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What do these photos demonstrate? An expert can determine from them how high the sun is above the horizon. That is the same thing a sextant does. When these photos are analyzed they shows that Peary and Henson were at the Pole. Want to see a large version we colorized?
Photo#1 so overexposed that Peary never used it. Look what happens when we underexpose the print.
Photo#2 so overexposed that Peary never used it. Look what happens when we underexpose the print.
Explanation by Douglas R. Davies, Navigation Researcher
Having worked on the 1988-1989 Navigation Foundation study of the Peary controversy, I am persuaded that Peary reached the pole. The reasons for this would fill a book, but the best brief illustration of the support for Peary's claim is provided by Photos #1 and #2 (above).

Ample evidence contained in the various photos that Peary took at the pole camp an in the narratives of Peary and Henson establish that these photos were taken at the pole camp at about 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. on April 6, 1909. (The exact time is not terribly important, since at the pole the sun would circle at nearly the same altitude, increasing only about 1/3 of a degree per day at that time of year.)

The angle of the sun above the horizon (altitude) in these photos can be determined by comparing the photos to the images made by a camera of the type Peary used of objects with known angular separation. The result is that the sun's altitude is essentially identical to the sun's altitude that would have been observed at the pole. Peary's most outspoken critics agree with this conclusion. Of course, the same solar altitude would be obtained anywhere along a "line of position" extending from the pole along approximately the 100th meridian of longitude.

Peary's diary and his account of the expedition indicate that he believed he had covered the necessary distance to reach the pole and confirmed that belief with navigational observations prior to the time he took these photos, but had not yet confirmed his east-west position. The estimated distance was confirmed by Henson. If the distance estimate was correct, the line of position generated by the photos conclusively fixes Peary's position very close to the pole.

To me, the mere fact that Peary took and retained these photos is convincing evidence that he did in fact believe he had covered the distance to the pole, and further that he was confident that he was at least reasonably on track. If he was far short, and making up phony distance estimates, he certainly would have known it, and he would have known that a photo of the sun potentially would be a smoking gun.

Editors Warning: In the paragraphs below, Davies is facetiously responding to the kind of nonsense several well known "Peary Critics" would inevitably toss up to refute the veracity of the photo shown above. Experience over the year has shown that these individuals will dismiss any evidence that proves Peary reached the Pole. Davies is very skilled in anticipating their responses to these matters.
The critics, of course, see it differently. According to them, Peary stopped far short of the pole and then determined his longitude through observations, the records of which Peary apparently destroyed (since they no longer exist). Based on the photos, this longitude would have been about 100 west. Armed with his longitude, Peary could safely take a photo of the sun when it was due east or due west (six hours before or after the sun passed the 100th meridian), since at that time the sun would be essentially at the altitude that would be observed at the pole.

Then, having pulled off a wonderfully successful couple of photos showing exactly what Peary wanted them to show, he decided not to submit them as evidence that he had reached the pole or even publish them at all. Why? Because someone might have argued that he needed more photos at demonstrably different times to provide a complete cross-fix of his position.

Did Peary take these photos out of an innocent expectation that they could do him no harm, or as part of a diabolical scheme that he decided to abandon? You decide.

Douglas R. Davies
January, 2002

2000 Bradley Robinson. All rights reserved. Any wrongs belong to you. All opinions expressed by Bradley Robinson are his alone, and may not be shared by his attorney, legal advisors, members of the Peary or Henson family, or any other persons connected with the preservation of the legacy of Matthew Henson and Robert E. Peary. Bradley's opinions, in any event, are protected under first amendment rights. Use of copyrighted text or images is done so as a legitimate journalist and thereby protected under the "fair use doctrine". For additional information or rights to use any of this material see: Terms of Use
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