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The Cook-Peary files: December 15, 1913: Dr. Cook’s terms.

January 31, 2017

This is the fourth in a series examining significant unpublished documents associated with the Polar Controversy.

After his return from “exile,” in December 1910, Frederick Cook organized The Polar Publishing Company, headquartered in Chicago, to publish his forthcoming book about his conquest of the North Pole.   Also in Chicago, he made his film The Truth About the North Pole, and set out with it to promote his campaign to reinstate himself as the true Discoverer of the North Pole.

At first he traveled the vaudeville circuit with his film, but by the middle of 1912 he more and more focused in on appearances on the Chautauqua circuit.  Using this vehicle, he traveled the length and breadth of the country telling how his rightful glory had been stripped from him by Peary’s “Arctic Trust,” but in terms acceptable to Chautauqua managers, leaving out some of the insinuations he had previously included about Peary’s moral character.

By 1913, a cheaper, “Press Edition” of My Attainment of the Pole had been brought out by Mitchell Kennerley, and Cook sold it at cost at his lectures to help bolster belief in his claims of polar conquest.  He even offered it to Chautauqua committeemen at less than cost, as a premium and added incentive for booking one of his lectures.

His manager, G. W. Baker,  set out his terms:

Baker letterBaker’s letter is among the Peary Family Collection at the National Archives II in College Park, Md.


The Lost Polar Notebook of Dr. Frederick A. Cook receives an academic review.

December 8, 2016

It is almost impossible for a self-published book to receive a professional review in the United States. That’s because many journals still refuse to believe that a book that is not subject to the normal publishing process is either a “vanity” book or somehow compromised by not being professionally edited. There is certainly merit in this point of view, because probably well over 90% of self-published works justify these doubts. However, there are works of an academic, though thoroughly legitimate, nature that would be a loss for any for-profit publisher to publish. There’s just no money in them, like most doctoral theses, for instance. The Lost Polar Notebook is such a work.
However, in the not-for-profit academic world, once published, each self-published book should be considered on its own merits, and apparently some in the UK take such a broad view. When I asked the International Journal of Maritime History to consider doing a review, they did.

Journal cover

The full review is published in the journal’s May 2016 issue, which is available from Sage Publications online. Here is a few of the things the reviewer said about it.

It can certainly be stated that making it available for historical research on the exploration of the Polar Regions is an important achievement in itself. The meticulous transcription of Cook’s often virtually unreadable handwriting, and the careful analysis of the order of the various layers of text included in the notebook . . . serve to make this invaluable source readily available to the researcher for the first time. . . . Bryce provides comments on nearly all paragraphs of the notebook.

Altogether, the Lost Polar Notebook can be understood either as an addendum to Bryce’s earlier book or as an edition of an important primary source. Both takes are valid and welcome, but both takes render the book primarily relevant for the comparable small group of specialized historians dealing with the Polar Regions and or the history of science in around 1900.

Certainly, the book was designed for that purpose exactly, though the reviewer did not recognize the important new ground broken within its pages. For the first time, researchers have the evidence that gives a credible, evidence-based timeline for Frederick Cook’s movements between the time he left his winter quarters at Annoatok up to the time he claimed to have been at the North Pole, and by doing so, it establishes the fact that he could not have reached the Pole during the spring of 1908, but instead fabricated an account of such a feat to deceive the world into believing he had. Anyone who reads both Cook & Peary, the Polar Controversy, resolved and The Lost Polar Notebook of Dr. Frederick A. Cook will be convinced of this fact, resolving this controversy convincingly, after more than 100 years of dispute, for all time.

The entire review can be viewed at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0843871416630274g


The Cook & Peary files: December 11, 1914: A letter from Etah.

July 25, 2016

This is the third in a series examining significant unpublished documents associated with the Polar Controversy. Crocker Land Expedition letterheadWhen the Crocker Land Expedition arrived in Greenland, the ship’s captain was unwilling to risk the crossing of Smith Sound to land the expedition near Bache Peninsula on Ellesmere Island, the preferred site of its winter headquarters. So Donald MacMillan was compelled to winter at Etah, site of a permanent Inuit settlement about 30 miles to the east in Greenland. After he proved that Peary’s Crocker Land didn’t exist in the spring of 1914, MacMillan settled in for his second winter there. He had not forgotten the other purposes he had outlined to Herbert Bridgman in 1909 (see previous post).Crocker Land letter

Etah, North Greenland, December 11th, 1914.

My dear General Hubbard:
We learn through clippings and letters that the
controversy is still strong in the states. To us who know the facts and
who know Ee-took-ah-soo and Ah-pellah* so well it seems almost incredible
that thee are still people who believe in Cook. Ee-took-ah-soo was
with me on the long trip last year when we followed in Cook’s footsteps
all the way up through Eureka Sound to Cape Thomas Hubbard. He pointed
out where they camped, what they did, and where they stopped on the Polar
Sea which I judged to be about fifteen miles from land.
My next trip will complete the circle which he
made as I hope to come home by way of Jones Sound. I have Dr. Cook’s
book** with me and many a laugh these two boys have had over ti as we have
read certain parts of it to them. If it will do any good to bring
Ee-took-ah-shoo back with me to the states I could easily do it as a
ship comes up here now every year from Copenhagen. The wives of these
two boys could be supported at the mission station at very little expense
while they are gone. I shall probably take an Eskimo home with me
anyway and if I do not come back I will go to Denmark with him to see
that he gets stared (sic) back to Greenland.
If you have any suggestions to make will you
please write me by the ship which comes up next year.

Sincerely yours,

(signed) MacMillan

*The two Inuit who accompanied Cook on his try for the North Pole in 1908.

