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The North Pole: Its Discovery in 1909 Under the Auspices of the Peary Arctic Club by Robert E. Peary (Public domain facsimile reprint edition)

The North Pole [anti-Peary edition]
(Public domain facsimile reprint edition)

Junior college librarian Robert Bryce uses another public domain facsimile reprint of a classic arctic book for his anti-Peary bully pulpit. (editor)
Robert Peary portrait from the 1986 USPS commemorative stamp poster for the "Arctic Explorer" stamps.
"Bryce, a vindictive, prejudiced and un-traveled librarian,... shamelessly seeks to promote himself on the backs of men who risked their lives to accomplish deeds of genuine merit." (Peary's great grandson)
Why waste your money on a facsimile edition? You can buy an authentic, 1910 original edition, of this classic in polar exploration easily on the used market place. They are available at bookfinder.com for $50 and up.
The reviews 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?"
"...the bottom line is that Bryce had made up his mind about Peary before he ever put pen to paper...THE NORTH POLE is a fine book with the misfortune to be introduced by a character assassin."
"It is important to know where Bryce is coming from. By his own admission, he started ... into the "polar controversy" as an ardent supporter of Frederick Cook, the colossal fraud..."
"(Henson) is the capable, honest and intelligent man Bryce denigrates so thoroughly and falsely as to be slanderous. Despite concrete evidence and contemporary testimony to the contrary, Bryce paints a picture of an illiterate, dissembling black man, who, after years of experience in the arctic, could be duped into believing, or persuaded by Peary to lie about, reaching the Pole. So far as I know, Bryce is the first person to accuse Henson of being a liar."
Eskimo women posing on the deck of the Roosevelt in 1909. Another famous shot has them lined up like a chorus line, kicking. This was probably the doing of fun-loving Borup and MacMillan.
An overexposed shot of the sun at the Pole has since been underexposed in printing the negative to reveal this surprising bit of evidence. The sun's angle above the horizon can be determined just as if we were taking a sextant reading back in 1909.
Shameless Self-Promotion in the Negative Introduction,
Reviewer: Robert Peary Stafford (Peary descendant)

This otherwise excellent book
by Robert E Peary is marred, perhaps fatally, by the wholly negative "Introduction" by Robert Bryce. Having Bryce prepare an "introduction" to a book by Peary is like having Monica Lewinsky preface a Bill & Hillary book on domestic bliss.

Bryce, a vindictive, prejudiced and un-traveled librarian, has written a tedious 1000-page error-fill tome purporting to "resolve" the polar controversy, and now shamelessly seeks to promote himself on the backs of men who risked their lives to accomplish deeds of genuine merit.

Peary dedicated his life to Arctic exploration. He was the most accomplished arctic explorer America has ever produced. He was also the beneficiary of the aid, assistance and resolve of another great American, Matthew Henson, who happened to be black. To Bryce, however, Peary's 1909 expedition was a fraud. Peary himself never really intended to try to get to the Pole; instead he decided to fake the accomplishment. And, what of Peary's companion, Henson? Well, Bryce is ambivalent. Either Peary deceived poor, ignorant, illiterate (read Steppin Fetchit) Negro, Henson, or Henson was a liar too.

It is important to know where Bryce is coming from. By his own admission, he started his tendentious and spurious investigation into the "polar controversy" as an ardent supporter of Frederick Cook, the colossal fraud who claimed to have reached the Pole in 1908. Thus, his objectives were, first, to prove Cook's claim genuine and, second, Peary's false. As he delved into the materials, Cook's fraud became so manifest that even Bryce reached the conclusion (reluctantly) that Cook had faked his claim. But that did nothing to change his mind about Peary. So he developed the thesis that Cook really and truly tried to reach the Pole, but failed. Peary may have tried earlier, but in 1909, he never seriously intended to try for the Pole.

Bryce stuck to this thesis, untroubled by the fact that Cook's genuine effort ended more than 400 miles short of the Pole, while Peary's "ruse" took him, beyond peradventure, to within 130 miles of the Pole [after which everyone agrees he continued his northward journey]. Apparently, Peary and Henson could accomplish more without intending it, than the hapless Cook by a sincere effort.

Ignores scientific evidence
Bryce was further untroubled by the finding of the Navigation Foundation (re-affirmed when other photographs were later discovered) that analysis of over a dozen of Peary's polar photographs placed him within 3-8 miles of the Pole -- as close, in other words, as he could have been within the tolerance of his navigational instruments).

Bryce was not, however, untroubled by Henson. Here was a man who had sailed all over the world, who spent twenty years in the arctic, who was beloved by the Inuits, who was as famous for his endurance and courage as he was for his ability to judge the distances he travel over the featureless ice. It is this capable, honest and intelligent man that Bryce denigrates so thoroughly and falsely as to be slanderous. Despite concrete evidence and contemporary testimony to the contrary, Bryce paints a picture of an illiterate, dissembling black man, who, after years of experience in the arctic, could be duped into believing, or persuaded by Peary to lie about, reaching the Pole. So far as I know, Bryce is the first person to accuse Henson of being a liar.

