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DID HENSON & PEARY REACH THE POLE?
Yes - with dogs and teamwork!


by Bradley Robinson, 1997, and 2000

 

Read the affirmative conclusion National Geographic:
January, 1990
Why would anyone doubt Henson & Peary in the first place? Cook was a fraud, and Peary had an expedition like an army.

 

arf! arf! go to the Pole!
NorthWinds experts reach Pole with dog teams in same time it took Peary!
They were the only team in the world who could do it.
Over an 18 year period Henson and Peary had explored the Arctic, mapped the tip of Northern Greenland, set up bases and searched for a possible land mass that went to the Pole. There was no such land bridge
Peary proved that. He also discovered where Greenland ended. No one had known this. In fact, did you know the United States later traded the tip of Greenland which Peary discovered for the Virgin Islands?

Henson, Peary and their Eskimos friends had worked together for many years in the Arctic. They had lived with the Eskimos learning their survival skills, hunting, training to drive dog sleds. They knew precisely what they were doing and how to make it happen. They did what no one else in the world at that time was physically or logistically capable of achieving. The details of the trip show Peary's great strategic planning - it was a complex assault with multiple teams of men, supplies and dogs breaking the trail, setting up igloos with food to support the elite team comprised of the best Eskimo dog sled drivers, the best dogs and Matt Henson.

The Eskimos, Henson and Peary were honorable men risking their lives to reach the Pole. They proved that there is no land up there - only shifting ice masses; they took soundings of the ocean's depth. For this they deserve to be honored in history as the first people to ever reach the north axis of the Earth. That is all. Let them have the reward they earned with their actions.

Q: Why was there a controversy about the 1909 Henson & Peary trip to the North Pole
A: There no longer is any controversy (except from racists and lunatics) Henson & Peary reached the Pole

They were at the Pole within the limits of accuracy of the instruments they used - about +/- 5 miles. Henson and Peary spent 30 hours there taking sextant readings, making ocean floor depth measurements and took several clear photographs. Peary was a skillful navigator, a civil engineer for the Navy who had surveyed a proposed Nicaragua Canal route. His 17 years of Arctic exploration are well documented. He marched in various directions from the North Pole base camp taking readings. He literally crossed over the pole somewhere in this diligent effort to pinpoint it. Even today with a Global Positioning Satellite system one can't find the pole any closer than 100 feet

Then what did happen?
Fred Cook volunteered one winter with Peary in 1891, then had a lifelong case of Peary Envy. He pathetically wanted to be famous like Peary. In 1906 he declared he was the first man to climb the 20,300 foot tall Mt. McKinley.  But this was proved to be a fake. Cook dropped out of sight, only to reappear claiming he reached the North Pole! He went to Europe, not the United States, to announce this and receive foreign honors. The American press reported this, leading to public belief it was true, without any proof other than Cook's verbal claim. When Matt and Peary returned from the Arctic the following year they were shocked by the popular acceptance of Cook's hoax. It was a humiliating tragedy for the real heroes who actually went to the Pole.
Cook was soon proved to be a fraud and by December of 1909 he had to hide from the public.

The National Geographic Society awarded the discovery of the North Pole to Henson and Peary. But the public had soured over the affair, wanting to hear no more about Peary and his "colored assistant." In fact the public wondered why Peary had not taken a "white man" with him. Thoughtless, ignorant people thought this was proof that Peary faked going to the Pole. It was rumored Peary took Eskimo's and a Negro to the Pole so he could say he was at the Pole and they wouldn't know the difference. Aren't people cruel?

I thought there was recent "proof" Peary did not reach the Pole?
That was a big mistake! The Washington Post, on the front page in 1989, declared Peary a Fraud. How did the esteemed Washington Post decide Peary was a fraud? Enter astronomer Dennis Rawlins who found a document in the Peary archives which he thought was Peary's navigation notes from the Pole. The astronomer was able to deduce that Peary was over 100 miles from the Pole! Sounds pretty bad for Peary, doesn't it? Well, the calculations Rawlins made were based on that scrap of paper he found - which contained chronometer serial numbers, not sextant readings.

Another man thought they missed the Pole. He was also proved wrong - but not until after the damage had been done. Now you find his mistaken theories showing up as fact in encyclopedias! Isn't that terrible? The man is author Wally Herbert. He theorized Peary was near the North Pole, but West of it.

His article about this appeared in the September, 1988 issue of the National Geographic (Vol. 174, NO.3, P. 387). The Herbert "theory" first requires that you assume Matt Henson was not a "reliable witness"... watch out for the turn of the century version of racism where it was assumed that a "Negro" was not "temperamentally" capable of doing what white men could do. So the Herbert "theory" builds like a crime novel in which he reveals his "shock" at Robert Peary's diary, his romantic feelings for his wife, his determination to reach the Pole - each of these is held up for criticism, in my opinion to build some kind of strange plot in which Peary was lost and the dumb Negro didn't know where they were. Don't believe what these authors say. If you think this is racism, you may be right!

