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Tag: Robert Peary

“The pole at last!”

When Robert Peary wrote “The pole at last!!!” into his diary on April 6, 1909, he had no idea that his claim would be disputed for the next several decades by experts who doubted that he and Matthew A. Henson were the first men to reach the North Pole.

Marie Peary Stafford had no such doubts, but her mission was equally difficult to complete. In 1932 she headed to a remote part of Greenland to erect a monument to her father’s accomplishments.

Marie had been born in Greenland while her father was on an expedition there, and she was now returning to the remote country with her two sons. She had raised the money and had the plans for the monument—56 feet high with decorative marble Ps at the top—created by a Boston firm. They charted the schooner Morrissey, and when they sailed away from the dock, Matthew Henson was on the shore to wave them off.

The expedition was recorded by a cameramen hired to film the events, but Marie’s diary revealed that she struggle to maintain control over mounting problems.

In a her Prologue article detailing Marie’s journey, National Archives preservation specialist Audrey Amidon notes that the five master stonemasons turned out to be “a bricklayer, two stonecutters, a painter, and a carpenter.” When the cement froze and the workers attempted … [ Read all ]

Exploring the polar regions

As frigid temperatures cover much of the country, and many areas are still dealing with record amounts of snow, my thoughts turn to the polar explorers of the early 20th century. They didn’t have Goretex jackets with superwarm linings, satellite communications, or portable computers. Our “Pieces of History” blog takes its name from a regular feature on the last page of the print version of Prologue, and today I’m sharing a vintage print ”Piece” about an unusual artifact found in the polar archives collection at the National Archives.

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“The Pole at last!!!” With these words Robert E. Peary began his diary entry for April 6, 1909. His team, he believed, had become the first to reach the top of the world, a dream he had pursued for 20 years. In those years, Peary made eight expeditions to the Arctic region, three specifically to reach the Pole. As Peary’s papers make clear, supplying such expeditions was a tremendous task. Clothing, tents, food, cooking utensils—everything needed to survive Arctic temperatures for months—had to be packed in on foot and by dog sledge. The explorers also required scientific instruments so they could make observations, determine their locations, and gather data to record their progress.

Along with a sextant, telescope, and artificial horizon, the Peary Family Collection in the National Archives includes the explorer’s theodolite. A … [ Read all ]