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The character of Matthew Henson
"...a hero magnified by Eskimo legend to immortal proportions. To the Eskimos, who loved him, Matt was the greatest of all the men who came from the south."
Peter Freuchen
Peter Freuchen
"The basic reason for Henson's popularity is the man himself, his character and ability that grow upon you the more and the longer you know him."
Vilhjalmur Stefansson
Peary said "...within striking distance of the Pole, their work is done. They shall be no longer needed... But Henson is not to return. I can't get along without him. Matthew Henson went to the Pole with Peary because he was a better man than any of us."
Donald MacMillan

"...a hero magnified by Eskimo legend to immortal proportions. To the Eskimos, who loved him, Matt was the greatest of all the men..."
Peter Freuchen

"...at this table sat Peary, fresh from the discovery of the North Pole, and Theodore Roosevelt, just back from the central jungles of Brazil...many of them popular and many of them admired, but few more admired or more popular than North America's only famous Negro polar explorer, one of the historic figures in the annals of geographical discovery, Matthew A. Henson. Where Matt sits among the guests of honor is always one of the most popular spots of the rostrum."

"The basic reason for Henson's popularity is the man himself, his character and ability that grow upon you the more and the longer you know him. But he joined the Explorers Club with a good start through the testimony borne him by his chief, Admiral Peary, in the various books which he wrote about his northern work that are bibles to the students of the history of geographic discovery. They tell of a magnificent series of expeditions which occupied the years from 1891 to 1909 and in which Henson was an integral part. Even more constantly in speech than in writing did Peary keep referring to Henson as the best traveler whom he had known, the most nearly indispensable man." "Peary's verdict is, no doubt, the most important single testimony to Henson's ability and to his importance in those epoch-making discovery voyages which resulted, first, in a determination that Greenland was an island, instead of a continent reaching to and beyond the Pole, as many had thought; later, in the attainment of the Farthest North by sledge at sea; and, finally, in the supreme achievement of reaching an axis of the earth." Vilhjalmur Stefansson

"...I met Matt Henson for the first time in America. I was thrilled, as one would be, to shake the hand of this mortal whom I'd first come to know as a hero magnified by Eskimo legend to immortal proportions. To the Eskimos, who loved him, Matt was the greatest of all the men who came from the distant Land of the South” Peter Freuchen, author of Book of the Eskimos
By Admiral Donald MacMillan, 1909 expedition team member

"It was at the beginning of another great adventure. We had smashed through the ice of Kane Basin, Kennedy and Robeson Channel. We had steamed farther north than any ship had ever steamed. We had spent the winter locked in the ice of the Polar Sea, snuggling close to the northern shores of Ellesmere Island.

The long dark winter night was at its end, slowly giving way to an increasing twilight. Due to constant activity, to days and weeks of moonlight-sledging, the men were as hard as nails, eager and ready for the big job, to do that which man had tried to do for three hundred years—attain the North Pole. It was quiet on board ship, strangely so for only a few of us were left. The Eskimo women were not laughing and singing as usual. They sat in their small box-like dark rooms thinking. Their husbands had gone north along the shore. Just where, or why, they did not know. A knock on my door. Peary entered and sat down on my bunk. We talked of the trip, of ice conditions on the Polar Sea, of low temperatures, of equipment, of the number of dogs, of the amount of food, and then of the various supporting parties which had already left the ship. He spoke of Bartlett, of Ross Marvin, of George Borup, of John Goodsell, of the part each one was to play in this—“my last attempt.”

"When each man has fed me and my men up to a certain point, within striking distance of the Pole, their work is done. They shall be no longer needed.” Peary sat there thinking for a moment and then added, “But Henson is not to return. I can't get along without him.” I think that here is the greatest compliment that Peary has ever paid to any man. After twenty and more years of companionship, could he have said anything more in praise of the man who had trudged with him northward over the Greenland ice cap! Who had stood with him at the most northern point of land in the world, who had held the American flag at the world's record of 87 degrees 6 minutes; who had suffered with him on the Polar Sea on that frightful march to land in 1906, when dogs were used for food and sledges burned for fuel. Peary knew Matt Henson's real worth.

And so did we from the day we joined the ship at the foot of East Twenty-third Street in New York. Quiet, efficient, modest, at his assigned job, perfecting equipment to be used in that thousand mile hike over the drifting, shattered ice field between Ellesmere Island and the Pole. To Matt, now an Arctic expert, we went for instruction. He showed us this, he showed us that, to make the hardship of the trail a bit easier. A carpenter, he built the sledges; a mechanic, he made the alcohol stoves; an expert dog driver, he taught us to handle our dogs. Highly respected by the Eskimos, he was easily the most popular man on board ship.

From that day in early September when the Roosevelt stuck her stub nose into the ice-foot bordering the northern shore of Ellesmere Island, Henson, strong physically, and above all fully experienced, was of more real value to our Commander than Bartlett, Marvin, Borup, Goodsell and myself all put together, Matthew Henson went to the Pole with Peary because he was a better man than any of us.

Commander Donald B. MacMillan
 

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