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    Robert Edwin Peary

    Encyclopedia Arctica 15: Biographies

    001      |      Vol_XV-0573                                                                                                                  

    (William H. Hobbs)


            Rear Admiral Robert E(dwin) Peary (1856-1920), one of the greatest

    of all explorers and the discoverer of the North Pole, was born in Wash–

    ington (since 1893 Cresson) township, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, May 6,

    1856, the son of Charles Nutter and Mary (Wiley) Peary. When Robert was

    three years of age his father died, and the widowed mother with her little

    son went back to her former home state of Maine and took up her residence

    in a little house at Cape Elizabeth, now included in the city of Portland.

    There Peary grew to manhood. Very early he took an active interest in out–

    door life and became a diligent student of natural history, particularly

    ornithology. He became as a youth an expert taxidermist and made mounts for

    sale, which added materially to the modest resources of the small household.

            Of powerful physique, the young Peary was an expert shot, an excep–

    tionally fine horseman who broke refractory horses to the saddle, and he

    excelled in swimming, skating, and skiing. He thought nothing of walking

    twenty-five miles, and once did thirty miles over country roads in eight

    and a quarter hours. His apparent indifference to physical pain, which was

    so marked a characteristic in later life, had early made its appearance.

            After graduating from the Portland High School, he entered Bowdoin

    College. Without the means to finance his college course, he won a scholar–

    s hip and retained it throughout all four years. He was graduated in 1877

    002      |      Vol_XV-0574                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E(dwin) Peary

    with the degree of Civil Engineer, second in a class of fifty-two, but at

    the top in engineering, in which field he had shown much originality and


            Following his graduation from college, Peary set himself up as town

    surveyor at Fryeburg in the Saco Valley of southwestern Maine. Two years

    later he entered the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey as draftsman.

    In 1881 an examination was held for positions in the Civil Engineer Corps

    of the United States Navy. Of the two hundred applicants who took this

    examination, Peary was one of four who were passed. He was commissioned

    on October 26, 1881. A.G. Menocal, the distinguished engineer in charge

    of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks, had been on the Examining Board,

    and he saw to it that Peary was made his assistant. While in this position

    Peary was successful in completing a naval pier at Key West which had been

    abandoned by the contractor as impractical. He next devised a method of

    successfully operating by the tides the gates in the channel which connected

    the Washington Navy Yard with the Potomac River.


    Surveying for a proposed Nicaragua Canal

            Peary had been looking forward to tropical exploration, and in the

    fall of 1861 an opening was afforded him. His chief, A. G. Menocal, was loaned

    by the United States Government to the Provincial Interoceanic Canal Society

    to explore by surveys the route of a projected canal across the isthmus in

    Nicaragua. Menocal at once chose Peary to be his principal assistant and

    second-in-command. This expedition left New York in December 1884. The

    surveys were throughout in tropical jungle, but were carried through with

    complete success. Peary was the executive director throughout, and the

    glowing praise of his chief appeared on many pages of the report. As a

    result of these surveys, the length of the proposed canal as determined by

    003      |      Vol_XV-0575                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert N. Peary

    the surveys of the mid-seventies, was reduced by more than sixteen miles

    and its estimated cost by seventeen million dollars. One of the principal

    objections to the route had been the exceptional height of the locks which

    would be required, and the consequent difficulty of operating them. This

    was successfully overcome by a device for rolling lock gates which was

    invented by Peary.

            The collapse in 1895 of the private company which had financed the

    Nicaraguan surveys interrupted, though it did not close, this phase of

    Peary's career.


    First Arctic Exploration

            Already initiated in exploration, Peary's attention was directed to the

    Arctic by a fugitive paper which he had read about the inland ice of Greenland,

    In April 1886 by invitation he read a paper before the Academy of Natural

    Sciences, in which he outlined a plan of his own for exploring the interior

    of Greenland, then almost unknown. He considered alternate routes for crossing

    the inland ice from the west coast; one from Disko Island in southwest Green–

    land in a direction southeastward to the east coast; the other, much longer

    and more difficult, from Whale Sound in extreme northwest Greenland in a

    direction northeastward to the remote and then wholly unknown eastern coast.

            A preliminary trip to determine technique and equipment was made in 1886.

    This penetration of the interior was to be undertaken on foot and without dogs.

    He designed a one-man sledge of the toboggan type modified from the Hudson's

    Bay model, and fitted to carry a load of 200 pounds. His cooking lamp burned

    alcohol as fuel, and this rather than kerosene he used in all his later


    004      |      Vol_XV-0576                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

            In May 1886, he sailed for West Greenland on the steam whaler Eagle ,

    Captain Jackman, Master, from whom Peary now learned the technique of navi–

    gating and maneuvering in sea and pack ice. He left the ship at Godhavn on

    Disko Island, where he was able to engage as companion Christian Maigaard,

    Assistant Manager at the nearby colony of Ritenbenk.

            They set out on May 25. Crossing first deep crevasses in the glacier,

    then over rivers and lakes of surface meltwater lightly frozen over, the two

    men advanced in the teeth of strong head winds and fierce storms until they

    had penetrated almost one hundred miles eastward from their starting point.

    They had attained an elevation of 7,525 feet. Their rations now reduced to

    those necessary for only six days, they turned back. With their sleds lashed

    together catamaran fashion, and with sail raised to utilize the persistent

    down-slope wind, the descent to the coast was made at breakneck speed.

            On this trip, Peary had made a deeper penetration of the Greenland

    interior than anyone before him, and had discovered, once the crevasses and

    meltwater lakes had been passed, a truly "imperial highway" for the explorer.


    Second Nicaraguan Expedition

            In 1887, the year following Peary's return from his first arctic expe–

    dition, the Nicaraguan Government granted a concession to a new isthmian

    organization, the Maritime Canal Company of Nicaragua. This company decided

    upon a "new and final" survey of the Nicaraguan route. The veteran engineer,

    A. G. Menocal, was placed in charge as Chief Engineer, and he again chose

    Peary for his second-in-command with the title of Sub-Chief Engineer in entire

    charge of surveys. Under Peary were forty-five engineers, with drillers and

    chain men, and one hundred macheteros to clear paths through the jungle. This

    large force passed through the strenuous seven months of the actual surveys

    005      |      Vol_XV-0577                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    without a single death or serious illness. The surveys completed under Peary's

    direction were gone over and approved by a board of eminent consulting en–

    gineers, and they have been the basis of later surveys of that route.

            Returned from Nicaragua, Peary was on October 10, 1888, assigned to

    duty at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to superintend the completion of a dry dock.

    With this finished, he was in 1889 transferred to Philadelphia to superintend

    the construction of a timber dry dock, and in March, 1891, this dock had

    been completed and tested. On August 11, 1888, Peary had been married to

    Josephine Diebitsch, daughter of Professor Herman H. Diebitsch of the Smith–

    sonian Institution in Washington.


    First North Greenland Expedition

            Peary's earlier plans for a transaction of Greenland were now again

    taken up. The course which he had originally favored had been in South

    Greenland near where his preliminary expedition had been made; but while

    he had been in Nicaragua the great Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen, had

    accomplished a first crossing near this route. Peary was thus thrown back

    upon his second choice, a transaction in far northern Greenland. Of that

    part of the island almost nothing was known, but it was where the width of

    the island ice was certain to be very much greater, and the climatic condi–

    tions much more severe. Though sponsored by several scientific institutions

    headed by the American Geographical Society in New York, yet the total money

    contributions had been less than $10,000 when in June of 1891 the expedition

    sailed from Brooklyn.

            In addition to the seven members of the expedition, which included

    Mrs. Peary, there were nine scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences

    in Philadelphia. They were to return on the expedition vessel, the Kite ,

    after the expedition had been landed in North Greenland. The expedition

    006      |      Vol_XV-0578                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    members were Eivind Astrup, champion ski athlete from Norway, Dr. Frederick

    A. Cock, later to become notorious as the world's greatest faker in the field

    of exploration, John M Verhoeff, mineralogist, Langdon Gibson, ornithologist

    and chief hunter, and Matthew A. Henson, Peary's colored servant who had been

    with him in Nicaragua. In selecting the personnel Peary had initiated a

    policy to which he adhered in all his later exploring. He chose men who

    used neither tobacco nor spirits. Unlike most other arctic explorers, he

    planned when on land to live off the game, except on the long sledging

    expeditions over inland ice, when the more concentrated [ ?] pemmican

    had to be substituted. He had already devised a lamp to use alcohol fuel.

