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PEARY'S FINAL DASH
"It's just like every day."
Capt. Bartlett, navigator of Peary's ship and his faithful companion through two Arctic journeys, said the above as he and his chief were toiling within a few hundred miles of the pole. The remark gives the keynote to Peary's manner of describing a great feat. True to the traditions of the navy, as well as to those of the serious explorer, Peary adopted a calm, matter-of-fact tone in his narrative. His statements were brief, clear and cold. His various accounts of the trip have the lofty serenity, the contempt of sentiment, natural to one who has conjured himself as well as the pole.
Like Cook, Peary stood practically alone amid the desolation of "farthest north." Cook had with him two Eskimos who, as described by him, were panic-stricken and prayed to their deity for deliverance. They were in no sense sharers of the emotions of their white master. And so it was with Peary, with the difference that his colored personal attendant was there to witness the triumph. One Eskimo — who was there — Egingwah by name — no doubt looked on rather cynically at Peary's deeds. He was a mighty hunter and a great man in Greenland, was Egingwah. What cared he for a pole or two?
Here was a situation never to be duplicated in any branch of human endeavor. Let the reader's imagination picture Peary, wrapped in his seal-skins, and with hard determined face peering out from his hood, drawing rein there at the coveted finish of the race; stopping in the glittering, lonely plain of ice; searching the horizon in vain for some animate thing; then taking his observations and proving he stood under the north star, at latitude 90! He, too, like Cook, felt as if he were the happiest man alive. He did not know there was another "happiest man," whose joy was due to the same cause. He supposed his eyes to be the first ever to have gazed upon that scene; yet, a year before a rival explorer had set up the glittering instruments that made the Eskimo's eyes grow big, and had looked up to the sky in thankfulness to providence.
That Peary sent back all his white companions and pushed on alone to the pole caused a little surprise when first it became known. Yet is was recognized as just that the leader and inspirer of it all should have the glory. His were the risks; then why not his the honor? So, with bitter disappointment perhaps, yet with unquestioning obedience to orders, the faithful companions of Peary stopped, one by one, within a few days' march of the pole and let him go ahead with his one swarthy companion.
The expedition started in sections, as was Peary's cautious habit.
Capt. Robert A. Bartlett and George Borup started February 27 from Cape Columbia, with a number of Eskimos and dogs, on the march across the ice, heading north. On March 1 Commander Peary left Cape Columbia with his party, consisting of seven white men, seventeen Eskimos and 136 dogs. On March 4 Peary came up with Bartlett, who had pitched his camp at the side of a lead of water which it was impossible to cross. The combined parties had to wait until March 11, seven days, before further progress was possible. The sun was seen for the first time March 5, and an observation showed that the explorers were a short way from the eighty-fourth parallel. The supply of alcohol was running short, and Borup returned to Cape Columbia for a fresh stock.
On March 14 Borup overtook Peary again and brought a supply of oil and alcohol. The division under Prof. Ross G. Marvin joined Peary the same day. At this point Prof. Ronald B. McMillan was sent back, his feet having been badly frozen.
Peary deeply regretted the necessity of sending McMillan back, as this member of the party was young and an athlete, — a valuable man on the trail. His departure left a party of sixteen men, with twelve sledges and one hundred dogs. These pushed on with all speed, dashing over the ice and making a handsome spectacle as they sped over the white expanse.
Thus far little really severe weather had been encountered, but there was constant peril from the "leads," which kept opening and showing startling depths of black water, almost under the runners of the sledges. Once one of the men — George Borup, a Yale University man — fell in, with his dog team, and emerged half-frozen. Another time a huge lead opened just after the whole caravan had passed over. Had it broken under them, some or all of the travelers would probably have drowned in the terrible icy water.
Indeed, tragedy was even then threatening the expedition. Prof, Ross Marvin, of Cornell University, was to be the sole victim of the great polar victory. His last duty for Peary was performed when he broke the trail as far as latitude 86:34. At that point he turned back, by the Commander's orders. As Marvin's sledge sped away, Peary shouted after him, perhaps with an intuition of what was to come, the warning, "Look out for the leads!"
And then, while Peary was making his last successful march, Marvin disappeared in one of those treacherous patches of water, and was seen no more.