**My Attainment of the Pole

When Hubbard checked Peary’s feelings on the matter, he emphatically vetoed the idea of bringing Cook’s Inuit companions. Peary felt he had the situation under control and wanted nothing to do with any such unpredictable things like that Etukishuk might say. Peary was trailing Cook’s every move with the help of the Burns Detective agency, financed by General Hubbard, and placing anti-Cook propaganda in the hands of the Press and prominent citizens in every place he attempted to tell his story of being shorn of his rightful glory by the machinations of the Peary Arctic Club.

The original of this letter is among the Peary Family Collection at the National Archives II in College Park, Md.


The Cook-Peary files: November 25, 1909: An expedition is born.

April 12, 2016

Mac letter Nov 25 1909

This is the second in a series examining significant unpublished documents associated with the Polar Controversy.

We are now about halfway through the centennial of the Crocker Land Expedition, 1913-17. This expedition left Brooklyn in July 1913 with the intention of exploring “Crocker Land,” which Peary claimed to have seen in 1906 from the heights of Cape Thomas Hubbard on Axel Heiberg island after his failed attempt to reach the North Pole that year. It was originally organized by Donald MacMillan and George Borup, two of Peary’s assistants on his last attempt to reach the Pole in the spring of 1909. However, Borup died in a boating accident on Long Island Sound in 1912 and the expedition was delayed a year. Few realize, however, that the idea for this expedition goes back to shortly after Peary’s last expedition’s returned in September of 1909.

Here’s the letter that MacMillan wrote to Herbert L. Bridgman, Secretary of the Peary Arctic Club, on November 25, proposing it and stating its aims:

Freeport, Maine, Nov.25, 1909.

My dear Mr. Bridgman:

When I mentioned Crocker Land to you a few days ago I hardly
expected you to show any interest. I speak of you in my lectures as a
friend of all Arctic explorers; you even go further than that in catching
up the casual remark of an amateur.

When I think of Crocker Land and that unexplored section
of the Polar Sea, and realize that in all probability here will be the
last great land discovery of the world I can hardly sit still. I thought
seriously of requesting Commander Peary for permission to remain at Etah
last August, and wish now that I had in spite of the fact that I had three
bullet holes through me.* There were plenty of dogs and plenty of food
and believe that I might have done the work.

The primary object of the expedition would be the confirmation
of the discovery and exploration of Crocker Land. Other objectives: line of
soundings from Cape Thomas Hubbard to Crocker Land. The possible discovery
of new lands to the west. An examination of the ice due north of Cape
Thomas Hubbard. A disproof of the existence of Bradley Land.** An examination
of Commanders cairn at Thomas Hubbard and Dr. Cook’s cache at the same to
disprove statements of Cr. Cook. An examination of box at Etah, if still
there.*** The bringing back of the sledge of Dr. Cook and the two boys if

I believe this important work could be done at a very reasonable
cost; you and Commander Peary would know to the cent. There is so much
interest manifested in the north now that I think a ship could be easily
filled with scientists and wealthy men for a summer trip. A large number
have already spoken to me about it; many of the University Club of New
York have shown a great interest in such a plan. U.S. Fish Commissioner
Kendall***** has seen me and written me a number of times. He knows of others
who would like to go. Ask Commander what he thinks of such a trip.

(Sd) Sincerely yours,

Peary, it turned out, didn’t think much of the idea. Although he didn’t object outright, he reneged on the contribution of $500 he pledged towards the expedition and discouraged its sponsor, the American Museum of Natural History, from going forward with it at all after Borup’s death. Perhaps this was because Peary knew “Crocker Land” didn’t exist. All evidence indicates Peary invented Crocker Land solely to coax more money from the rich banker he named it for.

*The result of a gun accident aboard the Roosevelt in the spring of 1909.
**Like Crocker Land, a mythical land Dr. Cook claimed to have seen on his journey toward the Pole in 1908.
***This is the box of Cook’s effects given to Harry Whitney by Cook and ordered off the Roosevelt by Peary when Whitney attempted to bring it aboard. It was buried on the shore under rocks by Captain Robert Bartlett.
**** “The boys,” meaning Etukishuk and Ahwelah, the two Inuit who accompanied Cook on his attempt to reach the North Pole in 1908.
*****William Converse Kendall (1861-1939)

A typed copy of this letter is in the Peary Family Collection at National Archives II in College Park, Md.


The Cook & Peary files: January 8, 1912: Dr. Goodsell rebukes Dr. Cook’s account.

January 24, 2016

Over the 40 years your editor has researched the Polar Controversy, he has accumulated thousands of pages of documentation from the many archives, institutions and private individuals that hold significant material dealing with Cook and Peary. This is the first in an ongoing series featuring some of those documents.

Goodsell letter

Dr. John W. Goodsell was surgeon to the Peary Arctic Club’s North Pole Expedition of 1908, the one on which Robert Peary claimed to have reached his goal of a lifetime. In the dispute that followed, Dr. Goodsell mostly stayed silent. But when Dr. Cook came to his home town of New Kensington, PA to give a lecture on January 5, 1912, Goodsell felt he had to refute Cook’s account of how his companion, Rudolph Franke had been treated when Peary’s ship arrived at Etah in July 1908.

