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The Cook-Peary files: October 15, 1909: The Parker-Browne testimony, part 3

June 29, 2018

This is the 9th in a series examining significant unpublished documents related to the Polar Controversy.

This post concludes the publication of the Parker-Browne testimony before the Explorers Club committee investigating the authenticity of Cook’s claim to have climbed Mt. McKinley in 1906. For the previous posts on this subject, see below. Comments about the content of Browne’s testimony are interspersed between the reproductions of the typed minutes of the session.

Parker’s final contention that Cook stated he got around the “impassible” cliffs they observed while camped on a peak along Ruth Glacier on a snow cornice, but does not mention such a cornice in his book, is untrue. In his book on the climb, Cook states that their route took them “up the knife edge of the north arête, around a great spur, from cornice to cornice, cresting sheer cliffs over which there was a sickening drop of ten thousand feet.”
After Parker had finished his own testimony, Belmore Browne had his turn. In many respects he echoed or repeated Parker’s “evidence”: he emphasized what he considered Cook’s suspicious behavior in going off alone with Barrill after he had “assured” Parker that he would make no further attempt to climb the mountain that season, and also that Cook sent him on a hunt to obtain trophy heads, only to never once ask for them once he returned; he cast doubt that Cook was properly equipped to make the ascent, having no safety line or ice creepers, all of the rope, Browne testified, having been burned by he and Parker after the silk climbing rope had failed during a test of its strength, and the ice creepers having been lost; and he laid great importance, as Parker had, on Cook not having the instruments necessary to measure the height of the mountain, even if he did climb it.
But in all these respects, as Parker’s before him, Browne’s testimony failed to establish any of these doubts as undisputed fact, and in some respects Browne was clearly mistaken. In Browne’s 1913 book, he stated that in Cook’s telegram to Herbert Bridgman, sent before he started for the mountain with Barrill, that he was preparing to make “a last, desperate attack on Mount McKinley,” when the actual telegram read: “We are now arranging our final efforts, and I hope to wire you from Seward about our work in early October.” As to his equipment, Cook lists it in his book, To the Top of the Continent, and never claimed to have a hypsometer or ice creepers (he used no creepers in 1903, but was able to ascend to about 11,000 feet on McKinley’s North Face and return safely), but that he took along a “horsehair lariat,” which could only mean the pack rope, as a lifeline. Browne, like Parker, insists that there was no one to read the barometer at a known location so that he could compare and correct his own readings of a barometer during the climb to determine the mountain’s height. Cook gave just those instructions to John Dokkin, who during the climb was at the location they left their boat, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet. In Cook’s diary, he states that he did have in his possession several aneroids, including one with a scale adjustment for reading heights over 16,000 feet.
As to the Barrill affidavit, which Browne states he believes “absolutely,” it seems clear that neither he nor Parker at the time of their testimony, and for a significant time after, did not understand the route described by Barrill in that sworn statement. As late as early 1910 they published a map that mislocates the “Fake Peak” entirely, placing it on the west side of Ruth Glacier (see the map published at page 494 of Cook and Peary). It seems that they only completely understood the route described by Barrill when they went over the same ground later that year for themselves. Even then, there was an element of chance in their finding the location of the place Cook took his famous “summit” picture. Indeed, Claude Rusk, who was on the same ground as Browne, was unable to find it at all, and misidentified the peak he thought it was taken from, even though he had access to both Barrill’s affidavit and diary and Cook’s published photos, just as Browne did.
Some additional elements of Browne’s testimony are noted below.

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As to Cook’s observation of possible routes up McKinley, ironically, he had a very good view of the mountain from the top of the Fake Peak, and this, combined with his observations made three years previously through binoculars from the snout of Muldrow Glacier, probably served as the basis for the route he subsequently claimed. Unfortunately he seems to have failed to realize that the ridge he observed from each of these locations was not the same ridge, as he thought, but two different parallel ridges with a gulf between them, leading to many of the baffling statements he later published about his route up the “Northeast Ridge.” Here is the view he had of McKinley from Fake Peak from a larger photo now held by the Ohio State University Archives, and first published in DIO in 1997.

McKinley from Fake Peak

Browne’s criticism of Cook’s ability to describe terrain through which he had passed accurately is not justified. Cook’s descriptions in To the Top of the Continent are often uncannily accurate considering he is nearly universally believed to never have gotten past the Gateway to the Ruth amphitheater.

