Crook & Peary Envy
Cook & Peary : The Polar Controversy, Resolved by Robert M. Bryce

A Job Half Done
Polar expert illuminates
Bryce's flawed research
By Douglas R. Davies

Dr. Crook (left) and his biography

Book Reviews:
Navigator of New York
Wally Herbert's #1
Wally Herbert's #2
The North Pole
Crook & Peary Envy
Dishonorable Dr. Cook
Editorials & News
Scientific American
Cook Society Vs Bryce
Cook Book interview
Is this "Hate literature?"
Bryce hires attorney
Copyright infringement?
This is another review that Amazon.com BANNED!
Once upon a time Amazon allowed customers to write reviews without editorial oversight. It was a "good thing" because these reviews were not from people who sell books. But the people who do sell books didn't like that! They wanted reviews that said what they thought would make other people buy the book. See how dishonest that is? Well, poor old little Jeff Bezos (who started Amazon) wasn't making any money. In fact the stock was falling like a brick and soon the publishers pushed him out of the way to control reviews written by customers. Some of the reviews they have edited have words deleted like this: (...), or they simply remove the entire review. Here are two reviews that they deleted but we have saved them where they can not be censored. This is true—these reviews were expurgated (that means deleted) after a protest from "guess who?"

"...one wonders how a rational person could share Bryce's sympathies..."
 
A cross between a diamond mine and a landfill... needs an especially ruthless editor...Images are often no larger than a big postage stamp ...it is difficult for a reader to compare when an original and a fake are not shown on the same page....the entire Mount McKinley series of photos and maps of glaciers, ridges and camps is hard for a reader to assess... falls somewhat short of its goal of making whopping amounts of information intelligible

$10 used, www.bookfinder.com

"It is a bit odd that Bryce is so concerned about lack of positive proof (if there could be such a thing) to support Peary's claim, but so willing to give Cook the benefit of every doubt."
"The negative and print utterly demolish Bryce's claim that the sun had been cropped out of the photo. It is inexcusable that Bryce did not check out these sources."
"...Peter Freuchen, an experienced Arctic dogsledder who maintained a trading post in Greenland for many years, said he found it funny that anyone cared what Hayes thought about Peary's dog sledding distances. I suspect he would find it funny that anyone would care what Bryce thinks about this subject."
The pretentious subtitle
"Polar Controversy: Resolved", and mass of this volume hold great promise, but it doesn’t deliver. A better subtitle might be "Cook's long-dismissed claims ground to dust, with some gratuitous jabs at Peary." This is essentially a biography of Cook that plays up positive aspects of his career, but concludes that his exploring "achievements," Mt. McKinley and the North Pole, were complete hoaxes. Add in Cook's federal mail fraud conviction for selling phony oil investments, and one wonders how a rational person could share Bryce's sympathies, reflected in a 1997 New York Times review: “'I wanted Dr. Cook to win,' he [Bryce] said. 'Who would want Peary to win? He was so unlikable.'"

True to these statements, Peary is the enemy in this book. Bryce repeats and amplifies personal attacks on Peary from Cook's 1911 book: Peary fathered Eskimo children, stole Cook's furs and ivory, bribed people to testify against Cook, etc.

These character attacks had been written long before this book. Ultimately, Peary did not suborn perjury from Barrill (Cook's McKinley climbing partner), but at worst paid extortion to get his admission of the truth. Peary didn't pressure Cook's Eskimo companions to lie, but got an essentially accurate account from them. Considering how many years and how much suffering Peary invested in trying to reach the North Pole it is understandable that when his experience told him that Cook's claim was bogus, he went on the attack.

Bryce offers precious little critical analysis of Peary’s claim in this massive tome -- 5 pages or so, by my count. Essentially, Bryce tells us that Peary's claim has been discredited, and that is that. He has not produced, and no prior critic has discovered, a single piece of evidence showing that Peary faked his claim. Bryce and other critics merely find Peary's own narrative unbelievable, and deplore the lack of "proof."