To return to the dash for the pole:
Borup had turned back at latitude 85:34. With his departure and that of Marvin, together with their Eskimos, the party consisted of Peary, Bartlett, Matthew Henson; the colored man who has been Peary's personal assistant on so many of his expeditions; the Eskimos, seven sledges and sixty dogs, and the journey northward was resumed. The ice was perfectly level as far as the eye could see. Bartlett took the observation on the 88th parallel, leaving Peary, Henson and four Eskimos, with provisions for forty days, to make the final dash to the pole.
And now was to come the final test of Peary's courage; the supreme hours in his life. He had already passed beyond his own northern record, and had outstripped all others as well. He stood on the very threshold of success. The next few hours were to tell whether the summit of all polar ambition was to be his. One must fancy him, on that last pause before the ultimate effort, solemnly wondering what was to be the end.
But the conditions to be faced were too severe to permit of doubt, or even of serious thought for the future. The weather had thickened; heavy snows covered the path ahead; the man and dogs were feeling the strain. Peary found himself constantly inspiring the others from his own limitless stores of courage.
The reduced party started the morning of April 3. The men walked that day for ten hours and made twenty miles. They then slept near the 89th parallel. While crossing a stretch of young ice 300 yards wide the sledge broke through. It was saved, but two of the Eskimos had narrow escapes from drowning.
The ice was still good and the dogs were in great shape. They made as high as twenty-five miles a day.
The next observation was made at 89.25. The next two marches were made in a dense fog. The sun was sighted on the third march and an observation showed 89:57.
The pole was reached April 6 and a series of observations taken at 90. Peary deposited his records and hoisted the American flag and other banners. The temperature was 32 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) . The pole appeared as a frozen sea. Peary tried to take a sounding, but got no bottom at 1,500 fathoms.
Peary stayed at the pole for thirty-four hours and then started on his return journey the afternoon of April 7.
The flags hoisted at the pole were:
Silk American flag presented to the Commander fifteen years ago, and a piece of which he left at his northernmost point on each of his expeditions.
The naval ensign.
Flag of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
A flag of peace.
Peary's attendant, Henson, told a story that gives some graphic details of the supreme moment when the pole was reached. Said he:
"We arrived at the pole just before noon, April 6, the party consisting of the commander, myself, four Eskimos, and thirty-six dogs, divided into two detachments equal in number and headed respectively by Commander Peary and myself. We had left the last supporting party when we separated from Capt. Bartlett, who was photographed by the commander. Capt. Bartlett regretted that he did not have a British flag to erect on the ice at this spot, so that the photograph might show this as the farthest north to which the banner of Britain had been advanced.
"Our first task on reaching the pole was to build two igloos as the weather was hazy and prevented taking accurate observations to confirm the distance traveled from Cape Columbia. Having completed the snow-houses, we had dinner, which included tea made on our alcohol stove, and then retired to rest, thus sleeping one night at the North Pole.
"The Arctic sun was shining when I awoke and found the commander already up. There was only wind enough to blow out the small flags. The ensigns were hoisted toward noon from tent poles and tied with fish line,
"We had figured out the distance pretty closely and did not go beyond the pole. The flags were up about midday on April 7 and were not moved until late that evening. The haze had cleared away early, but we wanted some hours to make observations. We made three close together.
"When we first raised the American flag its position was behind the igloos, which, according to our initial observations, was the position of the pole, but on taking subsequent observations the stars and stripes were moved and placed 150 yards west of the first position, the difference in the observations being due perhaps to the moving ice.
"When the flag was placed Commander Peary exclaimed in English: 'We will plant the stars and stripes at the North Pole.' In the native language I proposed three cheers, which were given in the Eskimos' own tongue.
"Commander Peary shook hands all around and we had a more liberal dinner than usual, each man eating as much as he pleased. The Eskimos danced about and showed great pleasure that the pole at last was reached. For years the Eskimos had been trying to reach that spot, but it was always with them 'Tiqueigh,' which, translated, means, 'get so far and no closer.' They exclaimed in a chorus, 'Ting neigh timah ketisher,' meaning, 'We have got there at last.' "
Henson, who reached the farthest north with Peary three years ago, said that conditions were about the same at the pole as elsewhere in the Arctic circle. All was a solid sea of ice with a two foot lead of open water two miles from the pole. The Eskimos who went along on the final lap were Ootah, Egingwah, Ouzadeeah and Sigloo, the two first named being brothers. Commander Peary took photos of Henson and the Eskimos waving flags and cheering.
