took 18 years
|3 not 8
Notice that Peary & Henson made 3
polar expeditions; 1902, 1906, and 1909. It is a common
mistake in history books to say Peary tried 7 or even 8
times to reach the Pole. The other expeditions involved
mapping unknown regions of Greenland and recovery of the world's largest meteorites.
|!986 US postal stamp honors Peary &
||President Eisenhower with
|Henson hand built the sledges
that Peary designed based on years of field experience.
This style is still in use today, but now made from
aluminum alloy. Henson planed the sides from hickory
planks. Walrus hide lashings hold it together and steel
runners protect from the sharp ice.
|• Reaching the Pole spanned 18 years (1891–1909) of expeditions with Peary's loyal
field assistant and trail leader Matthew Henson, progressively trying
and failing, learning and mastering numerous skills.
• It demanded courage & determination few men can match; the resolve to try and
try again year after year in the face of defeat.
• They proved there was no land bridge via Greenland to the Pole
and they learned to travel in -50° cold, work with native people and
master native methods of travel with dog sledges.
• Searched the Arctic ocean around Northern Greenland/Ellesmere
Island for a way to the Pole, learning the
difficult techniques of hauling supplies over the Arctic Ocean
with its pressure ridges and deadly open leads of water.
• Mastered the ability to cross dangerous, rubbery "young ice"
that terrified others; understanding the ocean currents/drift, tidal
and lunar effects.
• Designed, financed, and constructed a ship capable of crushing
through the summer ice along the west coast of Greenland to the most northerly point for a ship to
spend the winter. This was essential to position sufficient men &
supplies for the assault in the late winter/early spring. They
tried increasingly larger expeditions starting from Cape Columbia,
the most northern point of land.
• Transported an Eskimo community on their ship with over 200
Huskies up into the Arctic Ocean, allowing it to be frozen in.
Then they put everyone to work in factory like production, working through the
Arctic night, to produce fur clothing, dog harnesses, hand
crafted sledges, tin fuel cans & stoves.
• Executed Peary's elaborate support team plan with 24 men, 19 sledges of supplies hauled
by 130 Huskies. They pushed on day after day over pressure ridges,
crossing leads, building igloo camps.
• At 133 nautical miles from the Pole Peary and Henson left
the last support team. Their own elite team of 6 dashed towards the
Pole with the best dogs and lightly
loaded sledges. The weather held good, allowing them to sprint 25-30 miles/day until Henson
figured they had gone far enough. Peary confirmed with a sextant reading, on April 6, 1909 and
on April 7 with additional checks that they were at the North
• With the weather holding good they dashed back for land in fear
for their lives. Being 400 miles out on the ocean meant death if a
storm blew in to strand them from land with open water, or drift
the ice sheets hundreds of miles. Henson set a pace that exhausted
the dogs and daily they fed the weaker ones to the others.
When they arrived back on the Roosevelt Henson collapsed to his
bed to recover for days. Peary's diary records the terror that
followed him. Every night, for weeks as he began to fall asleep,
he found himself drowning in the Arctic ocean and woke up with a
But history had been made and the goal of centuries finally
achieved by Peary and his team.