    Time was thus saved, and efficiency rather than comfort was his aim.

            Before the Kite had arrived at Peary's intended base, he met with a

    serious accident. Beset in the pack ice of Melville Bay, the ship was back–

    ing for a charge on the ice. Peary was leaning over the stern rail, when a

    large floe struck the rudder and tore the heavy iron tiller out of the hands

    of the two helmsmen, one of whom was thrown over it and across the deck.

    The heavy bar then caught Peary's leg, jammed it against a wall and snapped

    both bones above the ankle. Three weeks later at the Inglefield Gulf base,

    the leader of the expedition had to be put ashore strapped to a plank, and

    it was to be another five weeks before he could put foot to the ground.

            Peary's first transection of North Greenland, a double one, was made

    with a single companion, Eivind Astrup, and with but one advance depot of

    food and fuel. It was a sledging journey of close to 1,200 miles over

    inland ice throughout. For the first 130 miles two helpers were taken. To

    attempt the crossing it had been necessary to reduce equipment and supplies

    to an absolute minimum. The sledges Peary had had built on the McClintock

    model with frame sides, and with their weight reduced by two-thirds. Neither

    tent nor sleeping sack was taken. In Eskimo-style fur suits of reindeer skin

    007      |      Vol_XV-0579                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    Peary and Astrup were able to sleep comfortably in air temperatures which

    ranged from 40° F. to −60° F. "My couch," wrote Peary, "was the frozen

    surface of the inland-ice and my canopy the blue sky." Of the twenty

    Greenland dogs taken, eight survived the eastward crossing, and five the

    entire journey.

            Both as an accomplishment in sledging and because of its outstanding

    geographical discoveries, this double crossing of North Greenland had been

    generally regarded as one of the most remarkable journeys ever made. In

    1897 the President of the Royal Geographical Society of England said of it;

    "Lieut. Peary is, without exception, the greatest glacial traveller in the

    world. He is also far and away the greatest dog-sledge traveller in the

    world as regards rapidity and distance."

            At the eastern end of his crossing, Peary on July 4, 1892, locked down

    upon a great fjord which he named Independence Bay, with the cliff above which

    he stood, Navy Cliff. Eastward he looked out over a land without snow cover,

    but separated from him by a deep trench the bottom of which was hidden, but

    which from its trend appeared to connect Independence Bay with a fjord on the

    north coast. Subsequent surveys have shown that this "Peary Channel" is not

    occupied by the sea throughout, but is a deep trench between the Greenland

    inland ice and a large northeastern land now on the maps as Peary Land. The

    distinguished Danish explorer, Dr. Lauge Koch, who has made the later surveys,

    wrote in 1925: "I would emphasize the high quality of Peary's sketch map,

    and the justification of his assumption of the insularity of the land he

    discovered — land which now properly bears his name."

            In 1892 Peary returned to the United States acclaimed as an outstanding

    here of arctic exploration. Against the black disasters of the Jeannette and

    Greely arctic expeditions, Americans could now point with pride to an out–

    standing achievement by one of their own countrymen.

    008      |      Vol_XV-0580                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary


    Second North Greenland Expedition

            The land discovered in northeast Greenland had appeared to be extensive,

    and, so far as was known, it might stretch out to the Pole itself. On it

    Peary had found musk-oxen, which promised a replenishment of food supplies.

    It was at least hopeful as a possible route to the Pole.

            Perhaps somewhat overstimulated by the ease with which the first cross–

    ing had been made, Peary planned a new expedition, and this a polar one, which

    involved unknown factors and which did violence to his then fundamental prin–

    ciple that exploring parties should be kept small. He accepted a great hazard

    when he made the decision to start out two months earlier than in 1892, for

    there was at the time no experience to guide him in travel on the icecap so

    early in the season.

            To secure the necessary funds Peary delivered 165 lectures which netted

    $13,000, and he took with him a body of scientists to make the ship voyage

    and help out his finances. The expedition sailed in the Falcon , Captain Harry

    Bartlett, Master, from Philadelphia, June 26, 1893. The base was established

    on an arm of Inglefield Gulf, which Peary named Bowdoin Bay. A fairly large

    building, Anniversary Lodge, was constructed to house the fourteen members of

    the expedition, which again included Mrs. Peary and now a nurse, since a

    child was expected. The precious oil supply Peary stored in casks placed

    twenty feet above high-water mark, but most of this was lost when the calving

    of a great iceberg from a nearby glacier shattered the ice of the bay and

    sent a great wave almost to the door of the Lodge. It was a major disaster.

            During the first week of March, Peary set out on an intended second cross–

    ing to Independence Bay and beyond with a party of eight in air temperatures

    which ranged between −30° F. and −60° F. In these low temperatures the men

    009      |      Vol_XV-0581                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    Suffered severely, and the dogs contracted the incurable piblockto . Some

    had to be shot and others were frozen to death as they slept. After a

    penetration of only 128 miles the expedition had to return, some of the

    party with frosted feet. The precious pemmican and fuel had been deposited

    on the ice at the turning point, and its position there marked by bamboo

    poles which projected nine feet above the surface.

            It had been a terrible experience, and it is perhaps not to be wondered

    at that, though the expedition had been planned for three years, all but two

    of the assistants insisted that they return on the ship when it arrived in

    1894. The two who agreed to remain were Hugh J. Lee and Matthew Henson.

            Peary now planned for 1895 another attempt to cross the inland ice to

    Independence Bay and, if game could be secured, to go on to the Pole. A new

    depot of provisions, which was laid down between the base and the advance

    depot and marked in the same way as the other, proved to have been buried

    under drift snow so deeply that it could not be discovered. Peary found that

    the main depot 128 miles out, with a ton and a half of the precious pemmican,

    might also be buried and lost. It would be necessary to start out with the

    heavier reindeer meat for the men and with walrus meat for the dogs, a very

    heavy handicap. During the winter the necessary game was secured by hunting,

    and this was laboriously processed into a poor substitute for pemmican.

            The expedition of three men set out on April 1, 1895, a month later

    than the disastrous one of 1894, but a month earlier than the successful one

    of 1892. As Peary had feared, the main depot of pemmican and fuel, like the

    lesser one, could not be found. Both had been buried under more than nine feet

    of drift snow. Subsisting on insufficient rations and after being repeatedly

    driven into their tent by fierce storms, in a famished condition, and with the

    dogs unable longer to travel, they at last came in sight of the land near the

    010      |      Vol_XV-0582                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    east coast. Lee was left in camp to feed the dying dogs to those that might

    perhaps be saved, while Peary [ ?] and Henson went ahead in the hope of securing

    game. After much search a herd of musk-oxen was killed and the expedition


            The return to the Lodge was throughout a march of starving men. On the

    ninth day out Lee, who had been suffering from dysentery, gave out completely

    and wanted Peary to go on without him. However, they camped and Peary through–

    out one day dosed Lee with warm milk which contained beef peptonoids and

    brandy, so that he was thereafter able to march more than twenty miles each day.

    At long last all staggered into the Lodge in the last stages of starvation,

    from which they were weeks in recovering. Late in August the Kite and the

    expedition returned to the States.


    Summer Expeditions of 1896 and 1897

            As early as 1818, John Ross, the British explorer, had noticed in the

    hands of the Smith Sound Eskimos knives made from meteoric iron, but they had

    always refused to disclose its source to their white visitors. Because of

    their warm friendship for Peary, they had in 1894 promised to lead him to the

    place. During the winter of 1894-95, with Lee and an Eskimo guide, Peary

    carried out a hazardous sledge trip to the locality, which proved to be on

    an island near the coast of Melville Bay to the east of Cape York. On this

    island, since named Meteorite Island, they found three nickel-iron meteorites,

    the largest of about ninety tons' weight and, with one possible exception,

    the largest in the world.

            Two summer expeditions were carried out in 1896 and 1897 for the sole

    purpose of recovering these extremely rare and valuable meteorites. Without

    docks or cranes, and where the heavy pack made any stay of his little vessel

    011      |      Vol_XV-0583                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    extremely precarious, the loading and transportation of these masses of

    nickel-iron was an engineering feat of the first magnitude. During the

    first attempt, carried out in 1896, the work was interrupted, and the little

    Hope was forced to make a hasty retreat or be crushed in the ice. The second

    expedition, of the summer of 1897, was completely successful, and the great

    meteorite has since reposed at the main entrance to the American Museum of

    Natural History in New York City.

