Neithe Non-Fiction. Neither have adequate proof of their accomplishment and both have holes in their accounts. So who was actually first to the Pole?
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Did they even get there at all? The world's been arguing about it ever since. This is written more like a novel than a history, with little authorial distance from the subject. The only place the author is really visible is in the afterword and the footnotes. Anything outside the narrative -- a different perspective, an event that would happen later, the truth -- is added as a footnote so it doesn't interrupt the story, and it creates a kind of falsity, making the information sound like an afterthought or a piece of trivia rather than a necessary part of history. For example, when Peary announces he found new land separated from the north coast of Greenland by a channel, his discovery is only disputed in a footnote.
The channel that Peary named after himself didn't exist, and the land he thought he saw was just another bit of Greenland. That's the kind of thing I'd like to read in the main body of the text, not a footnote. The author does this over and over. Because of this reluctance to interrupt the narrative, the chronology can be a little confusing, especially with simultaneous events. Peary spent close to a decade in the Arctic, so after a while it gets hard to identify which expedition he was on and if it was a new one or just a year tacked on to a previous trip.
It wasn't always clear what year it was, either.
Henderson focuses solely on Cook and Peary, providing little historical context, so the reader doesn't have a great sense of where Cook and Peary fit into the larger search for the North Pole, but it's a pretty thorough look at these two men. Peary was a civil engineer in the US Navy, but spent more than half of his time there on paid leave in the Arctic, and I think it's fair to say he was a narcissistic, toeless asshole who knew a lot of important people and used those connections to promote his expeditions and, later in life, to make Cook's life hell.
Cook was a physician who not only was interested in the North Pole, but was the first American to explore both polar regions, and the first person to circumnavigate and later climb Mount McKinley, though following the North Pole controversy, the latter claim would also be brought into doubt. Thanks to his treatment at the relentless hands of Peary, Cook becomes the Ultimate Woobie. Not that Henderson puts it that way, but it's clear he sympathizes with Cook as he goes out of his way to defend the doctor.
The evidence he offers in support of Cook is slim but looks convincing as long as it's presented in a vacuum, which, as luck would have it, it is. In all, I think this is a balanced account of Peary's and Cook's work together and their rivalry -- almost entirely on Peary's side -- but don't let yourself be drawn in by the pro-Cook propaganda, as the book isn't so balanced when it comes to the doctor's accomplishments. Henderson will make you feel for Cook, after all, he is a more sympathetic character than Peary, but it's more than likely they're both liars, and the evidence meant to defend Cook can just as easily be used to damn him.
I found one factual inaccuracy, and several times where Henderson omitted something that would have been relevant to the subject at hand, but the things he left out weren't biased one way or another, they would have made Cook and Peary look equally bad.
There are two maps of Cook's and Peary's reported routes to the Pole, but it needed at least a third, larger map with more detail. It has source notes for all direct quotes, a bibliography, index, and several pages of black and white photographs. Two stars. It's a good book if you want to read a story about two driven men competing for the Pole, but it's not so great if you're looking for something a little more historically rigorous. I'm not saying Henderson's scholarship is in question, exactly, but the book feels like a novel and it took me a long time to take it seriously.
Toward the end, though, I couldn't put it down. View all 6 comments.
True North: Peary, Cook, and the Race to the Pole
Apr 30, Kivrin rated it really liked it. It was still suspenseful and continued the trend of revealing the truth behind the myths! So Adm Peary turns out to be pretty much a liar and a man interested only in his own version of any story. Cook is the victim of his own bad choices and bad luck. Based on this book alone, I'm pretty much convinced that Cook was the first to reach the North Pole and that Peary probably never made it there at all.
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The book gives some interesting information on the background of each explorer as well as the usual grueling details of their quests to reach the North Pole. Dec 21, Allie rated it really liked it. Before I starting researching a few months ago, I had no clue that Robert Peary's claim on the North Pole was something of a debate, and after reading this account there's a pretty strong argument for Frederick Cook.
Even if he may not have made it first if indeed, either of them did , Cook at least deserves some recognition in exploration history for his sensitivity to the Inuit and interest in chronicling their culture, and Peary deserves a bit more skepticism in regards to his place of honor Before I starting researching a few months ago, I had no clue that Robert Peary's claim on the North Pole was something of a debate, and after reading this account there's a pretty strong argument for Frederick Cook. Even if he may not have made it first if indeed, either of them did , Cook at least deserves some recognition in exploration history for his sensitivity to the Inuit and interest in chronicling their culture, and Peary deserves a bit more skepticism in regards to his place of honor.
Definitely made me want to read more about either side. It took a little bit to get into this book, but once I did, I listened to it everyday on my way home from work as a way to let go of the thoughts of work.
Cook versus Peary: Writings on the Controversy | Roger Launius's Blog
As the polar race progressed, the author's bias did show, but after listening to the whole book, I think some bias towards Cook was really deserved. I shouted this at the CD player more than a few times. Cook most likely found the North Pole first, but his proofs could not be found. Peary most likely missed the Pole.
Polar exploration works much better if you go as a small expedition and work closely with the native peoples, who live there all the time. Eventually the truth will out, although it may take a long, long time. Mar 23, Artguy rated it it was amazing Shelves: non-fiction.
I am not very aware of the controversy surrounding who was the first to reach the North Pole. After reading this, I am on the side of Cook, a remarkable man who seemed to accomplish anything he set his mind to. Perry comes across as a megalomaniac, striving for glory while treading on anyone who gets in his way. Makes you realize that there is the truth, and there is the way the story is reported. In this case, it seems the truth stepped aside while Cook took the brunt of the story that Perry wa I am not very aware of the controversy surrounding who was the first to reach the North Pole.
In this case, it seems the truth stepped aside while Cook took the brunt of the story that Perry wanted to tell, which himself as the hero and Cook as the lying failure. I am now looking forward to reading more on this, seeing what the general accepted story today may be, and coming to a final conclusion once and for all. Mar 12, Franz rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction , history , kindle , This book was excellent! However, it left me with the opinion that Peary's "achievements" should be wiped from the historical record, and his wikipedia entry shortened simply to, "Colossal D-Bag.
A fascinating look at the race to the North Pole. Who got there first, Peary or Cook? The author doesn't say, but insuates that Cook got there first, and Peary probably didn't make it at all. The difficulty of Artic travel is well described, and the arrogance of the white man, especially Peary is shown throughout. These were brave men trying to do something no one had ever done before.
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A sad commentary on the politics of exploration but a good read. A good book that made me want to bash Peary on the head. Cook is a new hero of mine - a man of honor, adventure and integrity.
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I just might think of his journeys every time I stare at the north star. Dec 28, Valorie rated it liked it Shelves: historical-nonfiction , nonfiction. Frederick A.
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Cook or Navy Officer Robert E. Both claimed to have reached it within one year of each other, Cook in April of and Peary in April of Historically, credit for the North Pole discovery has gone to Peary, and much criticism has been aimed at Cook for fabricating his story. Henderson addresses the possibility that Cook may have reached the Pole first and has thus been cheated of his acclamation.