Frederick Cook bigraphy, stories - American explorer and physician

Frederick Cook : biography

June 10, 1865 - August 5, 1940

Frederick Albert Cook (June 10, 1865August 5, 1940) was an American explorer and physician, noted for his claim of having reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908. This would have been a year before April 6, 1909, the date claimed by Robert Peary.Henderson, B. 2009, pp. 58–69


North Pole

After the Mount McKinley expedition, Cook returned to the Arctic in 1907. He planned to attempt to reach the North Pole, although his intention was not announced until August 1907, when he was already in the Arctic. He left Annoatok, a small settlement in the north of Greenland, in February 1908. Cook claimed that he reached the pole on April 22, 1908 after traveling north from Axel Heiberg Island, taking with him only two Inuit men, Ahpellah and Etukishook. On the journey south, he claimed to have been cut off from his intended route to Annoatok by open water. Living off local game, his party was forced to push south to Jones Sound, spending the open water season and part of the winter on Devon Island. From there they traveled north, eventually crossing Nares Strait to Annoatok on the Greenland side in the spring of 1909, allegedlyContra R. Bryce, 1997 almost dying of starvation during the journey.

Cook and his two companions were gone from Annoatok for 14 months, and their whereabouts in that period is a matter of intense controversy. In the view of Canadian historian Pierre Berton (Berton, 2001), Cook's story of his trek around the Arctic islands is probably legitimate; others put more faith in the story told by Cook's companions to later investigators. It has been suggested that Cook’s account actually describes his attainment of Jules Verne’s "Pole du Froid" (Pole of Cold), which was much easier to reach and to locate than the North Pole. If so, Cook might have altered the geographical details of his journey south through the islands to mislead investigators and cover up this fictional and largely forgotten pole. This would account for the discrepancy between his account and that of his companions. There are striking similarities between Ahpellah and Etukishook's sketched route of their journey south and the route taken by the fictional shipwrecked explorers in Jules Verne's novel "The English at the North Pole". For example, the route the two Inuit traced on a map goes right over both the Pole of Cold and the wintering site of the fictional expedition, and both expeditions went to the same area of Jones Sound in hope of finding a whaling ship to take them to civilization. For details, see Osczevski (2003) "Frederick Cook and the Forgotten Pole".

Cook's claim was initially widely believed. But it was disputed by Cook's now-rival polar explorer Robert Peary, who claimed to have reached the North Pole himself in April 1909. Cook initially congratulated Peary for his achievement, but Peary and his supporters launched a campaign to discredit Cook, even enlisting the aid of socially-prominent persons outside the field of science such as football coach Fielding H. Yost (as related in Fred Russell's 1943 book, I'll Go Quietly).

Cook never produced detailed original navigational records to substantiate his claim to have reached the North Pole. He claimed that his detailed records were part of his belongings contained in three boxes, which he left at Annoatok in April 1909 in the keeping of Harry Whitney, an American hunter who had traveled to Greenland with Peary the previous year. According to Cook's account, he was unable to bring back the boxes, because his two companions had returned to their village and there was insufficient manpower at Annoatok for a second sledge for the onward 700-mile journey south to Upernavik. When Whitney tried to bring Cook's belongings with him on his return to the USA on Peary's ship, Peary refused to allow them on board. So Whitney left Cook's boxes in a cache in Greenland. They were never found. Eventually, on December 21, 1909, a commission at the University of Copenhagen, after having examined evidence submitted by Cook, sentenced that the records didn't contain proof that Cook reached the Pole.

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