Great Controversy Who Discovered the North Pole Part 2 Robert Peary

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





Robert Peary was a self-centered, domineering man with one ambition--to be the first human at the North Pole. Born in Pennsylvania in 1856, Peary joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 30 and went to the Arctic on a leave of absence in 1891. For the next two decades, he studied the Eskimos' methods of travel and explored the Arctic. In 1892 he crossed Greenland and proved for the first time that it was an island.

Believing that he would be as famous as Christopher Columbus if he discovered the pole, Peary devoted his life and eight toes lost to frostbite working toward this goal. Despite the fact that Peary brought his wife to Greenland to live, he enjoyed several Eskimo "wives," who bore him children. Cook also engaged in the Eskimo custom of wife sharing.

After numerous exploratory expeditions, Peary tried to attain the North Pole in 1906, but bad weather stopped him. When his sled dogs began cannibalizing each other and his men were forced to eat all but one of the remaining dogs. Peary turned back.

Two years later, he tried again. Traveling into the Arctic, he established his base camp at Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island in September, 1908. With 23 men--including 17 Eskimos--19 sleds, and 133 dogs, Peary set out for the pole on Feb. 22, 1909. As supplies were used up, one sled after another was sent back to the base. By Apr. 1, after traveling 300 mi. and with another 100 to go, Peary, Matt Henson--a black who was Peary's constant companion--and four Eskimos were left to finish the journey.

On Apr. 6, Peary calculated his position as latitude 89deg.57' N--only 3 mi. from the pole. Exhausted as they were, he and his five companions pushed on. He wrote in his diary that day, "The pole at last! My dream and goal of twenty years. Mine at last!" Peary planted five flags: the American flag, the U.S. Navy banner, the flag of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Red Cross flag, and the flag of his college fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon. Then he buried a bottle--which has never been found--containing a message claiming the North Pole for the U.S.

After one night at the pole, Peary sped back to his camp, anxious to let the world know of his victory. He reached his base camp and sailed for home on Apr. 27. He cabled his wife, "Have made good at last. I have the old pole."

When he heard of Cook's claim, Peary was enraged, believing Cook was trying to cheat him out of his lifelong dream.

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