"We could see no open land," continued Henson. "The ice near the igloos was at least ten feet high and the flags were placed on a hummock twenty feet in height. The ice at the pole is about the same as on the journey up, all rafted in between with small floes. Nearly all the winds we had were from the northeast. Commander Peary had three thermometers, and the coldest day was 57 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. I believe there is a Iittle difference in the temperature at the pole from that some distance south."
Henson learned from the Eskimos that for three days in Whale Sound in August, 1909, they saw a cloud of smoke and there was an odor like brimstone. The natives were greatly frightened, and Henson thought a new volcano had erupted and so informed them.
On the return the marches were continuous and Peary and the Eskimos suffered greatly from fatigue. They had their first sleep at the end of the eighth march from the pole in the igloos left by Bartlett. Here there was a violent snowstorm.
It was April 23 before the exhausted and excitement-fevered travelers saw the land again. Then they came to Cape Columbia. The Eskimos were overjoyed to see land, for, though faithful to the last in Peary's service, and full of confidence in him, they had made up their minds to a terrible fate. When they saw land they offered up strange prayers of thankfulness to their gods, and then, with their chief, turned in for solid rest.
All slept the sleep of the dead for the most of two days, occasionally waking and giving the time to drying their clothing. After repairing their ice-damaged sledges and giving the long-suffering dogs a thorough rest they resumed their journey and reached the ship Roosevelt, April 27.
How the crew of the Roosevelt cheered when they spied their gallant chief coming over the ice-fields with his caravan. One shout, "We got to the pole," and all knew that the hope of all was a reality.
It was not until Peary reached his ship that he learned of Marvin's fate. The story of the professor's death was obtained from one of the Eskimos. April 10 Marvin was forty-five miles from Cape Columbia. He started out that morning walking ahead. The Eskimos were delayed in packing the sledges, a fact that permitted Marvin to get a good start on them. When the Eskimos arrived at an open lead they noticed that the young ice was broken about twenty-five yards out and they saw what looked like a man's body floating in the center of the lead.
Owing to the treacherous condition of the ice the Eskimos could not venture out. They returned to the Roosevelt and reported. Captain Bartlett then went back to the point they designated and recovered Prof. Marvin's spare boots, clothing and personal belongings, which were still on the ice where the Eskimos had left them. The superstitions of their race prevented the natives from bringing the dead man's effects with them. Prof. Marvin's records and observations were saved.
One of Peary's first acts on reaching civilization was to telegraph to L. C. Beamont, of Ithaca, N. Y,, who was a member of the Peary relief expedition of 1901, as follows:
news of Marvin's death to his mother immediately before she sees it
in the papers. Drowned April 10, forty-five miles north of Cape
Columbia while returning from 86.39 north latitude. Great loss to me
and to the expedition. Every member sends deepest sympathy.
Through friends in Elmira, N. Y., where Marvin's aged mother lived the message was conveyed to her. A movement had been started to give Mr. Marvin a great welcome on his return from the north and the members of the family were planning a celebration on his homecoming.
Ross Marvin was born Jan. 28, 1880. He graduated from the high school in Elmira, won a scholarship to Cornell university and worked his way through college, standing high in all his studies in the science course. He applied to Peary for a position on the 1906 Peary expedition and proved of such great service that the commander sought him out and induced him to go with him on the trip that succeeded.
Marvin never knew of his success.
In the course of a four-hour talk in the attic of a fish house, in September, before starting for Sydney, N. F., Commander Peary revealed more of the details of his dash to the pole, the danger of his task, his methods of avoiding disaster and death and his final triumph than he has yet made public.
On the deck of the Roosevelt as it laid in the narrow head of this barren rock-bound harbor he was found by a searching party of newspaper men, to whom he gave this greeting:
"Gentlemen, I have the North Pole aboard. You are welcome to it."
It was shortly after sunrise. His visitors had just arrived aboard the Tyrian, a government cable ship, which had been sent by the Dominion of Canada to bring back the famous explorer as its guest. Captain Alexander A. Dickson of the Tyrian only a moment before had conveyed to the commander this felicitous message.
Peary, gaunt from the rigors of the Arctic, his broad shoulders towering above all who surrounded him, was visibly impressed by the scene. Turning to Captain Dickson he grasped his hand hard and drawing the lips of his stern face still more tensely, he said:
"You flatter me, indeed. I appreciate your invitation, but I must stick to my good ship. I must go back home on its deck. It has been a good friend, which I would not think it right to leave. Without it I should never have been able to have searched for the pole."
