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Arctic explorer Robert Peary reached the geographic North Pole

Posted in America, Exploration on Monday, 17 December 2012

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This edited article about Robert Edwin Peary originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 799 published on 7th May 1977.

Robert Edward Peary, picture, image, illustration

Robert Edward Peary by James E McConnell

When Robert Edwin Peary who was born on 6th May 1856, joined the U.S. Navy in 1881, he already had a strong interest in Arctic exploration.

Ten years later, Peary was placed in charge of a polar expedition, which set out from McCormick Bay and reached the north-east coast of Greenland, thus proving that Greenland was an island.

It was then that Peary became determined to be the first man to reach the North Pole.

In 1902, with the African American explorer, Matt Henson, and an Eskimo, he advanced to 84 degrees 18′, the highest latitude so far reached in the Northern Hemisphere.

His next attempt was made easier by the construction of the Roosevelt, the first ship built in the United States for the sole purpose of Arctic exploration.

The Roosevelt sailed from New York on 16th July, 1905, and in the following February Peary and his party started out with sleds across the ice. On the 26th April, 1906, they reached 87 degrees 6′, but only by suffering severe hardships, and the return journey was made with great difficulty.

However, Peary was by no means deterred. In 1908, he set out again in the Roosevelt. After wintering in Grant Land, the explorer and a party of six started from Cape Columbia on the 1st March, 1909.

By the end of the month, they had reached 87 degrees 48′ N, at which point Captain Bartlett, the only white man left with Peary, turned back.

But Peary, Matt Henson and four Eskimos pushed on, finally reaching the North Pole on the 6th April, 1909.

Peary’s perseverance at last had been rewarded – a brave exploit which was marked by his promotion to Rear-Admiral in 1911. He died in Washington, D.C., in 1920.

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