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Dr. Cook's infamous "box hoax"
Cook uses a total stranger, Mr. Whitney, as his dupe.
The most hilarious aspect of the Cook mess is how he tried to blame all his problems on Robert E. Peary. Cook had no proof he had reached the North Pole because he had never gone closer than 500 miles to it. So he "cooked" up a scheme with the first white man he met, a fellow named Whitney who was in the Eskimo regions of Greenland for big game hunting. Cook gave Whitney a box, telling him that it contained all his highly prized instruments, notebooks, the flag he flew at the North Pole, etc. Cook told this complete stranger to take all this back to America for him when Peary's ship came back that way. Why did Cook do this?

How the "box hoax" worked
Cook was a crook, but he wasn't stupid. He had nothing to prove his story and certainly had nothing of value in the box. But he knew Peary would either: 1) Allow Whitney to take the box back to America on his ship, or 2) Refuse to do so, or 3) The box would be lost. Are you catching on yet?

1) If the box made it back to America on Peary's ship then Cook could forever claim that his "proofs" were stolen or tampered with by Peary. Peary, wisely, did not fall for this obvious trick.

2) If Peary refused to transport the box on his ship (that is what happened) then Cook could forever blame Peary if it became lost (that is what happened). In any event, Cook realized he could always claim others had tampered with it.

3) The box was, in fact, lost. Whitney, a complete stranger to whom Cook supposedly entrusted his North Pole "proof", said he buried the box in an Eskimo village. Buried it? Yes!

In characteristic "Cook style" he told newspaper reporters, who wanted to know where his "proof" was, that he was dispatching a ship (!) to Greenland to fetch the box that had been buried somewhere by a total stranger (!?). In reality Greenland was so remote in those days that no ship was sent. Instead, Cook simply blamed Peary for not allowing Whitney to take the box on Peary's ship. Peary had been very smart to avoid THAT hot potato by not having anything to do with the alleged box.

Criminal genius?
Cook actually had nothing to prove he reached the Pole simply because it was all a hoax anyway. His McKinley hoax had begun to unravel before the North Pole hoax was announced, now the reporters were all over him. Cook's credibility was sinking rapidly. He never dispatched a ship to Greenland for obvious reasons; the box was simply another hoax. Yet to this day Cook descendents blame Peary for not letting Whitney bring that box on his ship. See how clever Cook was? If Peary had taken the box, then it would have been worse—to this day he would be blamed for destroying or tampering with Cook's "North Pole proofs."

Peary, of course, caught on to this trick and ridiculed Cook in newspaper interviews for such a pathetic tactic in September of 1909 (see: New York Times). Peary pointed out that he himself sewed his own notebook into his jacket pocket so that even if he fell though the ice it would not be lost. He wrapped his North Pole flag around his body—he literally wore it. Peary noted that these items are precious to any real explorer and should never be out of his hands. For Cook to claim he gave them to a stranger is too absurd to believe, and Peary explained that these items are so small and take up so little space that Cook had to be lying.

This is another incident that serves as an example of the low character of Frederick Cook and the extremes of which he was capable.
New York Times, September 27, 1909. This writer had figured out exactly how the box trick worked.

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