The spectacle will become history. Here was a man who said he had returned from the frozen wilderness of the North as the only discoverer of the northern spindle of the earth. The struggles of twenty-three years in quest of this goal had plainly stamped their marks upon his features. They had obliterated, as far as the eye could see, all the softness and gentleness of human nature. Whenever a smile floated over his face it left it still more tense. At the end of almost every hour he would clinch his teeth and draw his lips taut.
His costume well befitted the occasion. His legs were encased in a huge pair of rubber boots which reached to his hips, his trousers were of the toughest weave of blue jeans. A loose-fitting blue flannel shirt did not hide his powerful chest, which had the width of a professional athlete. An old gray overcoat fluttered from his shoulders, and his matted sandy hair was surmounted by an ancient, battered black felt hat.
With an energy most characteristic he shook hands with the whole group around him.
"I'll get your name later," he said. Then some one asked: "Commander, we want to know all about that pole of yours."
With a quick sweep of the eyes Peary pointed to the greasy deck. The blubber of seventy walruses, which had been slaughtered and brought aboard the Roosevelt, there to be sliced into halves and quarters for distribution among his faithful Eskimo followers, had left the ship slimy and noisome.
Although the vessel had been lying in Battle Harbor for more than a week for the purpose of being cleaned and overhauled, little work seemed to have been done. On every side, and even hanging over him from the shrouds, were trophies of Arctic hunts, skins of bears, seals, foxes, wolves, antlers and horns of musk oxen, deer, walruses and other creatures most strange to a Southern eye, all drying in the sun.
"This is no place for an interview, gentlemen," said the commander. "I think it would be much more convenient if we were to adjourn to the attic of that fish house yonder. It is a rough place and you will have to associate with nets, fish barrels and salt boxes; but I think we will be comfortable. And in order that you shall not be disappointed when we get to the inquisition chamber over there, I will state now that I shall answer only those questions which at this time I regard appropriate."
This precautionary remark was generally interpreted as meaning that Peary was not going to discuss Dr. Cook's prior claim of the discovery of the North Pole any more than he could help.
With an abrupt bow, Peary suddenly retired to his little cabin, which opens upon the rear deck. It looked to be a very cozy place, where, despite the assault of Arctic climes, one might think he was in some genial Southern latitude. The walls were covered with books, scientific and historical, with here and there such a book of fiction as the "Last Days of Pompeii." Here also were to be seen the choicest prizes of Arctic exploration — queer birds, fantastic teeth and bones and bits of strange-looking rock.
When Peary had retired the chief object of attention was Henson, who helped him "nail the Stars and Stripes" to the pole. When first asked about his trip to the top of the earth Henson shrugged his shoulders with the reply: "I just got there, that's all."
Captain Robert A. Bartlett, who not only guided the Roosevelt into the farthermost waters of the North at Cape Sheridan, but also accompanied Peary farther than any other white man in his party, was likewise silent when first approached.
"I'd rather go to the pole," said he, "than have to answer questions about it."
Promptly at the appointed hour Commander Peary swung over the side of the low-decked Roosevelt into a fisherman's boat. It took only a few strokes to bring him to land. Thither Captain Dickson of the Tyrian and some of his fellow officers had already gone.
With rapid strides the pole hunter climbed up the narrow stairway of the fish-house. Then followed a small army of newspaper men.
With a single bound Peary leaped upon a heap of fish nets. There he took his seat and looked down almost defiantly upon his inquisitors. Everybody was so impressed by the occasion that no one broke the silence for several moments. Here in this obscure Labrador village a court was about to be held, at which all the world was listening. But almost at the very beginning the stern-faced witness rebelled. The questioning almost immediately began to irritate him.
He was asked, not about himself, but about Dr. Frederick Cook, his rival, who says he reached the earth's topmost gable a year before Peary.
At first, however, Peary tried to conceal his resentment. It was evident that he ached to overwhelm Cook's claim with a flood of argument but that he had firmly resolved to contain himself.
However, Commander Peary was the first to break the silence.
"Well, gentlemen, begin," he said.
"Did you find any signs of Cook?" was the first question.
"None whatever," answered Peary emphatically. "Yet it would be possible for an explorer to have gone to the pole by some other route a year previously and left a track which I would not have crossed. Such a thing is possible, but not probable."
