|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.
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
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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