            In January 1897, the Cullom Gold Medal of the American Geographical

    Society was awarded to peary for: 1) the delimitation of the before unknown

    coast of Inglefield Gulf; 2) the delimitation of the then imperfectly known

    coasts of whale and Murchison sounds; and 3) the determination of the rapid

    convergence of the northern shores of Greenland north of the 78th parallel,

    which established its insularity. There might well have been added a fourth,

    for the discovery of the form of the Greenland inland ice, a much flattened

    dome, and the constant presence above it of a fixed centrifugal system of

    strong winds and outward drifting snow, something which was not then known

    anywhere in the world. The outblowing fierce winds of the inland ice extended

    far outside its borders, and at times had velocities of one hundred and more

    miles per hour.

            In 1898 Peary visited England to be awarded the much prized Patron's Gold

    Medal by the Royal Geographical Society of London.


    The Four-year Arctic Expedition of 1898 to 1902

            The expedition of 1895 had pretty effectively shown the impracticability

    of attaining the Pole by first crossing the inland ice of Greenland. Of

    possible American approaches there was left only the Grant Land coast (northern

    Ellesmere Island) to the west, separated from Greenland by Kennedy and Robeson

    012      |      Vol_XV-0584                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    channels. That coast was four hundred miles nearer the Pole than any

    base Peary had yet used, but between lay the channels, which in all but

    exceptional seasons were so frozen as to be impassable for ships. His plan

    now underwent a complete change. He determined to have constructed a ship

    of special design, strong enough either to resist or evade ice pressures,

    and with engines powerful enough to force a way through the frozen straits.

            The opposition of the Navy Department to granting the necessary five–

    year furlough for another arctic expedition was at last overcome. A group

    of wealthy New York businessmen formed an organization under the name the

    Peary Arctic Cluby of which each member agreed to contribute a thousand

    dollars a year for each of five years, or until Peary had reached the Pole.

    They planned also to dispatch a ship to him in each year of his stay.

            Peary left for the Arctic in July of 1898 on what proved to be a

    four-year expedition, but without the special vessel which could force the

    frozen straits. Lord Northcliffe had given him the former expedition ship

    Windward , and had promised to have her re-engined, but because of a strike

    this could not be carried out. She went to the Arctic essentially a sailing

    vessel. When near Cape D'Urville on the west shore of Kane Basin, the

    Windward was caught and imprisoned behind a gigantic ice floe and compelled

    to winter there. Peary's base for the years 1898-1899 was thus less than

    one hundred miles farther north than on his earlier expeditions, and for

    the years 1900-1902 it was at Etah, Greenland, near the latitude of his

    old base.

            In this impasse Peary fixed upon Fort Conger, 250 miles up the straits

    (on west side of Hall Basin, northof Kennedy Channel) as his advance base.

    This would mean that many tons of provisions would have to be transported

    by dog sled over the rough icefoot of the passages that separate Greenland

    013      |      Vol_XV-0585                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    from Ellesmere Island, an apparently impracticable undertaking.

            During the weeks before the ice would permit of sledging, Peary

    explored the unknown shores of Princess Marie Bay and Buchanan Sound to

    the west of Kane Basin. On a later trip in reconnaissance he pushed still

    farther west and discovered Cannon Bay and lands beyond, which he named

    Jesup and Arthur Lands. These were a year later surveyed by the Norwegian

    explorer Otto Sverdrup, who gave to the distant land the name Axel Heiberg

    Land, and this had taken the place of Jesup Land on the maps.

            Because of the condition of the ice, the sledging of the supplies to

    Fort Conger, which had been the base of the Greely expedition fifteen years

    before, had to be done in the arctic winter during the hours of moonlight.

    Way stations were set up with snow iglus for relay depots. With the waning

    of the November moon a tone and a half of supplies had already been cached

    at Cape Wilkes, about a third of the way to Conger. In his always restrained

    language Peary wrote: "No one who has not had the actual experience can

    imagine the work or annoyances involved in transporting, in semi or complete

    darkness, these supplies along the frightful icefoot which everywhere lines

    the ragged Grinnell Land coast."

            The December journey, made in intense cold and in part in winter darkness,

    came near to ending Peary's career. Groping his way with worn-out Eskimo

    helpers and their dogs, and with badly frosted toes, Peary at midnight stumbled

    through the dilapidated door of the abandoned fort. Both Peary's feet were

    found to be badly frosted, and it was clear that he must lose parts or all

    of his toes. The house at Conger, it was found, had been left by the Greely

    expedition in the utmost confusion, and the great supplies of food and in–

    struments had spoiled because left exposed to the weather.

            For six dreary weeks Peary lay upon his back racked with pain from his

    014      |      Vol_XV-0586                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    frozen feet. Refusing to despair, he wrote on the wall above his rude

    cot his mottos, "I shall find a way or make one."

            In midwinter he had himself lashed on a sled and, not without many

    upsets, was dragged the 250 miles to the ship in temperatures which ranged

    from −56° to −65° F. On March 13th all of his toes but the two little ones

    were amputated Even before the stumps had healed, the work of forwarding

    supplies to Conger had been resumed. On April 19th with seven sledges,

    Peary riding, he started for Conger and completed the journey in ten days.

    This averaged twenty-five geographical miles per day. In the neighborhood

    of the fort musk-oxen were killed in numbers.

            It was while his toe stumps were but partly healed that Peary made the

    gruelling reconnaissance trip on which he discovered Jesup Land. On the

    return, with the sea ice now melted, he was compelled to wade long distances

    in the icy water breast deep, a grim experience. Soon after his return, with

    light loads Peary drove to Conger in six days, forty-one and two-thirds

    miles per day.

            During this year filled with such harrowing experiences, Peary had made

    an authentic map of the large fjord region west of Kane Basin, had crossed

    the Ellesmere Land icecap to its west side and discovered Jesup Land, had

    sledged no less than fourteen tons of provisions to the depots on the way to

    his Conger base, had brought out the instruments and original records of the

    Greely expedition, and had established his new advance base at Conger.

            In early August the Diana , sent by the Peary Arctic Club, arrived at

    Etah with Herbert L. Bridgman, the Club's secretary, on board. Bridgman

    strongly urged Peary, because of the condition of his toes, to go back to

    the ship. The reply was, "When my furlough has expired or I have reached

    the Pole I shall be ready to go." During the three seasons that remained

    015      |      Vol_XV-0587                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    of the furlough, Peary was to surpass all his earlier sledging records and

    to raise his country's flag in new far advanced positions.

            On April 11, 1900, he set out from Conger on a sledge trip along the

    Greenland north coast, then explored only as far as Lockwood Island, in lati–

    tude 83° 24′ N. This journey had to be made over the rough icefoot or on

    thinly frozen sea, and at times over the rugged coast itself.

            Through securing musk-oxen at several points to augment his food supply,

    Peary was able to push beyond Lockwood's farthest, a distance of more than one

    hundred and fifty miles. More than one hundred of these were beyond the northern–

    most point of Greenland in latitude 83° 40′, which, Peary named Cape Morris

    Jesup, after his great sponsor. From this northern land tip he pushed out

    northward over the rough sea ice to a new "Farthest North" of 83° 50′. His

    farthest point on the Greenland east coast he named Cape Clarence Wyckoff,

    and from it looking due west he saw and recognized a dominant peak which he

    had seen from the south in 1895, and had then named Mount Wistar. Since the

    coast near Cape Clarence Wyckoff had trended south, this indicated pretty

    clearly the insularity of Greenland, though the gap between the two traverses

    was not to be actually closed for another seven years, when the Danish explorer

    J. P. Koch sledged northward on the east coast and revisited Peary's cairns.

    This North Greenland expedition of Peary had clearly indicated that any

    practical route to the Pole must lie in the other direction, from the north

    coast of Grant Land.

            Returned to Conger, Peary found that his supporting party of Eskimos

    since their arrival had secured thirty-three musk-oxen and ten seals, all in

    the vicinity of the fort. During the months of July and August sixty more

    musk-oxen were secured in the area farther west around Lake Hazen; and during

    the autumn months, over one hundred more were killed.

