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PEARY FINDS THE POLE.
At this point it becomes necessary to leave the narrative of Dr. Cook for a time and record the extraordinary fact that a second message came from the far north; a second hero appeared to receive his share of glory.
On September 6, 1909, a telegraph operator in the New York office of the Associated Press, the great news-gathering agency, heard the call of the wire. He answered. As he wrote down the words that tapped on the instrument at his side an incredulous smile spread over his face.
Another man had discovered the North Pole!
This was the message:
"Indian Harbor, Labrador, via Cape Ray, Sept. 6. — To Associated Press, New York: Stars and Stripes nailed to North Pole.
In a few minutes the dispatch was in the office of every newspaper in the world. There were more incredulous smiles. It was enough to have spent five days recording so astonishing a fact as the discovery of the North Pole; and now came a second claim and in a short time the Peary telegram was thundering out from the big presses to startle the world.
What doubt there was did not have to do with Commander Peary's veracity, but with the genuineness of the dispatch itself. That some joker was busy was the prevalent theory. This, however, was speedily disproved. Commander Peary, besides wiring and sending a duplicate message to Renter's" Telegram Co., a similar news agency in London, had telegraphed to Herbert L. Bridgman, secretary of the Arctic Club in New York. There could be no question this message was from Peary. Besides the earmarks of truth in the wording itself, the dispatch was in cipher code known only to the New York official and to his friend in the north.
Said this message:
"Indian Harbor, via Cape Ray, N. F., Sept. 6. — Herbert L. Bridgman, Brooklyn, N. Y.: Pole reached. Roosevelt safe.
And then there was a third telegram, revealing a heart bounding with joy, and eager to express itself to a loved one. It read:
"Indian Harbor, via Cape Ray, Sept. 6, 1909. — Mrs. R. E. Peary, South Harpswell, Maine: Have made good at last. I have the old pole. Am well. Love. Will wire again from Chateau.
These, with a few messages to other men, none of which added to the information contained in the foregoing, was all that was heard of Peary for several days. He did not find the same facilities for an immediate description of his trip that Cook did. He was sailing along the Labrador coast; intent on reaching a large seaport as soon as possible. And he was content for a time with sending the bare news of his victory. Only the date, of his discovery — April 6, 1909 — and the fact he and his ship were safe; that was all he vouchsafed.
And with this silence the clamor of the debaters, and the fever of speculation, rose higher. Higher, indeed, than they had over the mere question of Dr. Cook's veracity. For now two men were involved in a gigantic problem that concerned whether one man's story discredited the other, and raised the question which was first at the pole.
The Peary advocates, who had already, openly or by hints, sought to pour cold water on Cook's claims, at once declared Peary's news was true, and that he was the real discoverer. One of the most enthusiastic of these was Rear-Admiral Melville, of the United States navy, himself an old-time explorer, who said:
"If Peary has telegraphed that he has found the pole, I believe it, and say bully for him.
"I have known Peary personally for a long time and as he was well equipped for an expedition I think he had at least as much chance as Dr. Cook had for discovering the pole. Peary was within 200 miles of the pole in his last expedition and was prevented from going there by the opening of the ice packs. He has been gone long enough to have reached there.
"It was the crazy dispatches purporting to have come from Dr. Cook about the condition he found there and other things that caused a doubt in my mind about Cook having found the pole. The dispatch from Peary makes the situation most interesting."
On the other side of the water, where the chief purveyors of opinion, the London newspapers, had been chary of accepting Cook's claims, the news from Peary was received with acclaim.
The Daily Mail said editorially:
"Just at the moment, when men were saying that only the evidence of an independent witness who himself had visited the North Pole could establish beyond question or cavil the claim of Cook, that very witness has appeared in Peary, an explorer whose statements are accepted by the whole scientific world without doubt or hesitation.
"Baffled and beaten back time after time, he has known how to win a victory in the end. Indomitable has been his perseverance, iron his fortitude, heroic the spirit which has led him to laugh at every disappointment, and thus, by sheer strength of character, to reach his self-appointed goal.