Cook claimed that Franke had been turned away without food and his entreaties to be taken to the United States aboard Peary’s relief ship, Erik, were denied until Peary extorted from him all of the valuable Arctic fox skins and Narwhal ivory gathered by Franke and Cook over the previous winter. When he appeared in New Kensington, Cook was in the midst of a tour promoting his recently published book, My Attainment of the Pole. Accompanying his talk he showed a motion picture entitled The Truth about the North Pole, in which Peary’s allegedly brutal treatment of Franke was dramatized (see the Artifacts section of this website). The link there is now dead, but this film can now be seen in its entirety at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0ePNlvEJNA

On January 8th, Dr. Goodsell wrote to General Thomas H. Hubbard, President of the Peary Arctic Club:

J.W. Goodsell, M.D.
New Kensington, Pa. January 8th, 1912
General Thos.H. Hubbard.

Dear General Hubbard:

The following is a copy of the letter which I am giving to the Press ex-
planatory of the enclosed clippings: -Dr. Cook lectured at New Kensington, Pa.
on January 3, 1912, advertising previously in one of the local papers that
“Dr. Cook himself will answer the claims of Peary and the members of the
Peary Party.”
It is with the greatest reluctance that I am compelled to answer and per-
haps question the veracity of an explorer who is a member of my profession.
Dr. Cook leaves me no choice in the matter, since he lectured in the Columbus
Theatre, across the street from my office, and gives a distorted version in
the enclosed clipping, of Rudolph Franke’s reception on the “Roosevelt” at
Etah to the Press. The matter is extremely distasteful, but in justice to
Admiral Peary, myself and the officers of the “Roosevelt” I am compelled to
refute Dr. Cook’s insinuations that his Companion, Rudolph Franke, afflicted
with scurvy and applying on the “Roosevelt” at Etah, for medical attention
and food, was refused, until Commander Peary had extorted terms derogatory
to all concerned.
I have always regarded Dr. Cook with the kindliest feeling and for the honor
of my profession had hoped that Dr. Cook might have vindicated his veracity and
trust that he will correct the version of Franke’s reception on the “Roosevelt”
written in his book, spoken from the platform and exhibited thro-out the
country by moving pictures.

(signed) John W. Goodsell
Surgeon Peary Arctic Expedition 1908-09.

The truth of the matter is that Franke was at first turned away from Peary’s ship, but when Captain Robert A. Bartlett heard of it, he had him brought back and he was given food. Goodsell then did a medical examination of Franke and found him unfit to spend another winter in the Arctic. As a result, Franke petitioned Peary to be taken home aboard his support ship, Erik. Although Peary denied it, Franke said Peary granted passage on the condition that Franke sign over all of Cook’s goods both at Etah and Annoatok, his winter headquarters, to him. When Franke returned he filed suit against Peary so stating. This suit dragged through the German Courts until at least 1915 before it was dismissed after Peary gave a disposition denying Franke’s claims of extortion.

Later, Goodsell had a bitter falling out with Peary over his refusal to allow him to publish his personal diaries. Peary held Goodsell’s diaries for years and used significant portions of it to fill out his own book, The North Pole. By the time he returned it to Goodsell, interest had waned, and it was too late for him to find a publisher. Goodsell’s diaries were only published in full, in facsimile, in 2009, by the Mercer County Historical Society under the title There and Back Again.

Goodsell later asked Dr. Cook’s aid in getting a position on some future Arctic expedition, but neither man ever went to the Arctic again.

This item is part of the Peary Family Collection housed at the National Archives II in College Park, Md.


An Excursion to Ealge Island

November 23, 2015

Eagle Island

A few years back we were in Portland, ME, after climbing Mt. Kathadin in Baxter State Park, so we took an excursion to Eagle Island, summer home of Admiral Peary. Peary was captivated by the island on one of his trips to Casco Bay while a student at nearby Bowdoin College in Brunswick. When he got his first regular job as a draftsman with the Coast and Geodetic Survey in Washington, DC, he bought the island in 1881 .

Although he visited it and camped out on it in the interim, it wasn’t until 1904 that he built a modest four-square Cape Cod house on the bare northern promontory. In 1906 he enlarged the house with a one story wing off the back. It was there, in September 1909, that his wife Josephine received word that her husband had reached the North Pole in April of that year, and when he returned, he retired to the island during the heat of the Polar Controversy with Dr. Frederick A. Cook.

By the time he was credited with being the discoverer of the North Pole in 1910, Peary had pocketed the equivalent of millions of today’s dollars in book royalties and speaking fees. He had plenty of money to make some of the improvements he had long envisioned. He had grandiose plans. Some of his sketches for replacing the house looked like a castle with turrets blending into the rocky promontory. He even made elaborate sketches of a grand mausoleum in which he would be buried there.

House from airBut little of this was realized. Instead the house was raised onto a rock foundation to make it more stable on the wind-blown point, and two turret-like rock bays, which Peary referred to as his “bombproofs,” were set into the sea cliff. The west bay served as Peary’s private office and library, the east held all of his personal papers—253 cubic feet of them—and personal mementos including those of seven expeditions to the Arctic. Peary called it his “Cave of Memories.”

IslanderTo reach Eagle Island we boarded the Islander, one of the excursion boats run by Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours.

Portalnd HarborAs often on the coast of Maine, it was a foggy morning, but Portland Harbor was busy as ever. That’s the Portland Customs House with the cupola in the background.

It’s about an hour and a quarter trip to the dock at Eagle Island, since 2005, a Maine State Park. The fog didn’t allow much to see on the way, just an occasional fishing boat that emerged from the soup.

Out of the fog

The tour allows you about an hour and a half on the island. Unfortunately, that isn’t really enough time to tour the house and see much of the 17-acre island too. The house is still quite spartan. Though the Peary family used it for more than 50 years, not much has changed since the Admiral lived there. Here’s the west elevation. Notice the porthole-like windows set into the rock foundation built in 1906.