    016      |      Vol_XV-0588                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

            In the first week of April 1901, Peary set out from Conger for the north,

    but after reaching Lincoln Bay it was found that the conditions of the men and

    dogs precluded any serious attempt upon the Pole at that time. He therefore

    returned to Conger and from there to the Windward at Payer Harbor (Cape Sabine),

    which was reached on May 6th.

            In July the Windward was freed from the ice, and upon the arrival of

    the Erik , sent by the Peary Arctic Club, the two vessels started south after

    depositing Peary and his party at Cape Sabine, Greely's starvation camp. It

    was here that Peary wintered comfortably after securing musk-oxen and caribou

    in the area to the west. The winter was spent in sledging supplies to Conger.

    On one of these journeys Peary covered the three hundred miles in twelve marches,

    an average of twenty-five nautical miles per day.

            The assault upon the Pole planned for 1902 had to start from Payer Harbor

    during the first week in March with the heavy meat four times the weight of

    pemmican. This proved to be another harrowing experience due to the rough

    ice and the fierce storms encountered. The sledges got away from Conger on

    March 24th. The coast was followed to Cape Hecla, beyond the Alert's winter

    quarters of 1875-76. At Cape Hecla Peary left the land on April 6th and started

    northward across the rough sea ice toward the Pole. The party had already been

    out a full month and had sledged no less than 400 miles over the roughest of

    ice surfaces. On the 12th they were stormbound. From now on they were often

    deflected westward by open water before arriving at the "Big Lead." Here the

    last supporting party returned, leaving Peary, Henson, and two Eskimos in the

    "permanent" party. The lead froze over on April 14th, and they hurried across.

    Past smaller leads they continued to struggle on until the 21st, when they were

    stopped in latitude 84° 17′ N. by still more rugged ice. Peary now turned back

    and in some despair he wrote in his journal, "The game is off . . . I have made

    017      |      Vol_XV-0589                                                                                                                  
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    the best fight I knew. I believe it has been a good one. But I cannot

    accomplish the impossible."

            The return was not made without great difficulties. At the northern–

    most of the leads the outward track had disappeared under a huge pressure

    ridge 75 to 100 feet in height. At the site of the "Big Lead" the trail

    was also covered, and when again discovered it had been faulted. After being

    stormbound, the land was reached after long and weary marches made without

    sleep. On May 17th Cape Sabine was reached after eleven marches from Conger

    which had averaged 27 1/4 miles. On August 15th the Windward arrived at

    Payer Harbor, and shortly after sailed for the south with Peary. Thus ended

    a four-years' stay in the Arctic with two major expeditions accomplished in

    1900 and 1902.

            In 1903, the Livingston Gold Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical

    Society, and the Gold Medal of the Soci e é t e é de G e é ographie of Paris, were

    awarded to Peary.


    Seventh Expedition

            Peary's seventh arctic expedition set out in July 1905. For the first

    time he went out with a powerful ship of his own design which he hoped would

    be able to force its way through the ice-choked Kennedy and Robeson channels,

    and so permit him to launch his assault from an advanced base four hundred

    miles nearer the Pole than on any of his earlier expeditions. This ship,

    which he named the Roosevelt , was an improvement upon Nansen's Fram, which

    was a sailing ship provided with auxiliary steam power, and with a wedge-shaped

    hull which under the crushing ice pressures would be squeezed up and leave the

    ship resting on the ice. Unlike the Fram, however, the Roosevelt was a very

    powerful steam vessel with auxiliary sails, and its engine was provided with

    018      |      Vol_XV-0590                                                                                                                  
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    a "by-pass" which, by turning a valve, permitted the steam from all of the

    boilers to be turned into the big low-pressure cylinder, more than doubling

    the power for as long as the boilers could meet this demand. This by-pass

    was used in charges upon the pack ice, and in extricating the vessel from

    particularly dangerous situations. The propeller blades were quickly de–

    tachable, and the rudder could be drawn up out of dangerous pressures.

            The skipper of the ship was Robert A. (Bob) Bartlett, a seasoned New–

    foundland sealing captain destined to achieve fame as Peary's great lieuten–

    and on this and the next wholly successful expedition. Professor Ross G.

    Marvin went as Peary's principal assistant, and Matt Henson, expert sledger,

    was again with Peary.

            An additional coal supply was dispatched in advance on the Erik . On

    the way north the Almy water-tube boilers of the Roosevelt were found to be

    leaking badly, so that only the Scotch boilers could be used, which reduced

    the ship's power by half. Yet with this heavy handicap the ship was able to

    make its arduous way through the ice-filled channels and at long last land

    the expedition at Cape Sheridan on the north Grant Land coast of Ellesmere


            Along the shores of Smith Sound stops had been made to recruit Eskimos

    and their dogs, until fifty Eskimos and about two hundred dogs had been added

    to the expedition. Then the battle royal with the ice of the channels began

    as the ship attempted to force her way through.

            On September 5th the Roosevelt was at long last berthed behind a big

    floe at Cape Sheridan on the north coast of Grand Land in latitude 82° 47′ N.,

    near Floeberg Beach, where Nare's Alert had passed the winter of 1875-76.

    This base was more than four hundred miles nearer the Pole than that of any

    of Peary's earlier expeditions. His strategy had been successful. Inasmuch,

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    however, as the shifting floes might at any moment place the ship in imminent

    peril, the supplies were put on shore as enclosed walls roofed over with a

    spanker sail to be used as a possible retreat for the expedition

            To feed the 200 dogs some tons of whale meat had been a part of the

    Roosevelt's cargo, but already in October a fatal disease broke out among

    the dogs, and before the cause had been discovered to be the whale meat, no

    less than eighty had died. To feed his party of sixty, game had been depended

    on, and hundreds of musk-oxen and reindeer (caribou) were slaughtered. This

    resh meat had now also to be used for the dogs, and on it they thrived.

            The winter proved to be one marked by fierce blizzards off the Grinnell

    Land icecap, which lay to the southward; and these storms increased greatly in

    violence as the season advanced. During the full moons hunting continued,

    especially at an Eskimo camp near Lake Hazen, and the meat was sledged to

    the ship.

            The direct assault upon the Pole had been planned to start at Cape Moss,

    about forty-five miles northwestward along the coast from the ship, where

    supplies had been sledged there during the winter moons. During the first

    week of March 1906, a pioneering unit under Bartlett had been followed out

    on the sea ice by other freighting sledge units, with Peary's own unit at the

    rear leaving the Cape on March 6th.

            The sea ice was found to be heavily rafted and considerable shifting

    of the floes was going on. On the 8th a floe on which supplies had been de–

    posited was discovered shifted more than a mile to the eastward. On the 15th

    Peary's sledge division caught up with the advance parties which had been

    hewing the trail through the rough ice. On the 21st storms faulted the pack,

    leads of water opened, with the floes on the north side moving eastward. Air

    temperatures were so low that the kerosene fuel remained white and viscid.

    020      |      Vol_XV-0592                                                                                                                  
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    On the 26th Peary again caught up with the advance units stalled before

    the "Big Lead" of open water. Here in latitude 84° 38′ N. the expedition

    was held for six days until the lead had been frozen over enough for

    crossing with reduced loads and double banking.

            Henson's unit was now sent ahead, but was overtaken by Peary's after

    three marches, and here in latitude 85° 12′ all were kept in camp during a

    six-day gale. When the storm had ended a sun observation showed that their

    camp had been moved seventy miles to the eastward, so that it was now in

    about the longitude of the ship. From this position Eskimos with empty

    sledges were sent back to meet parties at the rear, but were soon back to

    report a new and quite impassable lead that had opened halfway back to their

    probable position.

            These unexpected adverse conditions indicated a breakdown of Peary's

    supporting party system, and in this impasse, in despite of his insufficient

    supplies, he decided upon a dash northward by his and Henson's divisions —

    seven men and six teams, all with half-loads.

            All the unnecessary equipment was cached at this "storm camp," a new

    but shifting advance base. The going now improved considerably. As dogs

    gave out they were fed to the others. Forced marches were made with little

    sleep, and on April 21st, 1906, a new Farthest North of 87° 6′ N. was reached,

    thirty-two miles beyond Cagni's farthest. It was the utmost that was possible.