Browne’s statement regarding the route taken by Cook and Barrill from the fork at the Ruth Glacier’s amphitheater is interesting. Many have maintained that Cook never went beyond the campsite Barrill described them making at that location. However, Browne claims that Barrill told him after his return with Cook that they circled to the East, but that Cook said they went right over the summit of the ridge before them, that is, the East Ridge. Later Browne claimed that Barrill intimated to him that they had made no further effort to actually climb the mountain when he met with Browne on this occasion. Browne’s account of Barrill’s statement here seems to support that he and Cook went beyond the “Gateway” to the Ruth Amphitheater, which is also suggested by drawings in Barrill’s own diary.

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There is considerable evidence by eyewitnesses, one a business partner of Barrill’s, that Barrill stated to a number of people that he actually made the climb with Cook and displayed his diary, which corroborates Cook’s account, as evidence that he did. The statements mentioned here are no more than third party hearsay.

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The height of Mt. McKinley as determined by Russell Porter’s triangulations was almost identical the the height Cook published in his book. They were only off by a few feet of the actual height.

Cook’s lawyer’s name was H. Wellington Wack, not “Watch.” He did indeed go to the wrong place and so did not put in an appearance that day. Wack appeared with Cook at the club’s rooms at 11 AM on October 17, 1909, instead. Cook did not testify in detail before the committee at this time, pleading that he had no access to his diary of he 1906 expedition since 1908 and wasn’t even sure where it was. He asked for a delay to take care of his commitments for a lecture tour of the Western states and to put his records and photos in order before giving testimony to the committee. The committee agreed to grant him this respite, but he never fulfilled his agreement to lay the records before the committee, including his original diary and negatives of his Alaska photographs. Cook was dropped from the membership of the Explorers Club in December 1909, some said for his false claim of having climbed Mt. McKinley, others that he was dropped merely for “non-payment of dues.”

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New edition of the lost polar notebook published

May 30, 2018

After a number of minor revisions since it was first published in 2013, a second edition of The Lost Polar Notebook of Dr. Frederick A. Cook is now available on Amazon. The book has been corrected and revised, with the most substantial revision coming to the section dealing with the attempt to reach “Crocker Land” by Donald MacMillan in 1914. This was prompted by the original research of Dr. David Welky, who made some inquiries of me during the writing of his book on the Crocker Land Expedition, and who shared the pertinent parts of MacMillan’s original diary that he read at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as part of his research. My original account was based on a handwritten copy of MacMillan’s “field diary” that I studied in 1991 at the library of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, while researching my own book, Cook and Peary, the Polar Controversy, Resolved. I took the Bowdoin diary, which was hand-written, for the original, but it was not, and there were significant differences between the Bowdoin and American Museum versions which tended to set up an alibi for Peary’s original 1906 claim to the discovery of a land that did not exist (see the News post for August 1, 2014 below). Because some of the differences were not made clear in Dr. Welky otherwise excellent book, A Wretched and Precarious Situation, published by Norton in 2017, I felt a revision stating the mileages MacMillan actually covered, as indicated by his entries in the original diary, as opposed to those reported in the Bowdoin version and his later published narrative was in order. Other changes and revisions to the new edition include the introduction of more and better illustrations and a detailed Picture Sources and Credits section. In the process of a full and careful reading, a number of typographical and computer formatting errors introduced into the book during file conversion for publication were addressed and corrected. However, at least two of these errors remain, as the publisher was unable to remedy them. Page 176 is numbered “152,” and extra characters have been introduced on page 168. It is hoped the reader will overlook these until a remedy can be found to printing them as submitted.

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The Cook-Peary files: October 15, 1909: The Parker-Browne testimony, part 2

January 7, 2018

This is the 8th in a series examining significant unpublished documents related to the Polar Controversy.

The lecture Parker refers to took place on December 7, 1906. Cook’s claimed success in Alaska led to his election as the second president of the Explorers Club later that year.  Parker makes much of Cook having a silk flag. This seems trivial, after all, his explanation isn’t implausible, or perhaps he took it along, “just in case.”

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Things to note in this section:

  • Browne asserts that Cook “went over the Eastern Ridge.” This is actually what Cook believed the route he described did, but it was not the ridge that Parker and Browne attempted in 1912. Both Cook and Parker-Browne later referred to their routes as along “the Northeast Ridge,” now known as Karsten’s Ridge. That would not be accurate for Cook. It seems that Cook always confused the two separate ridges and believed they were one and the same. That is the only way to explain his various descriptions of his own fantasy route.