West Elevation

The main room is dominated by a three sided fireplace in which three distinct kinds of rocks from the island’s shores are set. Peary was an expert taxidermist and many of his bird specimens still sit on its mantle pieces.


The lower floor is mostly a great room that served as living room and dining area. The entire house is paneled, with wooden ceilings and floors.


Scattered through the house in no particular order are a number of interesting Peary artifacts, including this sheepskin coat taken by Peary on his very first trip to Greenland in 1886.

Greenland coat

A narrow staircase leads upstairs to three spartan bedrooms.


The children’s room has a display of toys spanning the three generations of Pearys who lived here.

Child's room

Out the window, the shell of Peary’s Cave of Memories can be seen. Many of his papers were damaged from storage in this space that took a beating in numerous storms before they were donated to the National Archives in the early 1960s.

Cave of Memories

The front porch has a commanding view of the sea on a sunny day. Peary used this megaphone to quiet the Inuit dogs he brought back from Greenland and quartered on a nearby islet by shouting curse words at them in Inuktitut.


The kitchen was once detached to safeguard it against fires, but now is attached to the main house by the low extending wing built on the back of it.


The island itself has a series of hiking trails that take you through its landscape of wind blasted Moosewood maples and spruce, with vistas of the sea from every shore. Unfortunately, neither the weather or the time constraints of the tour allowed for more than a short walk into the woods.

Trail (1)

Peary’s other “bombproof” that housed his office suffered a collapse of its roof. It was restored from photographs to the way it appeared in Peary’s time in 1992.  It wasn’t open; this is a view through the window.  Peary is shown working at his desk in this same room.

Peary's studyPeary in his study

Atop the house’s roof is a weathervane cut in the shape of the S.S. Roosevelt, the special ice ship Peary had built in 1905, which he used on his last two attempts to reach the North Pole.


Soon it was time to return to the mainland and we bid goodbye to Peary’s island.


On the return, the fog held fast, but we were able to get a glimpse of Fort Gorges, built on Hog Island Ledge between 1858-1864.

Fort Gorges

Since our excursion a small museum was opened in 2012, and the site was designated a National Historic Site in 2014.


Cook and Peary, up to date

September 22, 2015

It is now difficult to remember a time before the Internet was ubiquitous. It had been around, but it only came into wide usage about 1996 with the invention of practical search engines. Since then, the quantity, if not the quality, of information literally at ones fingertips has mushroomed to then unimaginable proportions. But Cook & Peary was entirely the product of a pre-internet world, when each bit of information had to be ferreted out of physical collections of published and unpublished documents held in specialized collections or libraries, and laborious page-by-page looks through newspaper and periodical literature with virtually no indexing. In the case of manuscript sources, often the only way of taking away the documents’ content was by making a handwritten copy. Consequently, many small errors of transcription or interpretation were unavoidable in such a large effort as that. A frequent source of error was a by-product of this: mistakes that were transcribed faithfully from the original, such as Frederick Cook’s numerous misspellings of foreign place names, not only in his private writings but also in his published works. Today, misspelling of uncommon foreign place names, terms and proper names can easily be checked and corrected. Most of the corrections can be found on the Errata sheet for Cook and Peary (C&P) that appears as an addendum to The Lost Polar Notebook of Dr. Frederick A. Cook (LPN), published by the author in 2013. A few errors were introduced during the editing process, but these were not many. In addition to errors, new information inevitably comes to light after any publication that adds to knowledge of the subject or that clarifies or corrects what has been included in a finished book. The annotations here seek to inform the reader of such new information that has come to the author’s attention since C&P was published in February 1997. The amount and, for the most part, the importance of it are not very great, but it is included here as part of the record of the momentous dispute that enthralled the world in the last months of 1909.
p. 145 at note 35: the leader of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition’s name is properly de Gerlache. However Cook in TAFN always referred to him as Gerlache, as did Amundsen in his book, My Life as an Explorer. In keeping with these accounts, “Gerlache” was adopted as the spelling here and throughout C&P.
p. 146 line 37: Cook refers to Amundsen throughout TFAN as First Mate. Actually, Amundsen’s official rank was 2nd Mate. Captain Lecointe was officially First Mate, ranking after Commandant de Gerlache. He is referred to throughout, as Cook referred to him, as 2nd Mate. Melaerts was 3rd Mate.
p. 172 Here are the two finalists for “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”.