    Even with his ship base four hundred miles nearer the Pole than he had ever

    had it before, Peary had been able to sledge only 420 of the 620 geographical

    miles to the Pole. "I felt," he wrote, "that the mere beating of the record

    was but an empty bauble compared with the splendid jewel on which I had

    set my heart for years, and for which, on this expedition, I had almost

    literally been straining my heart out."

    021      |      Vol_XV-0593                                                                                                                  
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            The return was started in drifting snow which cut into the face like

    needles. After the first march all stumbled into the camp thoroughly done

    in. Here they got a little sleep, the last for many days, but at long last

    "Storm Camp" was reached in a howling blizzard with everyone thoroughly ex–

    hausted. Here they remained twenty-four hours while the storm howled out–

    side. Though the compass course had been held southward, Peary knew that

    the camp had continued to shift eastward and was now probably somewhere

    north of the Greenland coast, as his later sun observation proved.

            Disappointed by not finding at "Storm Camp" the much needed food, Peary

    decided to launch out on a direct course to the Greenland coast. His Eskimos,

    and later those of Clark's division, were all obsessed with the idea that

    the shift of the ice had been westward instead of eastward, and save for the

    sun observations of their leaders, they must all have been hopelessly lost.

            It was now to be a race for life. Where the "Big Lead" had been Peary

    now encountered an indescribable chaos of broken and rafted ice. Climbing to

    its top, he looked out southward over a broad black band of open water which

    blocked any further retreat. After waiting two days, an attempt was made to

    cross over a thinly formed ice cover, but they soon encountered open slush

    and scrambled back in some peril of life. Five days later with sleds widely

    separately another attempt was made over an undulating ice bridge. This

    perilous crossing accomplished, as they were unfastening their snowshoes,

    the bridge behind them parted and a new open lead began to form.

            There was more almost impassable ice and yet other open leads to be

    passed, but on May 12 the starving men were just able to drag themselves up

    onto the Greenland coast. There within an hour they killed and bolted four

    large arctic hares. Just before attaining the land they had run into Clark's

    sledge division in an equally famished condition, so that the four already

    022      |      Vol_XV-0594                                                                                                                  
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    starving men had their number increased to seven.

            They now set out westward along the Greenland coast in the direction

    of the ship, living on the emaciated dogs until in Nares Land seven musk–

    oxen were killed, the party saved, and they pushed on to the ship. Thus

    ended without the loss of a man one of the most remarkable journeys in all

    polar history; but it was to be followed by another, equally remarkable,

    before the return of this, Peary's seventh arctic expedition.

            While painfully marching toward the Roosevelt , Peary had been planning

    the details of an exploration of the unknown coast of Grant Land west of

    Aldrich's farthest made in 1876. It would be a double sledge journey of

    at least six hundred miles over the worst terrane to be found in the Arctic,

    and the season was already late to attempt it. Moreover, Peary, Henson, and

    Clark had swollen feet and legs from the late attempt on the Pole, accompanied

    by lowered vitality, soreness, and shortness of breath. Peary would have to

    leave two months later than Aldrich had done, and sledge at least 150 miles

    farther, but Aldrich on his return had had to wade through rivers and lakes

    of ice water. To account for Peary's decision to attempt such a journey, one

    must take account of his desire to offset the bitter defeat of the polar

    assault by an outstanding achievement which would be everywhere recognized.

    Such recognition would be essential if he were to secure the furlough and

    the financial support for another attempt upon the Pole.

            On June 2nd, only a week after his return and while still in a much

    Weekened condition, Peary set out with three Eskimos, six sledges and thirty–

    nine dogs. He was back at the ship on July 26th, having accomplished all

    that he had set out to do. He had explored throughout and mapped the unknown

    coast and crossed the fjord beyond to Cape Thomas Hubbard.

            The second transection of North Greenland, the polar attempt of this

    year, and this exploration of the Grant Land coast, rank as the three most

    023      |      Vol_XV-0595                                                                                                                  
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    difficult journeys of Peary's exploring career. At critical times the party

    was saved by finding game, but on the return in the late spring it had been

    necessary to wade breat-deep through lakes and rivers on the ice, and to lie

    down between marches in shallow slush or icy water. Under this treatment

    the clothing, and especially the footgear, rotted and fell apart. Tin cans,

    flattened out, had to replace the rotten kamiks for traveling over rough

    beach pebbles.

            The Roosevelt had broken out of her berth at Cape Sheridan, had squeezed

    down along the shore and, after passing Cape Union, had smashed against the

    icefoot, tearing another blade from her propeller and breaking off her ste r n–

    post and rudder. The day after his return Peary came down to Bartlett and

    said: "We have got to get her back, Captain. We are going to come again

    next year."

            The return voyage of the damaged vessel through the ice-choked Robeson

    and Kennedy channels, with hastily made repairs, and when free of the channels

    through storm after storm, much of the time without coal for the engines, i [ ?] one

    of the classics of the sea. From Cape Sheridan in Grant Land until New York

    harbor had been entered on Christmas Eve, not a day had been without peril to

    the ship. "As the chain rattled over the side," writes Bartle ss tt , "Peary turned

    and silently gripped my hand. We were too numb from all our experiences to

    appreciate our escape." Expert skippers who visited the Roosevelt in the dry

    dock found it difficult to believe that a ship in that condition could have

    survived the voyage.

            For his outstanding work on this his seventh arctic expedition, the

    National Geographic Society awarded Peary the Hubbard Gold Medal, its first

    award, and it was handed to him by the President of the United States, Theadore

    Roosevelt. In the same year of 1907 he was elected President of the Explorers

    Club of New York, of which all the world's explorers of note are members.

    024      |      Vol_XV-0596                                                                                                                  
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            The Peary Arctic Club again resolved unanimously to stand behind

    Peary, and to provide for a final attempt upon the Pole by having [ ?] the

    Roosevelt refitted, the defective boilers replaced, and, further, to finance

    Peary's eighth and final arctic expedition.

            Peary himself was now confident that with the experience gained he

    would at last succeed; in fact, had the winter been characterized by dominant

    northerly winds, as it had when the Nares Expedition had wintered in Grant

    Land, he believed that the sea ice would have been in such condition that he

    could have made the Pole in 1906. That expedition had been made when he was

    already fifty years of age, older than most explorers who have gone into the

    Arctic for arduous exploration, and he realized that the last year had taken

    a terrible toll of his physical powers. This time the rear base of his expe–

    dition was to be established north of the treacherous "Big Lead," so that

    only when supplies had been delivered to the forward units would the support–

    ing parties be sent back to the land base and so eliminated from the responsi–

    bilities of the leader. When traveling together all food and fuel we [ ?] s to be

    sent back to the land base and so eliminated from the responsibilites of the

    leader. When traveling together all food and fuel were to be taken from one

    of the sledge units, and only when just enough was left to enable it to reach

    the land would it be sent back with the least efficient of drivers and dogs.

    As the dogs would be going home, they would travel in half the time needed for

    the advance, and in any emergency some of these dogs could be used for food,

    since they would no longer be needed.

            To state the plan more in detail there were to be four of the supporting

    parties, each made up of several sledges, one sledge to be driven by Henson,

    the others by Eskimo drivers. Supporting parties would be in charge of one of

    Peary's lieutenants and would leave at intervals of five marches. Where shifts

    of the trail had occurred, it was to be their duty to knit the several ends together

    025      |      Vol_XV-0597                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    before they had become too widely separated. This would make the return

    easier for the later parties on the longer back trails. To provide, however,

    against excessive shifts of the floes, such as had occurred in 1906, the

    leaders who made earlier returns to the ship were later to lay down food

    depots on the Greenland coast eastward as far as Cape Morris Jesup, and on

    the Grant Land coast [ ?] westward as far as Cape Fanshaw Martin in longitude

    80° W.

            The replacement of the Almy boilers of the Roosevelt had been promised

    by July 1st, 1907, but they were not ready until September, far too late to

    get away that season. This was a bitter disappointment for Peary, who would

    be still another year older. Then came the heavy calamity of the death of

    his friend and backer, Morris K. Jesup. Could Peary at the time have foreseen

    the relation of this extra year's delay to the schemes of Dr. Frederick A. Cook,

    it would have been recognized as an adverse stroke of fate such as had not yet

    been met with in his career.


