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THE STORY OF HARRY WHITNEY.
As was to be expected, the Cook-Peary controversy entered into many phases. One of its most interesting angles was that concerning Harry Whitney, the young New Haven sportsman who met Cook after the latter's return.
Dr. Cook early in the debate, named Whitney as having proof of the North Pole discovery in his possession. These proved later to consist of instruments — a sextant, compass, etc. — and articles of clothing. To the surprise of people everywhere, Whitney reported on reaching Labrador that Cook's property was not in his possession.
He sent this telegram home on his arrival at Labrador:
"S. S. Strathcona, Indian Harbor, Labrador, via Marconi wireless. Cape Race, N. F., Sept. 25. — I know not the extent of the contents of the box left in my charge by Dr. Cook to be brought back. No vessel having arrived for me at Etah before the Roosevelt returned from the north, I started home on it. Commander Peary would not allow anything belonging to Dr. Cook to come aboard his ship. I was forced to leave the articles in a cache at Etah.
"On Dr. Cook's arrival at Annotook in April, 1909, he told me he had discovered the North Pole, also showing me maps and requesting me to withhold information from Commander Peary, but permitting me to say that he had gone farther than Peary had gone on his last expedition.
On arriving at St. Johns, N. F., Mr. Whitney made a more extended statement: tie said Cook arrived at Annotook in April of this year and declared that he had reached the North Pole a year before. He pledged Whitney, however, not to tell Commander Peary, who was to be informed only that Cook had gone farther north than Peary's previous record, 87 degrees 6 minutes. Continuing, Dr. Cook told Whitney that he had accomplished all he expected to, and more besides, and that he was through with the northern country. Whitney did not communicate the latter part of this statement to Commander Peary. Continuing, Mr. Whitney said that Dr. Cook had complained to him of Peary's taking over of his house and stores, but declared that he had suffered no unfairness.
There were two houses on the Greenland shore, one at Annotook, holding Cook's stores, and another at Etah, holding Peary's stores. The three white men, Whitney, Murphy and Pritchard, Peary's steward, sometimes occupied one and sometimes the other of these houses. Murphy was in charge of both houses. He is not able to read or write. He had written instructions from Peary, which Whitney, at Peary's request read over to him from time to time. These instructions were stringent. They directed Murphy to use Cook's stores first and Peary's afterward. Murphy was told in them that he was to give Dr. Cook every help if he came along in a needy condition, and furthermore the instructions implied that Murphy was to organize an expedition to search for Dr. Cook, but, according to Mir. Whitney, this part of the instructions was worded very ambiguously. Mr. Whitney said that Cook had a copy of these instructions. Murphy treated Cook very civilly and Cook suffered no discourtesy.
When Dr. Cook and his Eskimos arrived at the house they had no sledge; being too tired to drag it over the rough ice, they left it twenty miles from Etah. The following day some other Eskimos went out, recovered the sledge and brought it in. On it were Dr. Cook's instruments, clothes and food.
After passing two days at Annatook, where Cook first met Whitney, Cook started for Etah. Whitney accompanied him. Cook remained for three days at Etah, organizing for his trip south to Upernavik. The doctor had figured out rightly the date that he would likely get to Upernavik and when the Dundee whalers or the Danish store ships would reach there, and he argued that he had no time to lose. He planned originally to take two Eskimos and two sledges, but one Eskimo fell sick and this made it necessary for him to cut down the luggage he could take with him south. He consequently asked Whitney to take charge of the instruments with which he had made his observations at the pole.
There were three cases, one containing a sextant, another an artificial horizon, and the third an instrument which Mr. Whitney said he could not recall. It hight have been a chronometer. Cook left no written records with Whitney that Whitney was aware of. There may have been some records, however, in the other boxes in which Cook packed his clothes and his personal effects, but Cook did not tell Whitney especially that he was leaving any written records with him, Mr. Whitney was very positive about this.