It is a bit odd that Bryce is so concerned about lack of positive proof (if there could be such a thing) to support Peary's claim, but so willing to give Cook the benefit of every doubt.

A comparison of Peary's North Pole claim to Cook's will serve to illustrate the discrepancy. Cook reported the existence of two landmasses and a "sunken glacial island" along his route to the pole. They do not exist. By contrast, everything that Peary reported about his trip (lack of land, depth soundings) is true. Peary is criticized for taking only a Black man and Eskimos to the pole. But these witnesses consistently and repeatedly over many years confirmed the essential facts of the trip. On the other hand, Cook's only witnesses directly contradicted his account of his trip, first in 1909 when questioned by members of Peary's expedition and on numerous occasions thereafter. In these circumstances it is odd that Bryce devotes hundreds of pages to Cook’s bogus claim, but dismisses Peary’s out of hand.

The author claims to find direct evidence against Peary such as a photo in which the sun is at exactly the proper altitude to place Peary at the Pole. Bryce's conclusion: this is proof of fraud. Peary, he claims, set up this shot as phony supporting evidence, but never published it, since it would not constitute absolute proof. By this dubious rationalization, Bryce attempts to transform evidence that supports Peary into evidence against him.

Bryce also claims that a certain photo Peary published has been tampered with, and would convict Peary. This is outrageously sloppy scholarship. The document Bryce refers to states that the negative of the photo in question is at the National Geographic Society, and that an un-retouched print of the photo appears in the U.K. edition of Peary's book. The negative and print utterly demolish Bryce's claim that the sun had been cropped out of the photo. It is inexcusable that Bryce did not check out these sources.

Bryce also exhumes the argument that Peary's diary is a fake because it is too clean. The Congressional subcommittee examining Peary's evidence in 1910 commented on the cleanliness of the diary. Peary explained the care with which he protected the diary from the elements and satisfied the questioners. It is worth noting that Captain Scott's final diary, recovered in Antarctica where he died of starvation is similarly a very clean book. In fact, Peary critic Dennis Rawlins himself has described it as immaculate. The filthy condition of some polar diaries reflects the use of blubber for fuel and food. Peary used alcohol and pemmican. Bryce does not mention any of this.

Ultimately, the "evidence" against Peary comes down to questions of speed and navigation. At least a dozen experienced arctic dogsledders, ranging from contemporaries of Peary to the present, have published their views of Peary's claimed distances. The vast majority, excluding Wally Herbert, who himself claims Polar priority among dogsledders based on his 1968 trip, have stated that Peary's speeds were credible. Responding to one of the early critical works by British cleric Gordon Hayes, Peter Freuchen, an experienced Arctic dogsledder who maintained a trading post in Greenland for many years, said he found it funny that anyone cared what Hayes thought about Peary's dog sledding distances. I suspect he would find it funny that anyone would care what Bryce thinks about this subject.

The other major argument against Peary (a trained surveyor) is that his method of navigation was inadequate. Surveyors at the Coast and Geodetic Survey discussed Peary's navigation with him, and concluded his methods were adequate. At least two modern authors have come to the same conclusion. Bryce makes no attempt to address these views, other than to fall back on Cook's old stratagem: everyone who disagrees with him is biased and/or on the payroll of the "Peary Arctic Trust."

Whatever the merits of the arguments regarding distances and navigation, Bryce should have given his readers the benefit of these competing views before presenting his own conclusion. Cook & Peary is a job half done.

Douglas R. Davies
February, 2002

Editor's note:
Douglas R. Davies worked with his father, Admiral Thomas Davies, on the landmark 1990 Navigation Foundation Report that was summarized in a National Geographic Article. Doug is one of the unequivocal few experts in the area of navigation specializing in the 1909 North Pole expedition. Few possess his depth of knowledge, mastery of mathematics, clear writing ability combined with keen analytical skills. We are privileged to publish his work as you will certainly note by reading this brief summary of the Bryce book. We promise to web publish more of his writing in the coming months and years.

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