    Eighth Expedition

            On the 6th of July 1908, when the Roosevelt was to leave her pier in New

    York to sail northward on Peary's eighth and completely successful polar expe–

    dition, President Theodore Roosevelt came aboard for a last farewell. The

    Roosevelt again had that great skipper, Captain Bob Bartlett, who had played

    so large a part in bringing the ship back in 1906. The active personnel, in–

    clusive of the crew, was twenty-two men. Chief expedition assistant was

    Professor Ross G. Marvin of Cornell University, who proved a most loyal and

    valued companion but was destined never to return. Two other new members of

    the staff were Donald B. MacMillan of Worcester, Massachusetts High School,

    and George Borup, a Yale undergraduate and athlete. Matt Henson, now a veteran,

    026      |      Vol_XV-0598                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    was again with the expedition, and the surgeon was Dr. J. W. Goodsell.

    Bartlett, Marvin, Borup, MacMillan, and Goodsell were all to command sup–

    porting parties, the surgeon the earliest and shortest one.

            The navigation of the channels was in the main a little easier than

    in 1905, by reason of the more adequate battery of boilers, but it had its

    moments of peril, as on August 30th, in the northern end of the Robeson

    Channel, where the ship was kicked about as though it had been a big football.

    A thousand-ton berg to which the ship had been moored had been literally picked

    up by a big floe and had been dashed against the ship's side, fortunately a

    glancing blow. This floe collided with another just aft, and the ship was

    squeezed out between them "like a greased pig." The Roosevelt made its old

    winter quarters at Cape Sheridan on September 5th.

            Here the sledges, which had been under construction by Henson and the

    Eskimos during the journey from Etah, were completed, many of them of the

    superior new Peary type. Such sledges had teams of eight dogs each, and

    usually started out with loads of about 700 pounds. The dogs were attached

    fanwise. None of the heavy meat was to be taken on the sledges, but only the

    four-times-lighter pemmican. At the base, however, the food was game obtained

    "off the land," and hunting parties were camped in the Lake Hazen region from

    which they sledged the meat to the ship during full moons. Still others sledged

    the supplies intended for the polar parties to the advanced land base at Cape

    Columbia, ninety miles from the ship.

            No sooner had the winter set in than a deadly disease appeared among the

    dogs. Of the original 246 only 193 were alive on November 9th and only 160

    on the 26th. The whale meat appeared not to be sufficiently nutritious.

    After experimentation the walrus meat was found the best and the still ailing

    dogs recovered on this diet. As winter wore on, an even more serious situation

    027      |      Vol_XV-0599                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    developed when the time approached to set out for the Pole Some of the

    Eskimos vividly remembered their experiences on the 1906 expedition, and

    disaffection appeared among them which Peary had much difficulty in over–

    coming, great as was their faith in him.

            The Pole expedition made its start when on February 15th, 1909, Bartlett

    set out from Cape Columbia in charge of an advance division to pioneer the

    trail, followed a few days later by supporting divisions with heavily laden

    sledges. Peary left the ship on the 22nd, when there was already light

    enough to travel without a lantern, and reached Cape Columbia in extreme low

    air temperatures.

            On the morning of February 28th, Bartlett's unit set out and Borup's a

    little later. Peary and the other units got away the next day, Peary's place,

    like a general's, at the rear to see whether his system was working properly.

    Bartlett, in charge of the pioneer division, was to hold his advance down to

    ten miles a day while in the rough near-shore area. The second dayout a lead

    a quarter of a mile in width opened where Bartlett had passed the day before.

    Camp was made and snow iglus constructed. The next morning early the sound of

    the ice from the two sides crashing together brought the assurance that the

    lead was closing, and Peary rushed the sledges across over dangerously moving

    rafter ice. On the north side the trail was found offset a mile and a half to

    the west. Borup, returning for a fresh load and with instructions to connect

    with Peary, had gone astray. With an empty sled and an expert Eskimo trail–

    finder, Marvin was sent back to find him, and his and Borup's units came

    together at Cape Columbia. After taking on loads they started out together

    to join Peary, only to be stopped by a new loead with the ice on the north side

    drifting west. Here in torturing anxiety and with Eskimos threatening to go

    027      |      Vol_XV-0600                                                                                                                  
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    back, they now were held four days until the lead was closed and they met

    two Eskimos with a note from Peary to advance with all possible speed. The

    Eskimos supplied also the valuable information that the broken trail could

    be picked up a mile to the west. On the 11th, in good weather, they made a

    double march, and another double one on the 12th. At Peary's fourth camp

    they found a note dated the 11th: "Have waited here (6) days. Can wait no

    longer . . . Do not camp here . CROSS THE LEAD . . . It is vital you overtake

    us and give us fuel . . . . . Peary

            P.S. On possibility you arrive too late to follow us, have asked

    Captain to take general material from your bags."

            At this camp in a temperature of −53° F. Borup had frozen one of his

    heels, but they made an eighteen-hour march and crossed another big lead,

    fortunately already frozen over. All were tired out, but when they asked for

    an Eskimo to volunteer for carrying a note to Peary, Seegloo responded at once.

    On top of two forced marches, one of them of eighteen hours, and after only

    four hours' sleep, he made another double march and reached Peary the next

    evening. It was a classic of dog-sled travel, and Seegloo was thereupon

    selected by Peary for the polar dash.

            The next day the division of Marvin and Borup came in. At this camp,

    the first returning pary, with the poorest of the dogs, was sent back under

    Dr. Goodsell, and the next day MacMillan, who had a badly frosted heel, was

    dispatched to join him. From here the advancing divisions on March 15th com–

    prised sixteen men and twelve sledges, all with standard loads of 650 pounds

    and drawn by one hundred dogs in all.

            Late in the afternoon loud rumblings and reports indicated the proximity

    of leads, and soon they came to open water. A crossing was effected only by

    getting the sleds first on one ice cake and then on another. During this

    028      |      Vol_XV-0601                                                                                                                  
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    perilous work a serious accident was averted by Borup. His dogs [ ?] lipped

    and went into icy water. Athlete as he was, he held back the sledge and

    then one by one pulled the dogs out of their traces.

            Soon another lead was encountered and camp was made. All night long

    the loud complainings of the ice continued, but on the morning of the 16th

    a crossing was made. For the next two days Henson, who had been pioneering,

    had made little advance, and he was replaced by Marvin, who the next day

    accomplished an advance of seventeen miles, which party made up for the last

    two short ones.

            Here on March 20th in latitude 85° 23′ N. the next returning party was

    sent back under Borup with three Eskimos, one sled, and sixteen of the poorest

    dogs. The remaining units were reorganized so that each division had three

    men instead of four. It was now continuous daylight, so that the pioneer

    party could leave twelve hours in advance and vacate its iglus for the

    following unit. Up to now, also, latitudes had been based on dead reckoning,

    but for the first time the sun was high enough for sextant measurements.

    With the picked men and better dogs, Longer marches were made in air temperatures as i

    high as −40° or −30° F. The nature of the ice surface was also improving con–

    siderably. On the 25th a march of more than twenty miles carried the expedi–

    tion beyond Cagni's farthest north of 1901. Marvin's sun observation showed

    a latitude of 86° 38′ N.

            From this camp Marvin started back in command of the next to the last

    supporting party, with two Eskimos, one sledge, and seventeen dogs. On April

    17th the two Eskimos reached the ship without Marvin and with the story that

    on April 10th Marvin had broken through the ice and been drowned while crossing

    the "Big Lead," This was an entirely plausible story and has been believed

    by all the members of the expedition. His loss, the only one of the expedition,

    was to be a great blow to Peary.

    029      |      Vol_XV-0602                                                                                                                  
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            After the departure of Marvin's unit, the daily marches were bettered

    with the smaller party, the picked dogs, and the increased rations. Peary's

    new supporting party system was working out to perfection. Until Bartlett

    started back on March 28th, the five marches averaged 15.8 nautical miles.

    On that day Peary passed his 1906 record of 87° 6′ N. and camped close to

    Bartlett's advance unit. As Peary was drowsing off, yelling was heard out–

    side. A new lead had formed which passed within inches of the fastening of

    one of Peary's dog teams, and another team was nearly buried under the

    raftering ice. Bartlett's iglu was seen moving off in the lead on a loose

    ice cake, and Peary's own iglu was already separated by a crack and in danger

    of floating off. Peary shouted to Bartlett to harness the dogs and be ready

    to jump "ashore" at the first opportunity. Peary with a pickaxe cleared

    a way off his floe and soon was able to help Bartlett rush his sledged off

    his raft.