Obviously novelists dramatize this sort of drivel to make you think there is something to it. After all, if they can't sell books they can't get published, right?  So the "Herbert theory" essentially was that he thought they drifted West maybe 30 - 60 miles, Peary knew this and tried to hide the truth. Nonsense! The two greatest Arctic explorers were lost? No way! Henson and Peary were not a pair of bozos. But was Herbert right? No! Not at all. He has been proved wrong for at least one amazing reason; the ocean depth Peary recorded. Check this page for the details - it's kind of interesting.

Can we prove Peary really reached the Pole?
Yes, of course. Read the evidence yourself: National Geographic: January, 1990 Page 44. Peary was a detailed man and his evidence is well documented. While Herbert theorized Peary had drifted West on the ice away from the Pole, but he was wrong because there are ocean floor maps which show the Peary's ocean depth measurements prove he was not where Herbert thought he might have been.

The most amazing proof came from Peary's photographs. During World War II and later in the spy era of the Cold War a technique called photogrammetric rectification was developed. It can be used to determine what latitude a photograph was made. It requires a view of the horizon, shadows and camera focal length to determine the angle of the sun. And it is the angle of the sun in those 1909 photos which document how far North Henson & Peary were. The photos show a sun angle that could only be at the North Pole. (Hurray!)

In fact, the same technique was applied to Peary's 1906 expedition photographs. His claim that he reached 87' 06" was similarly proven. He was where his sextant and his notes said he was on that expedition also. The technique was also applied to photos of the Will Steger's team at the Pole in 1986. Again it worked. Photogrammetric rectification proved they were right at the Pole (+/- 5 miles).

What Henson & Peary discovered was the fact that there is no North Pole. No land is anywhere near it. This was probably a great disappointment to Peary who, as Commander, would have the right to name any land they found. But it was just ice. A frozen ocean which cracks apart frequently - a dangerous place to be. They could not even measure how deep the ocean was at the Pole because the instrument they had ran out of wire at 9,000 ft. This was unexpected as it was thought the Polar ocean was not deep. What Peary had recorded was the very deep trench which in fact runs under the Pole. And don't forget Matt Henson! Matt had gone to sea at age 12; Captain Childs personally trained Matt in navigation, math, etc. Matt was so good at what was called "dead reckoning" that he once won an astounding bet with his friend Peary; Matt kept track of his estimated distance to himself while he and Peary explored the coast of Greenland in 1902, Peary was recording sextant readings as he mapped the journey. His records showed the actual distance traveled from longitude & Latitude records. As incredible as it sounds, Matt was accurate to within about 20 miles over the course of 1,000 miles! And Matt proved his skill again in 1909 when he stopped to make camp at what he thought was the North Pole. When Peary checked his sextant Matt was correct to within 3 miles! Now that is about as close as you can get with the navigation equipment they had. This indicates a skill, an inner knowing, that no librarian turned theorist will ever understand.

So if a few mile size window of error (+/-5 miles) is OK with you, well then - Henson and Peary reached the North Pole in 1909. They did it and the pictures prove it, the ocean depth measurements prove it. So next time you hear about some book where the author "proves" they didn't reach the Pole because they were lost, remember this: Matt and Peary were never lost in the twenty years they mapped, surveyed and explored. They knew every motion of the Moon (which strongly affects the Polar ice movement), the ascension of the sun, the movement of stars; these are highly skilled men we are discussing here - not a pair of lost bozos! They knew exactly where the Pole was because it was their life's work to reach it. How can a man who spends a lifetime in a library ever understand what the Henson & Peary experienced? How can it be conveyed to the uninitiated? It reminds me of the Indian women who pushed sewing awls into the ear canals of the dead body of General Custer. They said that he had not listened in this lifetime and so they had fixed his hearing so he would hear better in the next world.

My father was profoundly changed by his association with Matt Henson. My mother always added that Matt was "a great spirit" when he was discussed in our family. It was my fathers privilege to write Matt's biography with him. Matt knew perfectly well he had reached the North Pole. In fact, it wasn't until after my father died in 1984 that these derogatory books began to appear. Without Matt or his biographer alive to defend their achievement these new authors package their version of opinions which they call truth. But they all have to hinge on the same false statement! When Peary and Matt sent Captain Bartlett back at his farthest North camp, as had been planned, the writers will slip this phrase out to you - "His last reliable witness (Bartlett) was sent back". In other words, Matt was a Negro. Matt was some lowly servant of Peary's several rungs down on the evolutionary ladder from great men like Bartlett. With this bit of racism put over on the reader the author then builds the case that they got lost and Matt didn't know where they were. Oh really? What nonsense! What racism!


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