  • Notice that here, Parker, who has previously said it was “perfectly understood” that Cook would make no further attempts on the summit that season, now says he was “under the impression, however, that he did say so, but I cannot say definitely.” Browne, however, testified that Cook said he would “absolutely do no climbing whatsoever.” In fact, Parker seemed aware that Cook fully intended to make a reconnaissance of the mountain before heading for home, and testifies that Cook “announced” such a plan if his financial sponsor, Henry Disston didn’t come up.

  • Parker makes a case against Cook using both his “summit” photo and his lack of other photos of his approach to the summit or surrounding peaks as evidence that he never made the climb. These are all valid points, but at that time didn’t prove the climb wasn’t made. Every one of Cook’s photos, both published and unpublished, alleged to have been made during his climb, can now be identified today as having been made within the confines defined by Barrill’s affidavit. At the time of Parker’s testimony, however, none of them had been so identified.

  • Parker argues that Cook’s estimate of the summit’s elevation of 20,390 feet is worthless because it was his “impression” that Cook had no equipment that could measure such a height. However, Cook’s estimate was more accurate than that published by Parker-Browne after the 1912 expedition on which they are credited with coming within 464 feet of the summit before turning back. They estimated the height at 20,450 feet. The actual height of Denali is 20,310 feet, only recently corrected from 20,320 feet.

  • Although there was not a “sea level station for barometer reading,” John Dokkin was charged with keeping a record of the barometer readings at a known height, where he returned after parting with Cook and Barrill on Ruth Glacier. This would act as the check on the accuracy of any readings Cook took on the mountain that Anthony Fiala was referring to.

  • Notice that Parker again is uncertain when asked directly if Cook’s barometers were adequate. When asked: “Do you know, as a matter of fact, that he did not have one that read to 20,000 feet”? His answer was “No.”

  • The discussion concerning a “South Ridge” is confusing. Cook’s climbing directions don’t mention such a ridge in his published account, To the Top of the Continent, though they are vague, indeed, and have led many to conclude that they are impossible to reconcile with actual terrain, though others believe they are.

At the end of his testimony, Belmore Browne makes an opening statement. This will be the subject of the next post.

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The Cook-Peary files: October 15, 1909: The Parker-Browne testimony, part 1

October 28, 2017

This is the seventh in a series examining significant unpublished documents related to the Polar Controversy.

Parker began his testimony by recounting his 1906 Alaskan experiences (not reproduced here); the panel then asked him some questions.

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It should be noted that when Cook sent a telegram announcing his success on McKinley on October 2, 1906, Parker had openly doubted it could be true. After Cook returned to New York in November, and met with Cook personally, however, he dropped his doubts, but still maintained that Cook’s triumph was nothing but an admirable physical feat, he having made no reliable measurements that would be of interest to science. Parker belief eventually went so far as to allow him to stand in for Dr. Cook at several lectures on the conquest in 1907. Browne, for his part, openly praised Cook before the Mazama Club upon their return to Seattle in early November, and in 1907 published an article along the same lines, expressing his admiration for Cook’s feat and saying he and Barrill had proved themselves to “be of the stuff men are made of.”

Parker and Browne, however, as Parker admits here, had designs on another attempt to reach the summit, and Barrill’s affidavit reopened the door to their ambitions. If Cook could be disqualified, they might be able to claim the first conquest of the great mountain for themselves.

Things to note in this part of Parker’s testimony:

The prospector who accompanied Cook and Barrill part way up the Ruth Glacier was named John Dokkin, not “Duncan.” Also, throughout the transcript, Belmore Browne’s name is misspelled “Brown.”

  • Although he said he would not consider “for an instant the possibility of approaching the mountain from the South” on any future attempt, that is exactly what he and Belmore Browne did in 1910, on an expedition funded by General Thomas Hubbard. The main purpose of this expedition was not to climb Mt. McKinley, however, but to prove Cook hadn’t.

  • Although it was “perfectly understood” between himself and Cook that all further attempts “were abandoned for that season,” he was less certain of this later in his testimony.

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The Cook-Peary files: October 15, 1909: The Explorers Club Investigates Cook’s Mt. McKinely climb

July 17, 2017

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

On October 14, 1909, an affidavit appeared in The New York Globe, sworn by Edward N. Barrill. Barrill had been Dr. Cook’s only witness and climbing partner on his last attempt to conquer Mt. McKinley, in which effort Cook claimed to have stood at “the top of the Continent” on September 16, 1906. Conflicting rumors about Barrill had appeared in the New York newspapers for days previous to the affidavit, some saying he would support Cook’s claim, others that he would deny it. Conflicting, too, were reports from witnesses that told of Barrill bragging of his share in the successful feat and those who had said, early-on, that he had told them it was a hoax. When it finally appeared, his affidavit emphatically labeled Cook’s climb a blatant fraud.