Cleo de Merode

Clara Ward, Princess de Chimay

p. 177, quotation at note 3: de Gerlache’s book appeared in English for the first time in 1998 as Fifteen Months in the Antarctic, in a translation by Maurice Raraty, published by Erskine Press, UK. For an alternate translation of this passage, see page 137.
p. 181, for an alternate translation of the passage at note 12, see p. 145 of the above.
p. 204, line 21: It is doubtful that Cook met with Shackleton at this time. According to Roland Huntford’s biography, Shackleton, during the period Cook was in England, Shackleton was at sea aboard the Carisbrook Castle, shuttling between Southampton and the Cape Colony. He did not return until “early March, 1901.” Shackleton had been appointed to the Discovery expedition while still at sea, on February 17. Cook returned to America before the end of that month, so would have had no opportunity to meet him before the Discovery sailed on August 6. Another scholar, Leif Mills, who has done research on many of Shackleton’s assistants and who is familiar with his movements confirms this.
p. 216, line 1: The unedited version of Wyckoff’s diary was published in 2002 as part of Boreal Ties by the University of New Mexico Press. Any variances from the version of the diary provided the author can be found in this book. For the differences between the two versions, see the editorial note at the front of Boreal Ties. Likewise, Boreal Ties also contains the full diary of Louis Bement. It came to light only after Cook & Peary was published (see the note at the head of Chapter 10 on page 1011). The full diary adds very little that is not mentioned in Wykoff’s accounts.
p. 223: see the note above on Wykoff’s diary.
p. 267, line 19: Svartevoeg is Cook’s misspelling of Sverdrup’s Svartevaeg. It is used here and throughout to avoid confusion, as Cook’s misspelling is preserved in many subsequent books on the Polar Controversy. “Svartevaeg” refers to the black cliffs which line the eastern coast of Axel Heiberg Island just below Cape Stallworthy. In MAP 200 Cook gives a footnote which explains his use of the term as a substitute for Peary’s Cape Thomas Hubbard, which is the cape just west of Stallworthy, and the point from which Cook departed across the Arctic Ocean toward the Pole. He considered Peary’s naming the cape after one of his major backers as an attempt to rename Sverdrup’s original discovery.
p. 320, line 9: Cook consistently spelled Cape Viele incorrectly both in MAP and in his original polar notebook.
p. 323, The story related by Stefansson here is almost surely not true. It is contradicted by a letter dated in 1910 that the author found in Peary’s papers after Cook & Peary was published. Its text precludes that this meeting ever took place. Furthermore, in his autobiography, Discovery, p. 99-100, Stefansson relates that he went to the Grand Union Hotel hoping to meet Peary, but “I did not find Peary there—he was away at the time—so I went about my own business. . . .”
p. 325, line 38: A study of Cook’s original polar notebook reveals that Koolootingwah was not with the party that was sent on this errand, although Cook claims that he was in MAP 149-150. The “advance party” consisted of three Inuit only: Essyou, Kudlu and Metik. See LPN 131. This party was also sent to look for a way up onto the inland ice so the polar party could descend into Cannon Fjord, which Cook hoped to use as a shortcut to Nansen Sound.
p. 327, line 25: Franke’s published account says they stopped 3.2 miles short of the cache at Cape Viele.
p. 327, line 35: Koolootingwah was with the main party, not the advance party, see above.
p. 349, line 11: The telegraph office was located in the upper floor of the Post Office on Commercial St. This was verified by the author on a visit in June 2014 to Lerwick and the very same building from which Cook sent his telegrams.
p. 349, line 15: More details about the telegrams Cook sent can be found in the author’s article: “One man’s trash; the recovery of Frederick A. Cook’s original telegram drafts announcing his attainment of the North Pole,” published in The Polar Record 45 (235) 351-359 (2009).
p. 349, line 27: There was no American consulate in Lerwick. For details see the referenced Polar Record article above. See the news section of the author’s website at www.polarhist.com.
p. 364, line 3: Dannebrog was misspelled in the American newspapers; the medal takes its title from the popular name for the Danish flag. Here is the medal Cook might have received had King Christian IX not decided to withhold it.


p. 570, the passage ending at note 80 is not in MacMillan’s notebook now at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. This appears to be the original, and the one used in this chapter, now at Bowdoin College, appears to be an expanded copy. See the news section of the author’s website at www.polarhist.com. The mileages also differ somewhat between the AMNH and Bowdoin notebooks.
p. 583, paragraph 6: Cook’s statement about the Emden could not be true, since the raider had been sunk the previous fall near the Cocos Islands. This may be another example of Cook’s tendency to embellish his stories.
p. 612, line 7: this is not entirely correct; while Strine was Peary’s personal physician, examination of his blood was done by Dr. B.L. Hardin. It was Dr. Hardin who diagnosed pernicious anemia in Peary. Strine treated him for it.
p. 682, line 24: Notice that the resulting correction is still “incorrect.” The text says Kittit’s; the original says Killit’s, which is supposed to be Killits’s, of course.
p. 757, paragraph 2: Dennis Rawlins pointed out to the author that he did mention Captain Hall once in his text. However, he makes no mention of Hall’s as the pioneer in analysis of the Polar Controversy, or of the significance of Hall’s work.
p. 747, paragraph 2: In a telephone conversation with the author on Nov. 29, 1998, Mr. Gonnason told the author that at the time he had not seen Washburn’s photos. The photos he examined were obtained from General Dale V. Gaffney of the 72nd Reconnaissance Squadron in Fairbanks.
p. 808, line 16: A detailed, direct comparison of the Cook and Barrill diaries appears in the author’s “Cook’s Curious Timetable,” DIO, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 77-88, published in December 1997. An online version of this article can be found at www.DIOI.org.
p. 809, line 28: Barrill’s map is reproduced on page 800.
p. 811: Photocopies of the original diary were not allowed at the time the author did his original transcription. Later, he went to the Library of Congress and made copies of the microfilm of the diary. In rechecking these against his handmade transcription he found there were some small transcription errors, mostly punctuation, not affecting the text. The publisher did not take up the author’s instructions to insert these. To achieve the absolute accuracy promised on page 1083 under “Notes for Chapter 28,” these changes should be made in the entry for September 16:
Sept. 16 should be underlined
top should be capitalized and have a period behind it
delete the period behind slope
delete the period behind sq
Actually, the line that starts out “Tube with date etc. . .” probably should read:
“The hand shaking 20 minutes Tube with date etc flag & names”
“Tube with date etc.” is written above “flag & names” and probably goes with it, but this is a matter of interpretation.
p. 812, line 42: An analysis of Cook’s claim to have climbed Mt. McKinley with new evidence against
it, including unpublished photographs and images from both Cook’s and Barrill’s diary pages, appeared in the author’s “The Fake Peak Revisited,” DIO, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 40-76, published in December 1997. An online version of this article can be found at www.DIOI.org.
p. 819, line 39 at note 33. After a rereading of this material, the photos Browne is referring to in this letter appear to be his own photographs of Fake Peak, taken in 1910, not Cook’s original negatives from 1906. If so, then the subsequent discussion on p. 820 is incorrect. Cook’s negative appears never to have been in Browne’s possession. See a discussion of this point in the author’s “Resistance of Resolution,” DIO, vol. 9, no. 3, published in December 1997. An online version of this article can be found at www.DIOI.org.
p. 821, line 8: No satisfactory copy of the inferior print of the photograph (see note 38, p. 1087) could be had until after C&Ps publication, when most of the photographic materials held by the Frederick Cook Society were transferred to Ohio State University. The photo was first published in the author’s “The Fake Peak Revisited,” DIO, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 68-69, in December 1997. The clear original seen by the author in 1991 has never been seen again; there is some evidence to suggest that the Cook Society intentionally suppressed it and possibly destroyed it.
p. 822, line 7: The original of this photo showing Ed Barille to the right of the tent, like the original clear picture of Cook’s “summit” photograph has also gone missing, along with several other original prints including “photograph 5” on p. 832. A CD compilation of all of the images at OSUA proves these were removed from the materials by someone at the Cook Society before they were transferred to OSUA. However, one practically identical to Belmore Browne’s sketch made from the top of Fake Peak was among those they received and was published in DIO, vol. 7, no. 2, p. 74. An online version of this article can be found at www.DIOI.org.
p. 833, picture at bottom: Notice that Browne’s caption on the drawing, “N.E. or Eastern Ridge” shows the same confusion as Cook’s over which ridge was which.
p. 834, line 3: the caption might also be read “Mck. from Top. view from N.” This would make sense if Cook’s sketch is equivalent to Browne’s on p. 833, i.e. that it was made from the top of Fake Peak.
p. 834, line 29: The right to reproduce the drawing in question was subsequently released to the author by the rights holder. Here it is:

