Cook left Gloucester, Massachusetts, in July 1907, on a refurbished schooner, named after his sponsor. Cook built a box house at Annoatok,
North Greenland, and wintered there with Rudolph Franke, Bradley’s
German cook. In the early spring he left his winter
base and crossed Smith Sound to Pim Island. From there he proceeded
across Ellesmere Island via the Sverdrup Pass and Nansen Sound, reaching
Cape Thomas Hubbard in March. Cook went northwest in the company
of five Inuit, sending back all but Etukishook and Ahwellah after two days.
He was not heard of again until he returned to Annoatok in
April 1909 claiming to have reached the North Pole the previous year.
When he announced his success by wire from the Shetland
Islands on September 1, 1909, the news caused a worldwide press sensation.
Since he had not returned at the expected time from his northern trip in 1908, many
had given him up for dead, but he explained that they were unable to regain
their outward food caches and were compelled to winter on North Devon Island
before returning to their base in Greenland in the spring of 1909.
Cook reached civilization again at Copenhagen, Denmark,
touching off a frenzy of adulation, which ended with him
heaped in honors. His first lecture was attended by a huge audience
including the Danish royal family. The drama increased
when, during the celebrations, word arrived from Labrador that Robert E.
Peary, after 23 years of intermittent attempts, had reached the North Pole
on April 6, 1909. A few days later Peary intimated that Cook’s story
should not be taken seriously, and before the week was out declared that
his rival had simply “handed the world a gold brick.” Cook felt compelled
to defend himself at the awarding of a rare doctorate from the University
of Copenhagen, where he dramatically addressed the audience “I show you my
hands. They are clean.” He announced that
he would cancel plans to tour Europe and immediately return to America.
Thus began the greatest geographical dispute of all time
that has come to be known as The Polar Controversy. It was front-page
news every day for the better part of four months, and even today, a small
group of ardent advocates of each man still insists they champion the true