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Frederick Cook arrives in Denmark

Written on August 27, 2018

Cook arrives

On September 4, 1909, Frederick Cook arrived at Copenhagen aboard the Danish ship Hans Egede. His telegrams sent from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands on September 1 claiming he had reached the North Pole on April 21 of the previous year electrified the world. Every press organization within range sent representatives to the Danish capital to cover his arrival. The event was even captured on film.

The Danish Film Institute has posted the most complete footage yet seen of Cook’s arrival on YouTube at this URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyQhwosY688

Here is a guide to the footage as posted. It is broken down by scenes; the start of each sequence is indicated by the time cues before the annotations, which can be followed while viewing the film. The viewer should note that the film as posted is not in strict chronological order. It is, in fact, a series of short clips. This will be pointed out as appropriate.

0:14 In the opening scene, Cook is seen standing on the deck of the Hans Egede. Notice that he is missing several of his front teeth. These were knocked out in a fall during his expedition. Soon after his arrival, he was taken in hand by Danish barbers, tailors and dentists, and when he reappeared in public he was faultlessly attired and had regained his missing teeth.
0:25 The Hans Egede is seen in various clips, approaching Copenhagen from the sea, decked out in all her flags, passing the Trekroner Fortress at the entrance to the harbor, and at anchor in the harbor itself. These clips are the product of several different cameras and not in sequence. She made regular runs to the Danish settlements in Greenland. This was her last run from Greenland in 1909, and Cook only secured a berth on her at the intervention of Jens Daugaard-Jensen, Inspector of Danish Greenland, who sent official word to Denmark from Lerwick verifying Cook’s claims.
1:11 This scene is of Copenhagen’s harbor showing the crowds and watercraft, many filled with reporters, awaiting the ship’s arrival.
1:19 Cook is seen on the bridge talking to the ship’s captain and officers.
1:50 Cook is seen waving his hat to the boats filled with reporters and curiosity seekers. Notice the reporter taking notes with pad and pencil.
1:55 Cook is seen pacing the deck, talking to an unknown man and then letting himself down to the main deck. The sign says “No Access” in Danish.
2:15 The greeting party of dignitaries, including the Crown Prince of Denmark and the American Minister to Denmark enter the launch, and it leaves for the Hans Egede.
2:23 Aboard the ship, Cook is waiting by the taffrail to receive the greeting party. Notice that a reporter with a pad appears taking notes below the boat. His arrival is obscured in the first clip by people in the way, but in the next his arrival at this position is clearly visible. This shows that these clips are the product of several cameras simultaneously filming the same scene.
2:59 When the officers salute, they signify the arrival of the Crown Prince aboard.
3:02 The tall man in the top hat and mustache is the Crown Prince of Denmark, later Christian X.
3:05 The man with the wavy hair seen behind the rope talking to Dr. Cook is Commodore Andreas Peter Hovgaard, a naval officer and arctic explorer.
3:06 Cook and the greeting party enter the launch to go ashore.
3:08 The man who takes off his straw hat might be the English reporter Philip Gibbs, who interviewed Cook en route and early on denounced Cook as a fraud, but this isn’t certain. Cook seems to be talking directly to him, and he has a resemblance to Gibbs, but his hair is parted on the wrong side. That he is not part of the official party is shown by the fact that he does not enter the launch. Other reporters can also be seen on deck as the launch departs, as well as in the boats standing alongside.
3:26 The launch leaves the Hans Egede’s side.
3:36 The launch arrives at the dock and the party steps ashore.
3:49 The man who first steps ashore with the stick and who assists Cook is Commodore Hovgaard. The next to debark is the crown prince, followed by American Minister Maurice Francis Egan. The representatives of the Royal Geographical Society follow him, and they make their way through the crowd into the grounds of the Meteorological Department.
4:26 Here you get a brief glimpse of William T. Stead, William Randolph Hearst’s man on the spot, who wrote a colorful account of Cook’s arrival. He’s the man with the white beard and slouch hat.
4:33 This shows a motor car, attempting to leave the Meteorological Department’s grounds. Steed’s account tells how the press of the crowd made it impossible for the party to enter the waiting carriages that were to take them to their destination and that they had to take refuge in the the department’s building. The car was a decoy; Commodore Hovgaard spirited Cook out a back door and into his own carriage for a ride to the Hotel Phoenix. So this is likely out of sequence and should come behind the next sequence of Cook on the balcony waving.
4:45 Cook is seen on the balcony of the Meteorological Department waving his cap to the crowd below. At one point he speaks briefly to those who had been calling for a speech. He allegedly said,
“My friends, I have had too hard a time getting here to make a speech. I can only say that I consider it an honor to be able to put my foot first on Danish soil.”
4:59 This is a brief repeat of the first scene, but a distinctly different clip.
5:05 These two men are Danish Inuits from Greenland, perhaps part of the Hans Egede’s crew. The film camera was so new, the two don’t seem to know what to do.
5:43 This gentleman is C. M. Norman-Hansen, a Danish optometrist and poet, who was also returning from Greenland aboard the ship. Likewise, he seems camera shy. He was at first a staunch defender of Cook’s controversial claims, but turned on him in 1911 and publicly denounced him at his lecture at the Palais Concert Hall in Copenhagen in 1911. After Norman-Hansen disappears, the rest of the footage is a repeat of earlier scenes.

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