Missing drawing

A number of other pictures from Barrill’s diary are reproduced in DIO, vol. 7, no. 2 by permission of his daughter, Marjorie Mt. McKinley Barrill.
p. 849, line 4. Cook referred to his experimental sledges in MAP 101, but this was published more than two years after Bradley’s statements.
p. 865, paragraph 4: With the advent of sophisticated computer models this is no longer true. See the note below on this matter.
p. 868 at note 48: “and so they are not there to this day” is an unprovable statement, since the original of Cook’s notebook has yet to be found. It is only known from the photographic copy made by the Danes, which, of course, was it’s state at the time it was filmed by them, before February 1911. Acomplete annotated transcript of the photographic copy can be found in LPN.
p. 881, line 33: Cook’s original notebook indicates he left from Cape Thomas Hubbard, not Cape Stallworthy.
p. 884, at note 81: The original print of Cook’s “Bradley Land” picture was published in DIO, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 94-95 in December, 1999. An online version of this is available at www.DIOI.org.
p. 885: An analysis showed that neither the picture in MAP nor the lantern slide represents the full original image. See: DIO, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 78-79 for a discussion of the two versions of this picture and to see a composite of the two images. This available online at www.DIOI.org.
p. 886 at note 86: The paper was read on April 29, 1907. Therefore it was read before Cook left, but published only afterward.
p. 887 at note 89: According to the National Geophysical Data Center’s GEOMAG, a computer model based on spherical harmonic analysis, on April 21, 1908, the magnetic compass would have pointed 133 degrees 28′.8 west, plus or minus 0.5 degrees. This is very close to Rawlins’s estimate. The program mentioned was only brought to my attention after the book was published because neither of my technical experts (one of whom worked in the very office mentioned) made me aware of it earlier. The correction of this error strengthens the thesis that Cook was never at the Pole, but that his supposed “data” and “observations” were based on his interpretations of accepted scientific theory of the time.
p. 889, paragraph 1: An original print of the picture of Cook’s photograph of the igloo he says was built at the North Pole was found in Cook’s photographic material at the Library of Congress. It was first reproduced in DIO, vol. 9.2-3, p. 48, published in December 1999 along with an analysis of it. It appears to have been intentionally overexposed during its development to obscure its telling features.
p. 889, paragraph 3: A comparison of this picture’s three versions, including an original lantern slide now at the Library of Congress, can be found in LPN, page 223, including an analysis of the shadows visible in the picture by Dennis Rawlins. His analysis supported the author’s conclusion that this photograph could not have been taken at any point along Cook’s described route on his reported time schedule.
p. 899, line 16: In the transcription of the entire diary from better copy for LNP, the illegible words proved to be “over a sea haze.”
p. 900, paragraph 3: Dennis Rawlins’s analysis of this picture leaves open the possibility that it was taken at Cook’s turnaround point; see LNP, page 222.
p. 901, line 6: A complete transcription of his notebook indicates the date Cook turned back was about April 19; see LPN.
p. 903, paragraph 7: It seems likely from an analysis of the two handwritten versions that the version of the “original field notes” written in Cook’s original notebook was put in that notebook after the set in Notebook 1 was written; see LPN, page 312.
p. 916, paragraph 2: The complete transcription of the diary in LPN shows that a majority of the narrative in MAP up to the time Cook starts for the North Pole was written in draft form in this notebook. Many passages are nearly identical, even as to preserving many misspellings of geographical place names and other correctable mistakes that appeared in MAP. So, it appears that both Harré’s and Cook’s descriptions of his role and contributions in regard to MAP are accurate.
p. 893-894: At the time the author viewed Cook’s diaries at the Library of Congress, they were still in the transfer files, and photocopies of them could not be made due to restrictions on copying bound materials. Therefore, any material copied from them had to be done by hand on loose sheets of paper provided in the manuscript room. These notes were consequently transcribed for later use. Divorced from the full context of the actual diary, a few elements in these notes were misattributed. The “start” being described here by Cook was one of them. He is actually describing the one in February 1909, from his winter quarters at Cape Sparbo. Consequently, this passage has no bearing on Cook’s departure from Annoatok in February 1908.
p. 895: as above, the handwritten notes taken at LC caused these mistakes of transcription; the slide caption numbers were mistaken in the handwritten notes for diary page numbers. The respective page numbers should be Page 62 for slide caption 52; Page 65 for slide caption 72.