But the bottom line is that Bryce had made up his mind about Peary before he ever put pen to paper; if Henson's name and reputation had to be sacrificed to make Bryce's conclusions plausible, then it was Henson's mistake to associate himself with Peary. Bryce certainly wasn't going to change his mind!
This edition of THE NORTH POLE is a fine book with the misfortune to be introduced by a character assassin.

Ignore that "zero stars" new introduction,
Reviewer: Russell R. Robinson (son of Matthew Henson's official biographer)

This rare book sells for $500 in fine condition so it is nice to see it back in print. Even a good reading copy is about $150. But this edition has a "new introduction" by the same librarian who put out that 1,000-page biography of Dr. Cook a few years back. His adoration for Pole hoaxer Cook is well established. In this edition of Peary's book the publisher is using over 20 pages from his Cook biography. The gist is that Peary was a fake and never reached the Pole. But the publisher, in a sensational style, placed a "YOU DECIDE" splash on the cover (Cook or Peary?). The meaning of which is lost as the introduction tells you no one reached the Pole. So what is to decide?

Skip the "new" introduction. Read it after you read the original ones and the original book. The introduction, to this public domain reprint, is so downbeat that I imagine an unsophisticated reader would be too depressed to read Peary's classic work. I believe the point is not really to offer his 1910 work to the public, but to persuade the reader to some other agenda. That is a shame, as this is a fascinating work.

Peary was a civil engineer and Naval officer. His approach to reaching the North Pole was a mixture of those two disciplines. His technique took years to evolve and be perfected; it was very complicated and extremely expensive. But where literally hundreds of others had died, or returned crippled from the amputation of frozen body parts, Peary suffered no such casualties. (Well, an Eskimo shot one man.) His book details the complications of taking an entire Eskimo village on his special ship with hundreds of dogs for an entire winter; like factory workers he kept them sane and occupied making sledges, fur clothing, dog harnesses from walrus hide, even manufacturing from raw materials small cans to carry their alcohol fuel.

The logistics of it are fantastic even today. Imagine being further north than any ship had ever wintered over, in the black Arctic night, 50 degrees below zero, no contact with civilization, in a virtual bedlam of dogs and very smelly Eskimos! Then the heavy hauling of tons of supplies to the base camp began. The assault towards the Pole put 24 men with 130+ dogs onto the frozen ocean.

The Arctic Ocean ice sheets split apart or ram together without warning. The later can be so loud they called it "deafening". The former so dangerous that in one instance their camp of igloos split apart with one group floating away on an ice sheet. Remember - they had no cell phones, no helicopters, nor any other modern devices. It is 50 degrees below zero and your hands will freeze solid in a few minutes if you take your gloves off to untangle the dog harnesses or repair a sledge. Men are sent back as they freeze a heel - a frozen nose doesn't count because you can still walk! This is Hell, a deadly and frozen Hell.

Yet Peary's army marches on day after day, men exhausted from ice axing their way through hundreds of miles of "ice rubble" and ridges. In the end all supporting groups are gone and the lead party finally reaches the greatest disappointment Peary could have found. There is no North Pole. There was no land, no ocean bottom he could measure. Only a geographic point in a frozen desert that was constantly drifting with the currents so that even the traditional explorer's cairn (marker) had no meaning. What a total bust. If only he had found land...

So Peary satisfied the geographers by filling in the "unexplored regions" on their maps, but left with only his word that he had been there. And that was soon a hot debate due to polar hoaxer Cook who stole his glory and ruined what should have been his rewards. It would take 80 years until technology could affirm what Peary said in 1909 was true - that he had indeed "nailed the stars and stripes to the North Pole".

Despite the introductory criticism of Peary as a person his work, The North Pole, is the crown jewel of 19th century exploration. After Peary the world would need a much higher technology than the Eskimo dog sledge to make progress. Reaching the ocean depths, the limits of the atmosphere, breaking the sound barrier, and ultimately the Moon were in store for those who came later. But this achievement, The North Pole, will always be the pinnacle of what man and animal can achieve in terms of cooperation, courage, and sheer force of will.

Peary refused to fail
Love him or hate him, Peary will always be, as his biographer put it, "the man who refused to fail". So refuse to let the introduction steer you away. Read it after you read Peary’s account. That is, if you’re still interested in what someone 80 years after the fact thinks about Commander Robert E. Peary, USN. I think you will agree he did indeed reach the place where there is no east or west and every direction is south. He did it only because he "refused to fail".


2002 Russell R. Robinson and Robert E. Peary, USN. Dedicated to my mother who used to quip "Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up!"