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Inside the Peary Expedition: Part 12: August 17; Peary prepares to sail north

Written on May 19, 2021

After a walrus hunt to provide the Inuit with meat lost by his taking some of the best hunters north with him, Peary prepared to sail. He put the Bos’n, John Murphy in charge of Cook’s box house at Annoatok, to live there and guard the supplies Cook had brought against pilfering by the natives. To keep him company and keep the log, as Murphy was perfectly illiterate, he assigned Billy Pritchard, the Roosevelt’s cabin boy to stay with him. Peary wrote out a set of detailed instructions for Pritchard to read to Murphy to remind him of how he was to spend his time.

The instructions he left are long and tedious, so no transcription is provided here. Ross Marvin’s handwritten copy of the instructions, signed by Peary, is generally legible, so the interested reader can read them from the original, dated at Etah, August 17, 1908, which is reproduced below and is now at NARA II.August 17 instructions 1

Instructions 2Instructions 3Instructions 4Instructions 5Instructions 6

Although he declared in the opening paragraph that he was leaving the men “in charge of the station here for the relief of Dr. Cook,” Peary wrote to his wife what his true intentions actually were:

August 17 Peary to Peary

I have Sammy1 on board to
prevent Cook from taking him back.

The Cook circumstances have given
me a good deal of extra work &
trouble; but have worked out satis-

I have landed supplies here, &
leave two men ostensibly in behalf
of Cook. As a matter of fact I
have established here the sub-base
which last time I established at Vic-
toria Head, as a precaution against
in event of loss of the R– either
going up this fall or coming down
next Summer.

In some respects this is an advan-
tage as on leaving here there is nothing to delay me or keep me from taking either side of the Channel going up.

The conditions give me entire control of the situation.

Most of Peary’s dictated instructions are concerned with bartering away Cook’s supplies for fox and other valuable pelts.

Peary had planned to head north that day, but rain, snow and fog prevented him sailing. But he was able to do so on August 18th. As with everything else, Dr. Goodsell recorded the departure in his diary:

“Whitney, Norton, Learned and Craft2 came aboard to bid us good bye, and wish us success. The Erik will remain at Etah for a couple of days, completing the unloading of the coal to be left at Etah for the Roosevelt.
The weather was bad during the morning, but in the afternoon the sun came out and the fog disappeared. It was a pleasant afternoon, and the kind of weather we might desire for a start.
At last the farewell given, we are away for Cape Sheridan and our winter quarters.”

And so Peary sailed and would not be heard from by the world at large at all until his message was flashed to the world on September 6, 1909, from Battle Harbour, Labrador: “Stars and Stripes nailed to the North Pole.”

As for Rudolph Franke, he watched as what only could be the skins he and Cook had collected over the winter were loaded aboard the Erik. Franke had signed a receipt given to him by Ross Marvin acknowledging the $50 in gold given him for his expenses in getting back to New York. Later Herbert L. Bridgman, Secretary of the Peary Arctic Club, billed Mrs. Cook for the cost of Franke’s “relief.” This receipt is now in the Peary papers at NARA II.August 17 Franke receipt

1. “Sammy” was Peary’s first illegitimate son, whose Inuit name was Anaukaq. Apparently, Peary feared Cook might attempt to take him back to the United States to embarrass him. To prevent this, Peary took him north on the Roosevelt.

2. These were all paying “guests” aboard the Roosevelt. Each had paid Peary $500 ($12,500 in today’s buying power) for the privilege of accompanying him to Greenland. All returned with the Erik except for Harry Whitney, who spent the winter at Dr. Cook’s box house at Annoatok and witnessed his return there in April of 1909.

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