p. 974: The reason for all of these changes was a misreading of Notebook 4, which does indeed record six days; this is indicated by a shift in tense in the opening summary passage and is easy to miss, because for one of the days Cook gives no mileage traveled. This was first pointed out in a review of Cook & Peary by Randall Olseveski. Therefore, the notebook indicates he went some distance farther that the 92 miles recorded in the narrative in the notebook, probably the 22 miles he gives in his “field notes” in My Attainment of the Pole (and probably the meaning of the marginal 22 on page 7 of Notebook 4), bringing his total to 114. This is supported by his description of the conditions and travel time in the notebook. When the entry in Notebook 4 is read correctly, it adds one day and 22 miles to Cook’s actual trip, placing him perhaps 100 actual miles off shore before he turned back (all of Cook’smileages were only estimated by dead reckoning). This extra day and mileage brings his trip into almost identical agreement with what MacMillan encountered traveling through the same area in 1914, and places him in the same area influenced by the shear zone known to be in that approximate area even today, which MacMillan also encountered and which was the cause of his decision to turn back. This error in reading the text, then, when corrected, adds to the thesis that Cook made the trip described in this diary and turned back because of these same impossible ice conditions. That Hall used 92 miles as the length of Cook’s journey suggests that Hall may have made the same misreading of Cook’s mileages as recorded in his original notebook, indicating he may have access to it in writing Has the North Pole Been Discovered?
p. 975, final sentence: This conclusion must be reconsidered in light of the transcription of Cook’s original notebook, which indicates that Cook had given up on any hope of reaching the Pole by the time he reached a position near Greely Fjord opposite Axel Heiberg Island, and whose actions subsequent to that time indicate he was at least considering a possible hoax by that time. See LPN.
p. 1006; introductory remarks to notes for Chapter 7: de Gerlache’s book is now available in English, see above.
p. 1020, line 7: Although Dedrick’s diary does not contain racist remarks, that is, ones that impute inferiority based on race, Dedrick does use occasional racial epithets, but this was common practice and not considered unacceptable at that time.
p. 1079, note 14: The terms of the restrictions are stated incorrectly. The letters that were restricted were only those between Mrs. Peary and her daughter. In any case, these restrictions have now all expired.
p. 1080, note 26: Melaerts was 3rd Mate, not second; see above.
p. 1087, note 38: The inferior print was transferred to OSUA from the Frederick A. Cook Society subsequent to when the collection was viewed by the author. After C&P was published, prints became available from OSUA. The print was published for the first time in DIO, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 68-69 in December 1997.
p. 1090, note 66: refers to “both quotes.” In reality, there is only one quote. The other was removed during final editing of the book.
p.1096, note 60: This was probably Samuel Blandford, which one contemporary source described as “one of the best known and most successful ice captains of Newfoundland.”
p. 1100, note 70: Wolfe does make a general reference to Peary discovering “new lands,” but in context this seems to refer to the gap that had not been explored by other explorers before Peary’s trip to the west in 1906. After all, this was the point of Peary’s journey. There is nothing that could be held to be a description of what Peary later named Crocker Land, however.
p. 1103, note 74: Tom Avery’s 2005 expedition supposedly recreated Peary’s expedition and accredited Peary’s speeds, however it actually did not recreate it in many crucial aspects, and its results in fact cast further doubts on its authenticity. See the author’s review of Avery’s book in Polar Record, vol. 46, no. 4 (October 2010) pp. 378-380.
p. 1104, paragraph 2: The analysis of this print was based on a Xerox of the original print. Prints of it were not available during the writing of C&P. When the original photograph became available in a professional reproduction and the picture could be studied in more detail, much of this analysis proved incorrect. The bright spot appears to be simply a defect in the print’s processing and the better defined shadows indicate the sun is off the picture and to the left and almost directly in line with the sleds, but slightly toward the horizon. No definite information as to the time of day the picture was taken could be derived from the visible shadows of the sleds or dogs. Jerry Kobalenko sent the author a photo of Ren Bay on the coast of Axel Heiberg Island’s west coast, suggesting that this might be the true location of this picture. There are points of similarity between the two, but they are not a definite match, perhaps because of low haze obscuring some of the details of the land in the distance, a technique Cook had used to obscure the true locations of some of the pictures he had taken on his alleged climb of Mt. McKinley in 1906. An analysis of Cook’s picture by Dennis Rawlins appeared in DIO, vol. 9, no. 3, p.140, in which he concluded the visible land was less than 5 miles distant and about 100 feet high. The original print was reproduced for the first time in DIO, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 94-95. If the picture was truly taken near Ren Bay, the sleds in the photograph are heading south, and the sun is in the north, indicating the time of day is near midnight. In any case, the shadows, as in the picture that appeared on MAP 172, appear to be far too short to match even the highest sun angle Cook would have experienced on his described outward journey, much less on March 30, 1908 at 9 A.M., the day and time he said he discovered Bradley Land.
p.1109, note 103: The discussion and analysis of Cook’s index to his original notebook in LPN, pp. 4-7 supersedes this note.
p.1112, note 111: Of course the winter at Cape Sparbo was nothing close to 6 months long. Total darkness occurred for about 60 days.
p. 1119-20, note 72: Keith Pickering points out that Peary must have meant James Cook; if the mileage quoted for his position is converted to statute miles, it is almost exactly correct.
p. 1121, note 98: there is only one quote; the other was removed during editing.


