Monday, April 21, 2008

To the Top of the World

Frederick Cook claimed to reach the North Pole on this date in 1908.

His claim was generally believed until his rival explorer Robert Peary claim to have reached the North Pole in April 1909, then launched a campaign to discredit Cook's claim. Cook was a controversial figure in his adventures. He was accused of faking a Mt. McKinley climb in 1906. He was convicted in a Texas oil scandal in 1933, but later pardoned by FDR.

Peary was instrumental in all of Cook's controversies. Cook had never published navigational data substantiating his North Pole claim, and although his McKinley had been earlier than his arctic expedition, the controversy erupted only after the polar conflict began. Even the judge in the Texas oil court case was a friend of Peary's. Peary, who also omitted to produce any credible data. Although the Royal Geographical Society awarded him a gold medal, neither the American Geographical Society nor any others have recognized the North Pole claim.

Who was the first to reach the North Pole? Maybe neither Cook not Peary, but today is the anniversary of Cook's claim to be the first person to reach the North Pole.

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