To back up what we have just said of the claims of Messrs. Peary and Cook to have discovered the poles, let us briefly quote from two members of the United States House of Representatives on the claims of these men. These remarks were made by capable thinkers after earnest study of the question and they ought to have a good deal of weight. Their speeches were reprinted in the Chicago Examiner, September 24th, 1916.
The Honorable Henry T. Helgesen, representative from North Dakota, said:
"I am satisfied that Peary did not discover the pole, for two reasons:
"1. For all the talk there has been about scientific data brought back by him and furnished as evidence, the fact is that his claim to the discovery in question is backed by his unsupported word, and by nothing else.
"2. All of the other claims to discoveries in the Arctic regions by Peary have been proven false. Why, then, should we accept as true his unsupported statement that he arrived at the pole?
"So much for my reasons for believing that Peary did not reach the pole. Now it remains for me to prove that these reasons are based on facts, and not on mistakes or personal prejudices.
"Peary claims to have discovered the Peary Channel--an alleged northern boundary of Greenland--and, therefore, to have been first to establish the fact that Greenland is an island.
"That discovery alone, if a true one, would be sufficient to establish for Peary a reputation as an explorer. But, unfortunately for him, it has been proved by explorations subsequent to his that no such channel exists.
"The Peary discovery of the channel was made incidentally to his expedition of 1901-1902. Five years later the Danish explorer, Mylius Erichsen, looked in vain for this interesting geographical feature.
"In 1912 the denial of its existence was verified by another explorer, Knud Rasmussen, who reported that he found, where the channel was alleged by Peary to be, no water at all, but 'an ice-free upland, abounding in game'.
"In view of this and other evidence, Peary Channel has been struck off the maps of our navy Department and off the charts of the Coast Survey.
"The Peary Channel was alleged to open at one
end into a great body of water, which Peary called the East Greenland Sea. This sea was mapped by Peary in 1901-1902 as extending from 82 degrees, ten minutes north latitude and 31 degrees west longitude to about 12 degrees west longitude. Here, undeniably was another and very important geographical discovery. But again, unfortunately, the Mylius Erichsen expedition, five years later, ascertained definitely that the vast water-space in question was, all of it, dry land.
"This was verified by the later expeditions of Mikkelsen and Rasmussen. Consequently the East Greenland Sea has been removed from our Government maps.
"But the Navy Department charts of the Arctic still show, to the northwest of Grant Land, an undefined land mass named Crocker Land, which Peary claims to have discovered in 1906. To geographers, Crocker Land offered an obvious and tempting invitation; and, accordingly, in 1913, an expedition was sent out by the American Museum of Natural History to explore it. The expedition got back not long ago, with the report that 'there was no such place'. The site of the alleged Crocker Land was wholly occupied by a broad expanse of polar sea.
"So Crocker Land, like other Peary discoveries, must vanish from the Government and other maps.
"In 1900, Captain Otto Sverdrup, a Norwegian explorer, discovered a big island off the coast of
[paragraph continues] Greenland which he mapped under the name of Axel Heiberg Land. Subsequently, Peary declared that he had 'seen it first' two years earlier, and gave it the name of Jesup Land. It was put down that way on our government maps.
"Peary, in his book, 'Nearest the Pole', published in 1907, says (page 202) that in July, 1898, he saw this land mass from 'the heights of the Ellesmere Land ice-cap.'
"This statement is really rather remarkable; for on pages 296-297 of the same book, Peary says that he spent all the time from July 4th to August 13th of that year in making the trip from New York to Cape York, and in 'hunting walruses and assembling my party of natives' in the immediate neighborhood of the latter place.
"He was thus simultaneously in two places separated from each other by 300 miles. But, even though gifted with supernatural vision, he could hardly have seen Axel Heiberg Land (alias Jesup Land) where he locates it descriptively, because it is much further south and a good deal farther west.
"Evidence in this case being deemed ample, the Government maps and the maps of the National Geographical Society have eliminated Jesup Land and have put Axel Reiberg Land in quite another place, the Geographical Society giving Sverdrup full credit for the discovery.
"Peary Channel being proved a myth it follows
that Peary is wrongly credited with having discovered that Greenland is an island. Undoubtedly, Greenland is an island. The fact, however, was not proved by Peary. It was satisfactorily determined by the Greely expedition of 1882--ten years before Peary.