            The next day the expedition was halted by a lead so wide that the

    farther side could not be seen, but it closed during the following night

    and they crossed the next morning. During the next day a lake six or seven

    miles wide was crossed on ice so thin that it buckled under the sledges.

            On April 1st they reached the latitude of 87° 46′ 49′ N. and Bartlett

    set off in command of the last supporting party, which was made up of two

    Eskimos, one sled, and eighteen dogs. He had reached a higher latitude than

    anyone except the polar party.

            Peary was now left with five men — Henson and the Eskimos, Ootah,

    Egingwah, Seegloo, and Ookeah — and five sleds. His forty dogs were nearly

    all king dogs and the pick of the entire Eskimo tribe. They had been spared

    the harder work for just this occasion and ha[d?] been fully rationed, as he had

    nearly twice the food actually needed. Each sled in place of the standard

    030      |      Vol_XV-0603                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    load of 700 pounds started out with only 500, and this was daily diminish–

    ing as they advanced.


    The Dash to the Pole

            From Bartlett's farthest at latitude 87° 47′ N. the dash to the Pole

    was strennous but comparatively uneventful. Peary believed that he could

    make the Pole in five marches, and he did just that. He arrived at ten

    o′ clock on the morning of the 6th of April. Camp was made and given the name

    Morris K. Jesup in honor of the late President of the Peary Arctic Club.

            The first sun observation was made at noon with such corrections only

    as were possible at the time. It was 89° 57′ N., only three nautical miles

    from the Pole. (As later corrected by the experts, the position was 89° 55′

    22′.) This observation over, Peary turned in for a few hours of sleep. On

    rising he wrote in his diary: "The Pole at last. The prize of three centuries.

    My dream and goal for twenty years. Mine at last . . . It all seems so

    simple and commonplace."

            Again some sleep and Peary turned out for a six o′ clock evening obser–

    vation, Columbia meridian time, but the sky was overcast, so with two

    Eskimos driving a double team of dogs, he went on an estimated ten miles.

    Meantime the sky had cleared and from the new position a midnight observation

    was taken, which showed he had gone beyond the Pole. Returned to Camp Jesup,

    a 6 o′ clock observation was taken there the morning of the 7th, others eight

    miles north, and still others at noon at Camp Jesup.

            In Peary's narrative concerning the return he says: "Before we hit the

    trail I had a brief talk with the men of the party and made them understand

    that it was essential that we should reach the land before the next spring

    tides...My plan was to make double marches on the entire return journey; that

    031      |      Vol_XV-0604                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    is to say, to start out, cover one northward march, make tea and eat luncheon,

    then cover another march, then sleep a few hours, and push on again. As a

    matter of fact, we did not fall much short of accomplishing this program.

    To be accurate, day in and day out we covered five northward marches in

    three return marches. Every day on the return lessened the chances of the

    trail being destroyed by high winds shifting the ice."

            Before midnight of April 22nd the last sledge rested safely on the

    firm ice of the glacial fringe off Cape Columbia. The Eskimos, relieved at

    last of their fear of the sea ice, yelled and called and danced until they

    fell down exhausted. Said Ootsh, "The Devil is asleep or having trouble with

    his wife, or we should never have come back so easily."

            On April 23rd, at six in the morning, Peary's weary party was at Cape

    Columbia, sixteen marches only from the Pole. In two additional marches the

    ninety-mile journey to the ship was covered, so that the return to igh the

    ship from the Pole had been made in eighteen etapes.


    The Return

            The Roosevelt was released from her berth on July 18th, 1909, and

    with better ice conditions in the Robeson and Kennedy channels, she was able

    to accomplish the return voyage without noteworthy incident. Before reaching

    Etah on the Greenland coast, Peary had learned from the Eskimos that Dr.

    Cook had been there and had claimed to have reached the Pole on April 18,

    1908, which, if true, would have made him its discoverer. Every member of

    Peary's party interviewed separately the two Eskimos who had been Cook's

    companions on his alleged polar journey, and by Peary's instructions each sat

    down the Eskimo statements in writing. These, when compared, agreed in showing

    that Cook had first reached Cape Thomas Hubbard in Axel Heiberg Land, from

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    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    which point they traveled northward on the sea ice two "sleeps" only before

    turning back. This farthest north of Cook was 508 miles from the Pole.

            When the ship had reached Battle Harbor in Labrador, it was met by a

    body of news correspondents [?] who reported to Pea r y the great acclaim which

    Cook was then receiving in Copenhagen as the discoverer of the North Pole.

    To the correspondents Peary, with little appreciation of mass psychology,

    gave out the wholly inadequate statement: "Cook's story shouldn't be taken

    too seriously. Two Eskimos who accompanied him say he went no distance

    north and not out of sight of land. Other tribesmen corroborate." A more

    definite statement he sent to the New York Times: "He has not been to the

    Pole on April 21st, 1908, or at any other time. He has simply handed the

    public a gold brick. These statements are made advisedly and I have proof

    of them."

            The public generally believed the plausible Cook, and not until more

    than four months later when the Consistory in Copenhagen after examining Cook's

    polar records, had declared them worthless, did Peary receive a part of the

    acclaim that was his due. Every geographical society of the world then awarded

    him its gold medal for the discovery of the Pole. The Congress of the United

    States extended to him a vote of thanks, and he was advanced to the rank of

    Rear Admiral in the Civil Engineers Corps of the United States Navy.

            The distrust of his countrymen during the brief period of Cook's glamor–

    ous exaltation (See Cook, Dr. Frederick A.) had been a severe blow to Peary,

    always sensitive to anything which seemed to reflect upon his honor. As well

    expressed by the New York Nation:

            "As for Peary himself he has been defrauded of something which can never

    be restored to him . . . . . False as it has been proved, the claim [by Dr. Cook]

    . . . has dimmed the lustre of the true discoverer's achievement. He will receive

    033      |      Vol_XV-0606                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    the full acknowledgement that his work merits, in the form of recognition from

    scientific and other bodies and of a sure place in history; but the joy of the

    acclaim that should have greeted him at the triumphant close of his twenty-three

    years quest can never be his,"


    Prophet and Pioneer in Aviation

            His exploring career ended, Peary took up at once the subject of aero–

    nautics, then in its infancy, and soon he became one of its outstanding pion–

    eers. As early as 1910 he expressed his conviction that the airplane would

    become an important means of exploring the polar regions; and in 1914 he

    asserted, "I have no hesitation in saying that aeroplanes will not only cross

    the Atlantic and fly around the world, but cruise to the North Pole across the

    polar basin within a very short time." These forecasts were in part realized

    by Commander (later Rear Admiral) Richard E. Byrd eleven and thirteen years

    later, and the world circuit soon after. In 1917 Peary wrote:

            "In the very near future the biting air above the poles will be stirred

    by whirring aeroplane propellers, and when that time comes the inner polar

    regions will quickly yield their last secrets." This forecast also was soon

    to be realized by Byrd.

            In 1913 Peary was elected an Honorary Member of the Aero Club and was

    soon made chairman of its Committee on Aeronautic Maps and Landing Places, a

    position he held until his death in 1920. When in 1914 he began his campaign

    to awaken the people to the need of an air force, there were less than twenty

    aviators in the Army and Navy combined, and less than that number of airplanes.

    With the failure of the Government to provide an air service, Peary in 1915 took

    up the problem of training aviators at private expense. The Aero Club made him

    chairman of their committee for a projected aerial coast patrol system, the first

    034      |      Vol_XV-0607                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert ES Peary

    unit of which was formed at Yale University. The historian of this unite

    wrote of Peary:

            "He had the scientific imagination to foresee the employment of bombing

    squadrons on a vast scale to invade distant territory and destroy the lives

    and property of c ivilian populations . . . . .

            "Admiral Peary urged the speedy development of the air service for use

    as a coast patrol and for fighting submarines . . . . . .He expected the air–

    plane to be the decisive factor of the war."

            With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the aviators of this coast

    patrol became squadron and station commanders, and, later, instructors of the

    recruits who came into the air service.