After Cook departed for the south Whitney resumed his hunting. He took over Cook's two Eskimos to show him the country where Cook had shot musk oxen. This the two men did, and Whitney bagged all the oxen he could carry out in his sledges. He said he found these two Eskimos to be satisfactory in subordinate capacities, but he knows nothing of their value in a dash across the polar sea.
Continuing Mr. Whitney said that in August when Peary on board the Roosevelt reached Etah from the north after his winter's work there, he (Whitney) informed him of Dr. Cook's arrival in April adding that Cook had told him (Whitney), to tell Peary that Cook had gone beyond Peary's farthest north. Peary made no comment on this, and Whitney said he was not asked any other questions by Peary. But the next day Cook's Eskimos came to Whitney and asked him what Peary's men were trying to get them to say. Peary's men had shown the Eskimos papers and maps, but the Eskimos declared that they did not understand these papers. So far as Mr. Whitney is aware. Cook's Eskimos never admitted that while with the doctor they had only progressed two "sleeps" from land.
When Commander Peary heard of Whitney's statement he said:
"At Etah, on August 17 or 18, after the arrival of the Roosevelt, and after I invited Whitney to come on board the Roosevelt with all his belongings and trophies, I having extended the invitation in view of the uncertainty of the movements of his own ship, which he had expected to arrive about the first of August and which had not yet appeared, Whitney told me he had some foxskins — six, I think — and some narwhal horns which Cook had sent back after leaving Etah for Danish Greenland, with the request that Whitney take them home with him on Whitney's ship. Whitney also told me that Cook had given him (Whitney) the sledge with which Cook had returned to Etah in April.
"I then told Whitney that I did not care to have anything belonging to Cook on board the Roosevelt, and that all I wanted from Whitney was that he would give me his word that he would not' bring on board the Roosevelt anything belonging to Cook, which promise he instantly gave me. Later while engaged in packing up and bringing to the ship his things Whitney came and told me he also had some clothes and instruments, belonging to Cook.
"I told Whitney that these, as well as the foxskins and narwhal horns, he could put in a cache at Etah or leave in charge of Eskimos for Cook, whichever he though best. Just before the Roosevelt left Etah he told me that he personally had seen that these things had been left in a cache and had told the Eskimos that they had been left there for Cook.
"I also told the Eskimos that they were to leave the cache undisturbed and that they were not to break up Cook's sledge. Later I heard the report that the instruments were the ones that Cook had used during his sledge journey, but I gave the report no credence, as I could not conceive of a man leaving instruments of that kind out of his own sight or in the hands of a stranger.
"Still later, after leaving Eskimo land entirely, and during the voyage home, I heard a report that Cook also had left with Whitney a flag he had carried with him on his sledge journey. No one seemed to know anything definite about this, and I paid no attention to the report for the same reason as before. After getting in contact with the world I learned that Cook was reported to have said that he left records of his sledge journey for Whitney to bring home. I never had heard anything of the kind and discredited this report as well.
"While knowing nothing of the matter, I do not believe Cook left either his records or his instruments or flags with Whitney. I cannot conceive it possible for a man under those circumstances to have left such priceless things out of his sight for an instant. As he went across Melville bay to Danish Greenland with three or four sledges and teams of dogs, his instruments, his records, and his flags scarcely would have added a featherweight to his burden.
"ROBERT E. PEARY."
Peary had more to say, too. He pointed out that Dr. Cook alleged he in one sledging season had covered twenty-five degrees, or 1,700 miles, of Arctic ice, when no previous explorer, notwithstanding vastly better equipment, ever had covered more than eleven degrees of that most difficult going on the universe.
"It is well known," said Peary, scoring what his bitterest enemy must regard as a staggering blow to Cook's case, "what my equipment was when I started north from Cape Columbia. The world has read of my equipment and the world knows what my experience was in the Arctic field. Yet I did not make quite fourteen degrees in my last and only successful dash to the pole."
Peary pointed out with a smile that showed every one of his gleaming teeth and ruffled the bristles of his great sandy mustache that Dr. Cook had taken one sledge on his 1,700 mile journey over Arctic ice. This was the sledge that Cook left behind him at Etah.