"Could a man stay on the mainland and fake observations of a polar trip that might fool some scientists?" asked a New York man dressed in a straw hat and Eskimo vest.
"The thing could be done," replied the pole finder; "not only I, but also Sir George Nares and Admiral Melville believe it possible."
"But do you think that Cook really got to the pole?" insisted the strangely garbed questioner.
"All I shall say concerning Mr. Cook," said Mr. Peary, with some show of irritation, "is contained in two telegrams." The telegrams were as follows:
"Cook was not at the North Pole on April 21, 1908, or at any other time. This statement is made advisedly."
Following an abrupt pause, a gentle youth on a box of salt at the further end of the loft put this question:
"How cold was it at the pole?"
Instantly the tense face of the explorer relaxed.
"Not so cold as you sometimes get it in the Adirondacks," he answered. "The maximum temperature was 11 below and the minimum 32 degrees below, Fahrenheit. My last preliminary observations before reaching the pole were at 89.57 with a sextant and artificial horizon. Of my observations at the pole I shall say more later."
When a remark was made concerning the rapidity of his return march he replied:
"Our speed was not unusual when you consider the favorable weather with which we were blessed. We were not vexed with cross winds. Instead of blowing east or west and filling up the trail, so as to impede the retreat they came almost continually from the north. They packed the ice still harder against the land on the southern shores of the Polar Sea and held it firm. We were not carried away from our course by the eastward drift as on previous expeditions.
"Our new type of sledges also helped greatly. One which reached the pole was named the Morris K. Jesup. They cut down the strain on the dogs one-third and on the men nearly one-half. Without them I should never have reached the pole."
"Do you ride on the sledges?" asked somebody.
"Ride?" inquired the bronze-faced Peary, astonished. "Sir, in Arctic expeditions a man is lucky if he is able to walk without pushing his sledge. Usually he may grip the rear and thrust it ahead. It is like guiding a breaking plow drawn by oxen. You must also expect at any moment that the sledge may strike some pressure ridge that will wrench you off your feet.
"My return trip was twice as rapid as the advance, for the further reason that our equipment grew lighter and lighter. In going north we had used up two-thirds of the rations. The cracking of the ice and the formation of open leads or lanes of water were not as formidable as on previous expeditions. This good luck was also the result of favorable winds."
ROBERT E. PEARY,
Who nailed the stars and stripes to the North Pole April 6, 1909. On April 26. 1900, on his third Polar attempt,
Peary reached latitude 87 degrees 6 minutes, or within 200 miles of the North Pole.
DR. COOK LANDING AT COPENHAGEN.
Dr. Cook, who reported from Lerwick, on September 2, that he had reached the North Pole (on April 21, 1908),
reached Copenhagen in the Greenland Government Steamer Hans Egade, on Saturday morning, and was met
by a vast crowd, headed by the Crown Prince of Denmark. This picture shows him bareheaded.
Mention was made of the fate of the Roosevelt and its commander said:
"What will become of the Roosevelt, now that its original mission has been performed, will be decided by the Peary Arctic Club, to which it belongs. I can only make suggestions. The ship might be used as a government revenue cutter in Behring Sea or as a government ice breaker on the New England coast."
"Might it not be used as a floating memorial?" asked some one.
"Italy has thus memoralized the Stella Polar and Norway the Fram," was the non-committal reply. "Nansen first used the Fram, later Sverdrup and Amundsen now thinks of fitting her out for another expedition. Then again the Roosevelt might go in quest of the South Pole. No, I shall never try to find the South Pole, or take part personally in other expeditions although I will gladly help such work in other ways."
Then the question was asked which one hears from the mouths of pessimists of the "What's the use" variety.
"What real good will result from finding the pole?"
"The greatest benefit to science," replied the commander, "will come from my soundings of the Arctic Ocean, which now define the course of its bottom from Cape Columbia to the pole. They therefore supplement the findings of Nansen and Admiral Cagni on the other side. Then there are two big things effected by the attainment of the pole which do not lie in the scientific field. One is man's final conquest of the earth, for every inch of unattainable land is a reproach to civilization.
"The other practical result from the discovery of the North Pole will be the opening up of that region to the people of lower latitudes. Within five or at least ten years summer travel to the habitat of the Eskimos will be as common as it now is to the Labrador shore."