"As the glory of attaining the north pole has been denied to British effort, all in this country will rejoice it has fallen to one of our kinsmen over the sea and to such a kinsman. America well may be proud of sons like Commander Peary.
"Greatly as Commander Peary's achievement would have moved the world at any time, coming at this moment it has a special and absorbing interest. Only a few days have passed since the claim of Cook to have reached the North Pole was made known to the public. The long message in which he recounted his journey was by general consent pronounced unconvincing and the further particulars which he communicated since landing at Copenhagen have not removed all ground for doubt. Though Danish scientists of high reputation accept his claim, a large section of the public still entertains doubts and asks why it is he has not brought with him his journal and detailed observations to establish the truth of his statements. Now, on the very eve of the day on which Cook will receive a gold medal from the Danish Geographical society, a witness comes forth from the unknown who has looked upon the pole."
One of the most conservative of London journals, The Standard, had this to say:
"No discredit is cast on Dr. Cook's story by assuming that the success of a more experienced and better known voyager must be capable of verification. For the present, therefore, we must hail and congratulate Peary as the discoverer of the pole, subject only to the reservation that a prior claim has been advanced and remains to be verified. Happily both claimants are citizens of the United States and one possible reason for bitterness does not exist. In any case, the American stars and stripes float literally or metaphorically in the coveted breezes of the northernmost point of the globe."
A Chicago scientist, Prof. T. C. Chamberlain, of the University of Chicago, said:
"A message that had the real ring back of it, the ring of solid gold, was the one to Peary's wife in which he declared, according to one dispatch from her home, that he had found 'the darn old pole.'
"One has to appreciate the hardships and trials which Peary has suffered in his former defeats to know just how much the success means to him. The message to his wife was the typical outburst of enthusiasm which I should expect after the success of his long-attempted discovery.
"I have known Peary for a long time and I know him to be a man of his word. He is ambitious and it was always his great desire to be the first to plant the American flag on the most northern spot in the world."
To show how those closest to Commander Peary received the news there must be told here the manner in which it came to Mrs. Peary. She was staying in Eagle Island, Me., across a bay from South Harpswell, the village in which Mrs. Cook was passing the summer, — another of the singular coincidences of this remarkable history.
A newspaper correspondent, just provided with the news from New York, had hurried to Eagle Island, and to the cottage of the Pearys. There he found Marie A. Peary, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the explorer. The girl cried "Glory, mamma. Papa has been heard from."
And then, seizing the message containing the news of Peary's discovery from the hands of the correspondent. Miss Peary rushed upstairs to bear the glad and wonderful tidings to her mother, who only a few minutes before had gone to her room with a headache.
An hour and a half later, Arthur Palmer, the storekeeper at West Harpswell, arrived at Eagle Island with a personal telegram from the intrepid Arctic explorer to his wife and family.
When Mrs. Peary arose that morning and looked out across the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to be seen from the Peary summer home she was so impressed by the beauty of the day and the scene before her that she remarked to her daughter:
"With such a beautiful day as today we surely ought to hear good news."
All day Mrs, Peary watched across the bay separating Eagle Island and South Harpswell for approaching boats which might bear some message for her. Shortly before 4 o'clock the boat of Stephen Toothaker stopped off the island and Mr. Toothaker hurried ashore. Mrs. Peary was so sure he had some message from her husband that she rushed down to the beach to meet him, only to find that he had brought word that she was wanted at a telephone three miles away.
From the Washington Star
Mrs. Peary had been so sure that it was a message of a different kind that she went back to the cottage and retired to her room. At 4:10 the correspondent arrived and delivered the dispatch announcing the safe arrival of Peary at Indian Harbor.
The surf was rolling high on the beach and it was impossible to land without wetting one's feet. When the Peary cottage was reached Miss Marie Peary was reclining on a couch in the pleasant sitting room and was the only member of the party to be seen.
She came to the door and almost by intuition asked if there were good news for her.
"Mrs. Peary was not slow in coming downstairs when she heard the news, and when asked for an interview, said:
"What do you want me to say? God bless you, I'll say anything. I'm tickled to death."
Then she added:
"I can't find words to express my feelings. Mr. Peary's twenty-three years of work and hardship have been crowned with success. God bless him."