"Inasmuch as Peary's other so-called discoveries have, each and every one been disproved, how can his latest claim to the discovery of the Pole be accepted on his unsupported word, which is all he has to back him up?
"Peary himself says that an explorer's proof must fundamentally be based upon his past record. But what has been Peary's record? . . . . .
"Certainly he has offered no proof. Two secretaries of the Navy, (the service in which he was employed), have said that they have never received any data from Peary to substantiate his statement that he reached the Pole.
"Peary claimed that all his data were given to the Coast Survey.
"The only proofs received from Peary by the Coast Survey were a set of tidal observations all made at coast points and none of them made on the sledge expedition en route to or returning from the place Peary chose to call the Pole. In addition to these there was only a set of alleged soundings, respecting
which the story he tells is so contradictory as to discredit them prima facie.
"At a Congressional 'hearing', Mr. Tittman, then Superintendent of the Coast Survey was asked: 'What evidence is there that this party consisting of Peary and others, reached within striking distance of the Pole?'
"Mr. Tittman replied: 'I have no evidence of that, except the line of soundings under Peary's signature'.
"Peary brought back nothing--no witnesses, no worthwhile scientific proof, nothing but his unsupported word to back up his claim to have discovered the pole. But, inasmuch as his reputation for veracity has been completely shattered by the fact that every other claim of discovery made by him has proven false, there is nothing that the world can accept as demonstrating that at any time he has been anywhere near the Pole."
And here is what the Honorable S. D. Fess, representative from Ohio has to say about Cook's claim:
"It is well for us to remember that the forum selected by Dr. Cook for the determination of his claims was the University of Copenhagen. He sent it what he declared were his proofs of his alleged discovery of the North Pole.
"The committee's final verdict and the verdict of the university consistory is expressed formally in the finding of the latter:
"'The documents handed the university for examination do not contain observations and information which can be regarded as proof that Dr. Cook reached the North Pole on his recent expedition.'
"Rasmussen, a noted Arctic explorer, who has favored Dr. Cook's claim, was called in as an expert by the university's committee; he is reported as saying:
"'When I saw the observations I realized that it was a scandal. The documents which Dr. Cook sent to the university are most impudent. It is the most childish sort of attempt at cheating.'"
And the Congressman quotes other authorities to the same effect and reviews Cook's methods, both in other matters and after he had returned from the north. But we do not need to follow him into those details. We have quoted enough already to serve the purpose of showing that the skepticism which we expressed in the last chapter about the claims of Peary and Cook is fully justified and held generally by intelligent men who have looked into the matter.
The above was written some months before the death of Rear-Admiral Peary, and had it been writ-ten either after his death or while he was in danger of
death its controversial tone might have been modified in deference to the man. For it is not the personality of Peary which we are discussing but the scientific results of his voyages. He was a brave man, a devoted scientist, and an explorer of the first rank. Dedicating himself to Arctic exploration at an early age, making dash after dash to the far northern regions as well as many quite successful surveying and mapping trips during which the actual discovery of the so-called pole was not his objective, his whole life is an example of which his countrymen may well be proud. That he worked on a theory of the polar regions which this book shows to be false, is not to his discredit. He had to take the data and deductions of science as he found them. His job was not to theorize so much as it was to explore. This he did to the best of his ability--and that ability was great. If we have seemed in the foregoing pages to impugn his results we would here stress the fact that we regard him not in any way as an untrustworthy witness but simply as the victim of a false idea of the nature of the earth. Had he worked in the light of our theory his results would have been different. To say, as we have said in the preceding pages, that his observations and reports are self-contradictory is not to dishonor Peary. Does not Nansen also say the same thing of his observations? As long as we have Nansen's own confession that he could not find his way, had no idea where he was, and actually
found that his observations were quite out of keeping with the facts--as long as we have this confession from Nansen there is certainly no imputation of either incompetence or dishonesty in saying that Peary was likewise misled.
We say this in justice to the memory of a brave man who, had he lived, would have undoubtedly been one of the fairest-minded critics of our own theory and who would have been the first to take an interest in any attempt to place it among the certainties of science by the method of actual exploration.