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

Written on 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This is the third in a series examining significant unpublished documents associated with the Polar Controversy.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.

Filed in: Uncategorized.