"I examined that sledge," said the commander. "Yes, I looked over it carefully. So did Hensen. So did McMillan. They know sledges, I guess, and so do I. Was it anything like my Morris K. Jessup sledge? (Peary's shoulders shook, though at the same time he gritted his teeth). I should say it was not anything like the Morris K. Jessup sledge.
"That sledge of Cook's was built along lines of no sledge I ever saw before. Why, I don't believe that sledge would last one day over Arctic ice with a standard load of 500 or 600 pounds."
Getting down to the Whitney phase in his controversy with Cook Peary asked a few questions.
"I would like to know," he said, "why, if Harry Whitney knew the value of these instruments and proofs that Cook intrusted to his custody — to the custody of a man practically a stranger — he did not sail back to Etah on the Jeanie for these things? Why did he come away from Smith's sound and leave those treasures to the mercy of another Arctic winter?
"Let me point out," ran on Peary, "where the Jeanie was when I last saw Mr. Whitney. I picked up Harry Whitney at Etah on Aug. 17 and we ran down the sound about 100 miles to Saunder's island. Clear water and fair winds; fine going.
"At Saunder's island the Jeanie came along. We went into North Star bay so that the Jeanie could transfer the coal it had for me to the Roosevelt. Then we ran out into open water again. Whitney was aboard the Jeanie. He was one day's sail from Etah. He had clear, free water along the eastern shore of the sound.
"Did Whitney run back to Etah for those immensely valuable records and instruments of Dr. Cook? He did not. He sailed directly west, where the ice was packed against the western shore. He wanted a bear. He cared more about a bear than he did about Cook's property. He would not do without two days of his hunting to go back for what he says now he knew was Cook's proof of the discovery of the pole."
Then, to add a touch of the dramatic, Peary related that whereas Dr. Cook had left his polar flag, his instruments, and records to the mercy of a stranger at Etah, he (Peary,) had sewn his flag into his undershirt, sewn his records into his clothing, and taken every precaution humanly possible to guard his instruments against destruction.
"Why," cried Peary, with a savage sneer, "I would not have intrusted those things to my father, mother, or brother, to any human being. They were sewn to me; fastened to me; and would have gone to the bottom of the Arctic with me before I would have turned them over to a soul."
Aside from his scanty equipment, his lack of experience, the condition of his sledge when I saw it at Etah," continued Peary, "aside from the clumsy and poorly made snowshoes that afterwards were alleged to have traveled over 1,700 miles of Arctic ice; aside from the fact that no other explorer ever had negotiated more than eleven degrees, I have further information from all the Eskimos to back me up in my assumption that Cook has not gone over the sea ice to the pole."
"What is your strongest line of proof that Dr. Cook was not at the North Pole?"
"One of my main points will be the strongest that has been advanced in Arctic exploration ever since the first great expedition was sent there — that is, the recognized custom of an explorer, when reaching a point attained by an explorer previously, to make a copy of the records in the cairn there, put it in place of the original, and bring the original back with him. Dr. Cook did not do this.
"At Cape Thomas Hubbard I left a record in 1906. Dr. Cook declares after he left Annotok he went to Cape Thomas Hubbard with his large party of Eskimos. Although he had men enough to make a thorough search he did not do so. He passed the cape twice to the pole as he outlines it, but neither time did he say that he had looked for the cairn. My record is still there. If he can show that record I will accept it as positive proof that he was at Cape Thomas Hubbard.
"It was at Indian Harbor that I received a message saying that Cook was at Copenhagen, and that he was making the claim he had reached the pole.
"It was then that I sent my message saying that I knew Cook had not gone far from land. The two Eskimos who had been his company had assured me of this, and their statements had been corroborated by other Eskimos. I had seen every one of every tribe all the way from Cape Columbia to Cape York. I had visited every settlement in Eskimo land, and had complete corroborative evidence from all as to what the first two had said."
