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Never Give Up

Robert Peary, photographed in 1909 by Benjamin B. Hampton

1909: Did Robert Peary lead the first expedition to reach the North Pole? Did he really get there?

Many believed Peary’s claim that he and a party of five reached the Pole on 6 April, but others were sceptical. Doubters pointed out that Peary’s expedition notes were scanty and slapdash; none of his companions during the final attempt on the Pole was capable of making navigational observations; and some of the distances Peary claimed to have covered across the Arctic pack ice were frankly incredible.

Even his detractors, though, conceded Peary’s courage and tenacity. When, on an earlier expedition, he had lost six toes to frostbite, he had remarked dismissively: “A few toes aren’t much to lose to achieve the Pole.”

Source: Fergus Fleming, Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the North Pole (2002), pp. 307, 362–8

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