In April the Polar Commission of the
Russian Geographical Society issued a full
honoring Frederick A. Cook on the Centennial of
the Discovery of the North Pole. This included Cook’s
route to the North Pole, his image on a medallion in
both Russian and English and reproductions of his sleds.
The inscription of the 100th Anniversary
of Achievement of the North Pole is included, with “Dr.Frederick Albert Cook and Inuit Etukishook
and ‘Another Planet:’ Shparo’s address
at Cook Centennial, citing
Russian Recognition of the 1908
discovery By Matvey
Shparo Ahwelah.” Among the stamps on the cover is
that honoring Russian glaciologist and historian A. V.Koryakin (top upper right) one of the first Soviet!
Russian scholars to advocate Cook’s cause in the late 20th century.
The commemoration took place with
the presentations by the prominent father-son Polar
explorers and academicians at the Society’s Centennial
Conference in the Yale Club on April 7-8. Dmitry Shparo and
Matvey Shparo both addressed the conference.
Some of the highlights of Matvey’s expedition, which also
honored the 100th anniversary of Cook’s first journey,
include the following:
“I believe that many people present in this room
have visited the Arctic and therefore understand that the
Arctic is just Another Planet. It has been Another Planet in
Dr. Cook’s times and it keeps being Another Planet
today, 100 years later. Just as a century ago, so too in our
times, people risk their lives and die on their way to the
“I had more luck than most in this room. I had
the luck to visit almost all of those places that Dr. Cook
had visited. I ascended Mt. McKinley two times. I
crossed Greenland two times, and I have been to the North
Pole two times. A few years ago it occurred to me that
the Polar Night Expedition to the North Pole could be
the most significant event in the Arctic exploration since
Dr. Cook’s times.
“Borge Ousland, a famous polar explorer who is
a national hero of Norway, made an attempt to reach
the North Pole at night a couple of years ago. Yet, the
sunrise caught him on his way.
“I need to say two words about the polar night.
People who are here today in this audience know very well
and understand that there is a polar day and a polar night
that each lasts 180 days. The Polar night is a time when
not only the sun is absent from the sky, but sometimes
also the moon and the stars. The long polar night is over
on March 21st (the vernal equinox) when the Sun rises
for the fist time above the horizon giving start to the
long polar day.
“There are many distinctions between
expeditions to the North Pole during the polar day versus during
the polar night. Let’s take encounters with polar bears.
During my previous 6 or 7 expeditions to the Arctic polar
bears visited me in my tent. It is one thing when you can seethe bear, follow its movements and maybe even
guess its intentions. It is quite another thing is when the
white guest and your tent are surrounded by one
darkness. And then you can not understand
whether you’ve scared the bear enough that he will retreat or,
on the contrary, whether it will go around the tent in
order to attack you from the rear, only 10 minutes
later. “We have a pretty similar situation with ice
rubble pile up. During the day you can see quite clearly the
actual place of an ice pile-up and can predict its speed and
its building force. During the night time, you can
neither evaluate the hummocking nor predict the
distance between the hummocking and your tent. That is why
we spent so many nights in our tent without sleep,
in anticipation of the approach of the dangerous ridge.
The next important distinction is the open water, or rather
its crossing. Whereas during the day time you can climb
a ridge and see how wide the passage is, during the nighttime a flash-light can pierce the darkness only to 40meters distance. That’s why we had a rule that we
would go into the crossing only if we see the distant shore.
We used dry- suits for passages. You put it on top of all
other layers of clothing.“
I can recall a story, not a very pleasant one,
when we engaged in one particular crossing. I went first. I
swam for 10 minutes and realized that the distant shore did
not become any closer. Then I swam for another 15
minutes yet the shore did not become closer. With an
uneasy feeling I looked behind and saw to my astonishment
a small white spot instead of Boris. He was at least
100 meters away from me, as far as the distant shore. I
quickly took a decision to return.
“Our expeditions lasted for 84 days. Only a
week after the start we decided to switch from the 24 hour
day to a 30-hour day. We discussed these options
with specialists, with doctors trying to see whether the
switch was viable or dangerous.
“To recover we had to sleep 10 hours. During
our expedition we would spend 5 hours to set up a camp and5 hours to take it down. And then we would spend 1 0hours on our trek. I did not go alone to the North
Pole. Boris Smolin was my partner. It is so important for
every single person to be able to have someone, one
whom you could rely upon, someone in whom you
trust. Throughout many years of joint expeditions Boris
has become such a person for me.
“When we reached the North Pole on March
14th my first words were addressed to Boris. And right
after that I addressed my father — Dmitry Shparo who
was the head of our command staff in Moscow who
worked 18 hours a day for 84 days in a row. My expedition to
the North Pole would have never been possible without
his enthusiasm and support.