Shortly after this talk, the Peary charges against Cook were lined up as a sort of formal indictment, the "counts" in which ran as follows:
"1. Mr. Peary and Matt Henson, either individually or together, talked with every member of the Smith Sound tribe of Eskimos and obtained testimony that corroborates that of E-tuck-a-shoe and A-pel-lah, the Eskimos who accompanied Dr. Cook, that Dr. Cook had not been out of sight of land.
"2. In violation of a custom of Arctic exploration Dr. Cook has not brought back records left in cairns at points he asserts he had reached, notably the one left at Cape Thomas Hubbard in 1906 by Mr. Peary.
"3. Dr. Cook's story that he traveled from Annotook to the pole and then back to Jones' Sound, a distance of more than twenty-five and one-half degrees, or about 1,700 miles, in one sledging season is impossible. He points out that this is more than twice the best previous record of eleven degrees, and Mr. Peary's best record this year of fourteen degrees.
"4. Cook's general equipment was such that it would be a physical impossibility to have accomplished the feat.
"5. Dr. Cook maintains he carried a glass mercurial horizon on his trip of 1,700 miles, whereas Mr. Peary used a cast-iron horizon, so that it would not only be saved from being broken but could be heated if the mercury froze. This is necessary sometimes, Mr. Peary contends, as mercury freezes at minus 35. Cook reports finding it as cold as minus 73 degrees.
"6 Professor Marvin brought back from 86.38 duplicate records of Mr. Peary's march and of his own to prove absolutely that Mr. Peary reached that latitude.
"7 Captain Bartlett brought back from 87.48 duplicate records of Mr. Peary's march and of his own to prove absolutely that Mr. Peary reached that latitude.
"8 The sledge of Dr. Cook's was of such a type, not built on the lines of any Arctic explorer's sledge, that it could not possibly have lasted for a march of a day with a standard load of 500 or 600 pounds.
"9. Dr. Cook's snowshoes were of an impracticable type for use in the Arctic and were not the kind that would conduce to speed.
"10. Dr. Cook's leaving of his records at Etah was a scheme on his part by which he could claim they were lost or destroyed and so could escape being forced to produce them to substantiate his claims.
NOT GIVE UP FLAG.
"11. No man who had carried the American flag to the pole would leave such a slight and easily transported article in charge of a perfect stranger.
"12. Dr. Cook did have fresh dog teams from Etah and could have carried his burdens to Upernavik.
"13. When Harry Whitney went on board the Jeanie, he did not take time to go back to Etah and get the articles he must have known were valuable to Dr. Cook.
"14. If Dr. Cook did leave such priceless articles at the Eskimo village, Mr. Whitney would have been anxious to have rushed them to the United States."
Dr. Cook, while this broadside was being issued, was delivering the first of his lectures. After it he replied to some of the Peary charges, saying:
"The only sledge Commander Peary saw was half a one, which I had given to Mr. Whitney as a souvenir. The remainder of it had been used to make bows and arrows.
"As to my reasons for leaving my instruments with Mr. Whitney, he had told me that the Eric was coming to Etah and would take him over to the American side to hunt big game and would come back later to Annotook. The distance from Annotook to Upernavik by the route which I was compelled to follow was nearly 700 miles. In that journey I had to travel over high land in two places, with glaciers and difficult places. The ice was extremely rough and there was a good deal of water to be expected that would have subjected the instruments to a risk which was entirely unnecessary, when Mr. Whitney awaited a ship to go to Etah for him upon which he expected to return direct to America.
"By going to Upernavik I hoped to get back by the end of July or the middle of August, while Mr. Whitney did not expect to get back before October.
"As to the charge that I had not found traces of Commander Peary's records at Cape Thomas Hubbard: The point which Commander Peary would call Cape Thomas Hubbard is a round promontory, and it would be difficult to find any distinct point which could be positively recognized as Cape Thomas Hubbard. From Commander Peary's map I am absolutely unable to locate Cape Thomas Hubbard. We did not search for any cairn where records might be deposited. In fact, I did not know that Commander Peary had left any record there."