Historians still ponder the question of whether either explorers Robert E. Peary or Dr. Frederick A. Cook reached the North Pole! It remains a debatable point among scientists and historians but after reading Peary’s unabridged personal account, The NORTH POLE first published in 1910, I am in no mood to quibble. Peary’s detailed narrative and the presence of his esteemed scientific team is most convincing. The volume includes his own multiple detailed calculations of April 6, 1909 offering his proof of success.
The NORTH POLE is more than a story of the attainment itself but offers insight into the determination of a man who on four previous attempts failed to reach his goal. Then in 1908 at age fifty-two, he again set forth for the Arctic aboard the Roosevelt, a specifically designed ship for approaching the Polar Ice Cap. The expedition was backed by a group of wealthy supporters under the banner of the Peary Arctic Club with the full-throated endorsement of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Peary’s detailed narrative offers the reader great insight into the Inuit natives of northern Greenland. By befriending the Inuits on his previous four sojourns to the north he acquired the expertise to survive in the Arctic. Attaining the pole would never have been possible without the knowledge of the Inuit and their dogs. Four Inuits were with Peary when the prize was won. Dozens of others made up the advance support parties establishing igloo supply camps across nearly 400 miles of treacherous ice under the most formidable conditions anywhere on planet earth.
The controversy surrounding Peary’s conquering the North Pole remains. You may draw your own conclusions. However, for the reader of this epic story of man against nature, standing upon actual true north is almost irrelevant to the complexities and heroism of the journey.
If Arctic exploration is of interest to you I also highly recommend another book on an earlier North Pole attempt, Hampton Sides Into The Kingdom of Ice. ( See gordonsgoodreads.com) If you travel to Maine and seek further insight into Peary, a trip to Peary’s home on Eagle Island, reached by ferry-boat from Freeport, is a very worthwhile visit. Peary is a Bowdoin College graduate and moved to Maine from Pennsylvania in his youth. There is also an excellent Peary Museum on the Bowdoin Campus.
Note: While reading The NORTH POLE I found it most helpful to Google a detailed map of Ellesmere Island and Northern Greenland. A map, which is not included in the book, adds tremendous perspective to Peary’s narrative.
Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldier and Blood and Thunder has impeccably researched and brilliantly written the saga of the ill-fated North Pole quest of the USS Jeannette. In The Kingdom of Ice is an adventure narrative that keeps the reader gripped to the pages throughout the journey. If you have read the story of Ernest Shackleton’s expedition with the ship Endurance you will be astounded by the incredible story of George De Long and his ship the Jeannette.
Within these pages, author Sides unfolds the parallel story of James Gordon Bennett Jr , owner of the New York Herald, adding historical dimension to this work of non-fiction. Publisher Bennett, always seeking ways to dramatically promote his newspaper’s circulation , stepped forward to underwrite the entire cost of De Long’s quest for the North Pole. Bennett was the same publisher who sent Stanley to find Livingstone, thought to be lost in the depths of Africa. That story, as would coverage of the fate of the Jeannette, became a sensation as it unfolded in the pages of the Herald.
I recommend this read with great enthusiasm. You will be unable to leave these pages until the fate of every man who sailed aboard the Jeannette is known.