Robert Peary: Did he, or didn't he????

National Geographic Society gives an unequivocal “YES!”

Independent analysts not hired by NGS have said, “I don’t think so.”

They both can’t be right.

Well, his grave has this huge thumping granite globe on it, with a big star carved up where the Pole should be.

Would any tombstone carver worth his salt provide a classy monument like this to a charlatan? I think not.

The National Geographic Society sponsored Peary’s expedition, so they’re not totally unbiased.

Independent examination of his logs indicate he would have had to have traveled considerably more distance than seems likely under the conditions.

N.B., this doesn’t mean that Cook made it to the pole, either.

According to Robert Bryce’s
“Cook & Peary : The Polar Controversy, resolved” neither man got to the Pole. Peary probably got closer. Cook’s reputation took a big hit early on in the controversy when aspersions were cast on his earlier claim that he was the first man to climb Mt. McKinley.

Peary definitely won the PR battle afterwards.

As an aside, it used to be claimed that the first person to get to both poles was Byrd, but now it is believed that his initial claim to flying over the North Pole was not true. His airplane probably didn’t have the range.

If that was the case, then the first man to get to both poles was Amundsen, who visited the North Pole via dirigible.

Only his hair stylist knows for sure.

How recently has NGS reaffirmed Peary’s achievement? Is this in response to the new book on Cook and Peary?

Years ago I read The Noose of Laurels : Robert E. Peary and the Race to the North Pole by Wally Herbert. I found Herbert’s claim that Peary failed pretty convincing. The two specific problems Herbert noted were the distances Peary claimed he travelled (I don’t think anyone has ever covered those distances at those speeds prior to the introduction of snowmobiles) and Peary’s omission of longitude from the log during most of his run. At those latitudes, a correct longitude is required to know that you are measuring the latitude correctly.

Minor points included: leaving behind everyone in his support team who could use a sextant; irregularities found in his log (including erasures and rewrites on points that were later disputed); and some other issues.

Herbert basically concluded that Peary had a psychological need to be the first to accomplish that goal and did whatever he needed to (including possibly deluding himself) to be recognized as the man who did accomplish it.

I have not had a chance to look over the new book on Cook and Peary.