Barrill asserted Cook had been no nearer to the 20,000-foot summit of the mountain than 14 miles and no higher than 10,000 feet. After the affidavit appeared, although he had just been in New York City, where he met with two members of the Explorers Club, Barrill disappeared, his whereabouts unknown, but safely out of reach of the Press. The next day, the Explorers Club assembled a committee to investigate Cook’s claims in regard to Mt. McKinley. Cook had been its sitting president when he had departed in 1907 on what eventually resulted in his claim to have reached the North Pole in 1908. Robert E. Peary had been appointed to fill his place in his absence, and was now the sitting president of the Explorers Club. Although the newspapers reported that the club’s investigatory panel included “Cook’s friends,” in fact, though they expressed neutrality and impartiality in the raging dispute between the two explorers, they were largely Peary men.

The panel included Marshall Saville of the American Museum of Natural History, long an institutional ally and contributor it Peary’s expeditions, Charles H. Townsend, director of the New York Aquarium, who later spearheaded a dubious attempt to “prove” that Cook had tried to steal the life’s work of a aging South American missionary by publishing as his own a dictionary of the language of the Yaghan Indians of Patagonia, Walter C. Clark, who was the business partner in the Parker-Clark Electric Company with Hershel Parker, the chief witness against Cook, and Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, Secretary of American Geographical Society, who claimed to know where Barrill was but said he couldn’t disclose this information without “breaking a confidence.” Saville and Townsend were the two members who had interviewed Barrill before his “disappearance.” About the only members who could be remotely considered “Cook’s friends” would have been Caspar Whitney, editor of Outing Magazine, who had editorialized for fairness for Dr. Cook in its pages, Anthony Fiala, a fellow arctic explorer and long time associate of Cook’s, who ran a sporting goods store in New York, and Henry Walsh, who had been a co-founder with Cook of The Arctic Club of America.

That the mysterious disappearance of Barrill, the only eyewitness to Cook’s actual movements on his claimed climb, was blown off in so casual a way in the opening statement reproduced here, shows that, as a whole, the committee was clearly in Peary’s pocket. Basically, they said, Barrill’s published affidavit was to be accepted without any questioning of him by the panel. That was what General Thomas H. Hubbard, the president of the Peary Arctic Club wanted. He had paid for “expenses” connected with Barrill’s and others’ making affidavits against Cook, and the cost of bringing Barrill to New York and his accommodations while there. It was Hubbard who “spirited away” Barrill, ostensibly to visit relatives in Missouri instead of appearing before the committee to expand upon the eyewitness account of events he had sworn to in The Globe, a paper owned by General Hubbard.

Barrill’s absence left the committee with only two witnesses, Parker, and Belmore Browne, both of whom had been on Cook’s 1906 expedition. In this series, their testimony before the Explorers Club is published for the first time. The meeting began with a preliminary statement concerning the absence of Edward Barrill, after which Parker was called. Parker, unlike eyewitness Barrill, had already left Alaska before Dr. Cook made his attempt with Barrill to reach the mountain’s summit.

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A transcript of the Parker-Browne testimony, which will be published in the next few posts is among the Robert E. Peary Family Papers at National Archives II in College Park, MD.

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The Cook-Peary files: July 31, 1914: “Case 2140″

May 20, 2017

Burns bill

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

During most of 1914, Frederick Cook was followed by detectives from the Edward J. Burns detective agency and became “Case 2140” on their books. The intent was to learn who he saw and what his future plans were so they could be anticipated. Screeds were then sent in advance to places he intended to lecture in an effort to undercut his credibility and reduce his earnings by discouraging those who might wish to hear him speak. Cook took the role of an ordinary man who had accomplished an extraordinary deed, and out of jealousy had been targeted for ruin by a black-handed conspiracy led by the rich and powerful “Arctic Trust,” The Peary Arctic Club, that backed Robert Peary. Cook was right as far as the efforts to discredit him. The Burns Agency bills were paid out of the account of General Thomas A. Hubbard, The Peary Arctic Club’s president. Illustrated is a typical bill for the last half of July, 1914, totaling $290.52. Similar amounts were paid month after month, and it should be remembered that $290 in 1914 was worth about 19 times that today, so it was no insignificant amount—equivalent to more than $5,000. Ultimately, the program of trailing Cook ended upon the death of General Hubbard in 1915. This bill and many others like it are among the Robert E. Peary Family Collection preserved at the National Archives II in College Park, MD.

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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.

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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 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

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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.

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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
necessary.****

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,
Mac

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.

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