            In 1916 and 1917 Peary published many letters in the New York Times on

    preparation of the national defense at a time when President Wilson was

    opposing it. Before the Congress of Constructive Patriotism held in Washington,

    January 27, 1917, Peary said: "Do not, however, get the erroneous idea that

    I wish to substitute aerial equipment in place of the Navy. Nothing is

    farther from my thought. I am urging a great air fleet and also coast defense,

    In addition to the Navy ." To help in a strong campaign for education of the

    people, Peary accepted the presidency of the Aerial League of America, which

    within a year had a membership of five thousand, and played an important part

    in legislation for the national defense.

            Late in 1917 Secretary Baker of the War Department requested the Aero

    Club of America to select two of its members to represent the Club in government

    activities. The Club named Admiral Peary and Henry Woodhouse. Peary now repre–

    sented both the Aero Club and the Aerial League. With their sixty affiliated

    clubs, they were now a powerful organization, so that Peary's aid was invoked

    by earnest government officials, who needed outside aid in overcoming bureaucratic

    035      |      Vol_XV-0608                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    inertia. Describing Peary's labors at this time, Alan R. Hawley, eminent

    authority on aircraft, wrote: "He is doing for his country in showing us

    the way to attain command of the air, as much as Admiral Mahan did in showing

    us the way to attain command of the sea." "The remedy," Peary said, "is a

    separate department of aeronatics." In March 1917, Peary, accompanied by

    U.S. Senators Charles F. Johnson and Morris Sheppard and Congressman Julius

    F. Kahn, presented to President Wilson a memorandum urging these measures.

    Two months later bills were introduced in both houses of Congress for a

    Department of Aeronautics.

            Peary at his own expense toured the country and delivered addresses in

    support of the bills in twenty large cities from New York to San Francisco.

    Before a committee of the U.S. Senate he appeared to urge their passage. His

    address was regarded as so important that it was printed and distributed as a

    Senate Document. The bills for a Department of Aeronautics were passed by

    Congress, and the new department placed under the Secretary of the Navy.

            Referring to Peary's part, Henry Woodhouse, his associate in the campaign,


            "The country know little . . . of Peary as a man and a leader in other

    lines than Arctic exploration . . . He was one of the few early leaders of the

    national preparedness movement who made a clear and adequate estimate of what

    should be done . . . Peary was one of the few who worked on without pause until

    two years ago, when he was forced by illness to slow down."

            When [?] from his campaign tour for preparedness Peary had returned weary

    and worn out, his physician saw that he was afflicted with the then incurable

    disease, pernicious anaemia. As the encroachments of the malady increased,

    transfusions of blood resorted to, thirty-five in all, but with the result only

    of temporarily checking its progress. On February 13th he returned from the

    hospital to his home in Washington. On the 19th he passed into a coma and at

    036      |      Vol_XV-0609                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    1:20 in the morning of Friday, the 20th of February, be passed away, with

    the members of his family at his bedside.

            From the great all over the world came floods of telegrams with tributes

    of admiration and affection. That from the Explorers' Club to Mrs. Peary


            "The Explorers' Club offer you their sympathy in your irreparable loss.

    We mourn Admiral Peary as our friend, as our former President, and as the

    greatest of all explorers. On behalf of the Board of Directors,

    Vilhjalmur Stefansson, President."

            The burial on February 23rd was in Arlington National Cemetery with full

    military honors. In attendance among the honorary pallbearers were the Vice

    President of the United States, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, the Chief

    Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the Speaker of the House of

    Representatives, the Secretary of the Navy, Members of the Cabinet, and

    Rear Admirals Endicott and Parks. Airplanes and seaplanes of igu the United

    States Navy hovered over the grave during the ceremony.

            Two years later on April 6, 1922, the thirteenth anniversary of the

    discovery of the North Pole, a mem m orial ceremony was enacted at Peary's

    grave remarkable for the notable persons who participated as had been no

    other since the original Armistice Day ceremonies in honor of the Unknown


    037      |      Vol_XV-0610                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Perry


    By Peary. Books. Northward over the "Great Ice," New York, F.A. Stokes Co.,

    1898, 2 vols., p.521 and 618. Maps and about 800 illustrations; Nearest

    the Pole
    , New York, Doubleday Page, 1907, p. 411, maps and 95 illustra–

    tions; The North Pole New York, F.A. Stokes Co., 1910, pp. /373, 100 illus–

    trations (also DeLuxe editions, and foreign translations as follows:

    French, Lafitte, Paris, 1911; German , Süsserott, Berlin, 1910; Italian,

    Fratelli Treves, Milan, 1911; Dutch , Willink and Zoon, Haarlemm, 1910;

    Swedish , Ahlen-Alkerlunds Forlag, Göteborg,1910; Secrets of Polar Travel ,

    New York, The Century Co., 1917, p.313, 73 half-tone illustrations.

    Shorter articles (selected). A Reconnaissance of the Greenland Inland Ice,

    Amer. Geog. Soc ., Jour. 19 , 261-289, 1887. Four Years' Arctic Exploration

    1898-1902, Geog. Jour. 22 . 646-672, 1903 (Reprinted in Smithsonian Institu–

    tion Report for 1903, 427-457); Peary Arctic Club Expedition to the North

    Pole, 1908-9, Address at Albert Memorial Hall, May 4, 1910, Discussion by

    the President, Sir George Nares, Sir Lewis Beaumont, Captain R. F. Scott,

    and Captain R. A. Bartlett. Geog. Jour ., 36 , 129-148, Aug. 1910.

    The Discovery of the North Pole, Hampdon's Magazine, 24. 3-25, 159-176,

    303-304, 329-346, 500-516, 653-668, 773-778, Jan. to Sept. 1910; 25 , [ ?]

    3-18, 165-180, 8 283-295, 1911. With 3 maps and 124 half-tones.

    (French translation in Je Sais Tout , Paris, Jan. to Aug. 1910; Italian

    translation in La Lettura, March to August 1910).

    By Others. Biographies : Fitzhugh Green, Peary, the Man Who Refused to Fail,

    New York, Putnams, 1926, p.404, 20 illustrations; Donald B. MacMillan,

    How Peary Reached the Pole, Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1934, p.306,

    illustrated; William Herbert Hobbs, Peary, New York, Macmillan, 1936,

    p.502, 27 maps and 30 illustrations (In appendix B a full list of Peary's publications).

    038      |      Vol_XV-0611                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biog. Hobbs: Robert E. Peary

    Shorter articles . Josephine Diebitsch Peary, My Arctic Journal

    (With an account of the great White Journey across Greenland, by

    Robert E. Peary), New York and Philadelphia, Contemporary Publishing

    Co., p. 240, 1893; Hugh J. Lee, Peary's Transections of North Green–

    land, 1892-1895, Amer. Philos. Soc ., Proc ., 82 , 921-934, June, 1940;

    Henry G. Bryant, The Peary Auxiliary Expedition of 1894, Bulletin No.5

    of the Geographical Club of Philadelphia, p.26, 1895, illustrated;

    Robert A. Bartlett, Peary's Extended Exploration of Arctic Lands

    Culminating in the Attainment of the North Pole, Amer. Philos , Soc ., 82 ,

    ( [ ?] 935-947, June, 1940. R. A. Bartlett, Bringing the Crippled

    Roosevelt Home, privately printed, p.21. Matthew A. Henson, A Negro

    Explorer at the North Pole, With a foreword by Robert E. Peary and an

    introduction by Booker T. Washington, New York, F.A. Stokes Co., p.200,

    1912; George Borup, A Tenderfoot with Peary, New York, F.AStokes Co.,

    p.317, illustrated; Hugh C. Mitchell, C.E., and Charles R. Duval, B.S.,

    The Geographic Position of Camp Jesup, and the Reduction of Observations

    of R. E. Peary, in the Vicinity of the North Pole, Reprinted from the

    Acts of the 10th International Congress of Geography, Rome, 1913 (X

    Congresso Internationale di Geografia , Roma , Atti , pp.686-716, 1915);

    Heber D. Curtis, Navigation Near the Pole [Discussion of Peary's Observa–

    tions]. U.S. Naval Inst ., Proc. 65 , 9-19, 5 diagrams, Jan. 1939.

    Donald B. MacMillan, Peary as a Leader, Nat. Geog. Mag. , 37 , 293-318,

    April, 1920; Fitzhugh Green, Rear Admiral Peary, U.S. Scientist and

    Arctic Explorer, U.S. Naval Inst. , Proc ., 48 , 1315-1324, August, 1922.


    William H. Hobbs

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