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Who Got There First? Peary, Cook, And The Search For The North Pole

 

It has long been debated whether Robert Peary or Frederick Cook led the first successful expedition to the North Pole, even among the men themselves. The two were actually friends and shipyards when Cook answered Peary's call for a physician volunteer on his expedition to Greenland in 1891, where Cook also set off Peary's broken leg. However, the ambitious and fame-seeking Peary clashed with the more adventure-minded Cook, and eventually, the two wrote bestselling books about being the first to reach the North Pole.

Robert Peary

Robert Peary left New York City for the North Pole in July 1908 with a team of 22 men, later hiring a handful of Inuits to assist with the voyage. He had twice failed to reach that global peak, and he was feeling pressure from his significant financial backers, which included the National Geographic Society and the New York Times. Using a sextant, an instrument sailors use to chart their location based on the position of the Sun, Peary directed his team north, taking careful note of their latitudinal position, though his records. Became fuzzy as they closed on the pole.

When they were an estimated three miles from the North Pole, Perry left five of his men at a base camp. On April 6, 1909, he recorded in his journal that he had reached the North Pole, but one of his men remembered him saying, "I don't think we can swear that we are at the pole." He said that Peary declined to share his divergent reading before putting his flag on the ice, and a later review of his notes indicated that Perry knew he had missed his goal.


Frederick Cook

Frederick A. Cook was a New York physician who, after the death of his wife and newborn baby in childbirth, reexamined his life and decided to explore the world. In 1907, he traveled to the Arctic and announced his intention to find the North Pole, recruiting two Inuit men with him. Cook claimed that he reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908, almost a full year before Pirie, but on his return journey, open water prevented him from reaching the village of Greenland, from where he carried three men into a cave. Forced winter. and hunt for their food. They were gone for 14 months, and most people assumed Cook was dead. When he reappeared, he insisted that he left his records with the American hunter Harry Whitney. To substantiate his claims, he sent a letter to Whitney instructing him to return the records, so Whitney left Greenland and brought him to the next ship, which happened to be Perry. He refused to take the package, so the documents were left behind in Greenland and eventually lost.


Who reached the North Pole first?

Even though Cook claimed to have defeated Peary at the North Pole, most officials attribute the feat to Peary, probably due to Perry's influential supporters. Pirie was also involved in a smear campaign to discredit Cook's account. We will probably never know which man first reached the North Pole.

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