Polar Priorities and Membership News

Smithsonian, Canadians take a new look at Cook

How did Peary's claim trump that of Cook?

In the centennial year of the return of both Cook and Peary from their respective expeditions to the North Pole, and in the centennial month of Peary’s attainment, renewed views on both explorers have come from a leading periodical and a prominent Canadian Arctic historian.

In the April issue of The Smithsonian Magazine, published by America’s premiere institution of history and discovery, author Bruce Henderson takes the case for Cook to a new audience, asking “how did Peary’s claim trump Cook’s?” Henderson has authored a well-reviewed history of the Greeley expedition and an acclaimed, balanced volume on the controversy, True North: Cook, Peary and the Race to the Pole


Author Bruce Henderson (‘True North: Cook, Peary and the Race to the Pole’)
has a lead article in the April ‘Smithsonian Magazine’ which asks 
“How did Peary’s claim trump Cook’s?

And in Canada’s north country, the quarterly journal Up Here has a significant essay by the person considered by many as the country’s leading historian of the Arctic, Ken McGoogan, who has the Pierre Berton Award for History and the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography. McGoogan begins his account with the assertion that “one hundred years ago this month one of the worst injustices in Arctic exploration history began. 

”Henderson’s article, “Cook vs. Peary” begins with the respective discovery stories which came from Cook in the New York Herald on Sept. 1, 1909 and from Peary in the Sept. 7, 1909, New York Times, both occupying the full front pages in what was to become the “storyof the century” according to crusading journalist Lincoln Steffans. 

McGoogan even cited True North by Henderson, who he says argues convincingly - that Cook’s story rings true. Cook, a master of Inuit travel methods, completed several remarkable sledge journeys. And his unprecedented reports, including about ice-drift patterns near the pole, have since been vindicated. 

“Henderson also rebuts fraud charges leveled against the doctor-explorer by his enemies, and repudiates allegations - and this will astonish aficionados -  that Cook made false claims about climbing Mount McKinley in Alaska.  He offers telling evidence that a fellow climber was bribed to offer false testimony; reveals that the first verified summiteer supported Cook’s description of the climb; and shows that Cook never claimed that a photo taken on McKinley had been taken at the summit. 

”“If Henderson is correct, then Robert Peary, having failed to reach the pole, destroyed the man who first succeeded. Maybe this month, 100 years after Peary launched his juggernaut, we should begin to set the record straight.” Historian McGoogan concluded.

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