to have scaled Mt. McKinley in Alaska. He subsequently wrote a book entitled To the Top of the Continent in which he described his feat.

Cook then took on the most important challenge of his career--the discovery of the North Pole.

Telling the press he was going on a hunting trip, Cook sailed to Annoatok in northern Greenland in August, 1907. On Feb. 19, 1908, he crossed over the ice to Ellesmere Island and traveled on to Axel Heiberg Island with 11 sleds, 103 huskies, and 10 Eskimos. From this point on, the last uncontested fact is that Cook and two Eskimos set out northward onto the polar ice cap. According to Cook, his party--often hindered by blizzards and ice floes--headed straight north.

On Apr. 21, Cook calculated by means of a sextant that he was but a few miles from the North Pole. When he arrived at the pole that day, Cook remarked, "What a cheerless spot to have aroused the ambitions of man for so many ages." In his diary entry for the day, he wrote, ". . . we were the only pulsating creatures in a dead world of ice." After two days at the pole, Cook headed south, but drifting ice forced him westward. He reached North Devon Island and spent the winter there. The next spring, he returned to his Greenland base, after a 14-month absence.

On his voyage home, Cook first reached Copenhagen and told of his achievement. The world press proclaimed him the conqueror of the North Pole. Two days later, however, a cable arrived from Peary in Greenland stating that he had discovered the North Pole. The controversy had begun.

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