150th Anniversary

June 10, 2015

Today is the sesquicentennial of Frederick A. Cook’s birth. He was born in Hortonville, NY on this day in 1865. Sullivan County records record Cook’s birth in Hortonville. His family lived there until they moved to Port Jervis in 1878. The family home was occupied by Cook’s brother, Theodore, until his death in 1928, and he and their father, among other relatives, are buried in the hillside Hortonville cemetery. The sign welcoming visitors to Hortonville states that it is Cook’s birthplace.


There is even a New York State historical marker in Hortonville commemorating his birth, erected on its centenary in 1965.

NY State historical marker

So, there should be no doubt about Cook’s birthplace. Yet this simple fact is lost on many who write about Cook on the Internet, often still listing his birthplace as Callicoon. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry listed it as Callicoon until at their request the author of this blog updated their entry on Cook in 1997. Still, Cook’s current Wikipedia article lists Calicoon as his birthplace—a good example of why Wikipedia continues to be less reliable than many established print sources and their web products, like EB’s. EB has a stable editorial board and expert, knowledgeable fact checkers; anyone can write or rewrite Wikipedia articles at will, and the more controversial the subject, the more unstable the content, even as to uncontroversial facts, like Cook’s place of birth. If a writer cannot get indisputable facts straight, how can he be relied upon to get the many complicated and, frankly, sometimes unknowable, details of Cook’s controversial career as an explorer correct, or at least present them in an unbiased manner? I gave up long ago trying to keep the Wikipedia article on Cook accurate. Persons interested in accurate information on Frederick A. Cook and his career should rely on information written by experts in the field, like that available on the present website.


Corrections: round 2

March 2, 2015

Anyone who purchased a copy of The Lost Polar Notebook of Dr. Frederick A. Cook between May 22, 2014 and March 1, 2015 should make note of these changes to the text. This is envisioned as the last major revision of the text. Any future corrections will accumulate on an errata sheet and not be made to the text unless some major error comes to light.

page xv, line 2: the correct name for the dialect spoken by the Polar Inuit is Inuktun
page 16, paragraph 2, line 4: George Crocker was a railroad magnate
page 92, paragraph 3, line 1: “1914-17” should read 1913-17
page 167, paragraph 2, line 2: “LNP 159” should read page 159
page 192, line 3: M. E. Rost was Miles E. Rost, son of Ernest C. Rost
line 4: “Board of Directors” should be Executive Committee of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Geography.  Some other additional material about Ernest C. Rost has been added to this page from a pamphlet entitled “The Fabulous Rosts,” privately published by John A. Walsh in 1982
page 212, paragraph 2, line 29: “actinic” should read non-actinic
page 239, line 4: the correct name for the dialect spoken by the Polar Inuit is Inuktun
page 243, paragraph 2, line 1: The source is cited incorrectly. “My Attainment of the Pole” should read “the draft of his unpublished memoirs”
page 300, paragraph 1, line 6: “12” should read 11. Also, on the table, note that there are two sets of entries for April 21 and none for April 12
page 324, paragraph 1, line 3: “LNP 137” should be LNP 139. There is also a reference to Shei Peninsula on LNP 76
page 334, last line: “actinic” should be non-actinic
page 338: A new page was substituted here featuring the first publication of one of Cook’s pictures taken on his North Pole attempt. A future News entry will reproduce this page with commentary.
page 363: the errata sheet entry for “p. 287” should read p. 207
page 345: last paragraph, line 4: “C.E. Rost” should read E.C. Rost


Running into Dr. Cook

December 28, 2014

While in Europe this past spring, there were chances to visit several places connected with Dr. Cook. The first was a drive past the Phoenix Hotel, where Cook stayed as guest upon his return from Greenland on September 4, 1909. Unfortunately, plans to visit this and other sites associated with the “Cook Days” in Copenhagen had to be scrapped because of a change in arrival times in Denmark.

The next encounter with Dr. Cook came during my visit to the Fram Museum in Oslo.  See the post for June 27 below.

Fram Museum (2)

Next came in Kristiansand. It was to this harbor that the Melchior delivered Cook after his triumph in Denmark. It was a Sunday, and the town was dead, but the harbor was still busy. From here the Oscar II of the Danish-American Steamship Co. sailed with Cook on board for New York.


The old fort whose cannons fired a salute for the explorer at the command of Haakon VII is a picturesque place.


Later, during a visit to Scotland’s Shetland Islands, I came ashore at Lerwick on a fine clear day. The town still looks much as it did on September 1, 1909, when Cook landed here and sent his first messages to the world claiming to have discovered the North Pole.

Where Cook sent his telegrams

In 1909 the telegraph office was located on the second floor of the Post Office on Commercial St. It was from it that I mailed the copy of The Lost Notebook of Dr. Frederick A. Cook to the Royal Library in Copenhagen. The change in plans had prevented me from delivering it in person to the “Black Diamond,” as I had intended.

Shetland Museum

After mailing the book I made a tour of the excellent Shetland Islands Museum and dropped off photographic copies of Cook’s telegraphic messages to be put in the archives there.

Naval Museum

On the way home, a tour of the Royal Naval Museum at Greenwich disclosed a number of polar artifacts including many “relics” of the search for Sir John Franklin.

Franklin relics