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A Day in History: The First Expedition to the North

4 June 2020

The mysterious and hardly known North Pole or Northern Hemisphere is always a big marvel to humans. Reaching the North Pole was like an unachievable goal for many adventurers. John Cabot, Henry Hudson, James Cook, and many other famous arctic explorers searched for this barren and rigid icy region. And almost each of them wasn’t lucky enough to explore all the wonders of this mysterious region. 

So, who was the first to set foot in the North Pole? 

Expeditions to the North

North Pole Exploration History

The arctic history knows many enthusiastic arctic explorers who sacrificed their lives, money, and efforts to find the Northwest Passage. It was believed to be the unrevealed sea route that connected The Atlantic and The Pacific Oceans above North America. 

Great Britain landed a series of Arctic expeditions to explore the Bering Strait after the Napoleonic wars. In the 1820-30s, sir John Ross and William Edward Parry were among the leading organizers of polar discoveries. But most of their efforts went in vain. 

In 1845, Great Britain did another try to reach the North Pole. The celebrated naval officer Sir John Franklin led a ship crew of 133 people on board. But all of them disappeared in Arctic waters without a trace. 

Hardly could anyone risk the missions to find Sir John Franklin and his sailors in the labyrinths of islands around the Canadian Arctic. In the 1850s, the British Captain Edward Inglefield and Henry Grinnell, a US adventurer, tried to rescue Franklin’s crew. However, none of these attempts were successful. 

Nasty cold, extreme exhaustion and solid ice were the main obstacles for the crew to reach the North Pole. 

Polar expeditions | Ragnar

Not only the British enthusiasts were so bold and fearless in mounting polar expeditions. Austro-Hungarian explorers also jumped on the bandwagon of arctic discoveries. Impressed by a theory of August Petermann about the Gulf Stream, they looked for a navigable route in icy breach. 

In 1872, Julius von Payer from the Austro-Hungarian Empire led an expedition to the North Pole. They were lost for 27 months around icebergs; the crew bumped into an archipelago, which they named on behalf of their emperor – Franz Josef Land. 

So many unlucky efforts were made to discover the North Pole in the nineteenth century. But there was still a silver lining that one day there would be someone who could reach this enchanting 90-degree point. 

Expedition to the North Pole

Who Was the First Person at the North Pole?

It is still a mystery for humanity. We are still questioning the name of this famous arctic explorer who discovered the North Pole. Was it Frederick Albert Cook or Robert Peary? We know that both of them were prominent US adventurers, who knocked on the door and stepped towards enigmatic and inhospitable icy land. And both of them left questions about their “North Pole discovery”. 

So, let’s open Pandora’s box and find out who got to the North Pole first. 

Robert E. Peary had an insatiable craving for the North Pole. Between 1886 and 1909, he mounted about seven or eight exhausting Arctic expeditions. Together with Matthew Alexander Henson and four Intuit men, Robert Peary was believed to reach the North Pole in 1909. 

But did he actually reach the North Pole? Let’s have a look at the facts!

Frederick Albert Cook set off on an Arctic expedition in 1908. He was accompanied by two Intuit men – Ahwelah and Etukishook – to the point where it was believed to be the North Pole, on April 21, 1908. 

North Pole Expeditions

Since then, a heated debate started in world newspapers. It was still unclear who actually explored the North Pole first: Robert E. Peary or Frederick Albert Cook?

In 1909, the National Geographic Society shed light on this issue. After a careful examination of  Cook’s documents, it was declared that Robert E. Peary was the first person who discovered the North Pole. 

Several decades after that, the National Geographic Society decided to reassess Peary’s evidence. And in the 1980s, it was found out that Robert E. Peary didn’t actually get to the North Pole. Some experts consider Matthew Alexander Henson to be the first person who planted a US flag on the 90-degree Northern latitude. 

It is still a mystery who was a true arctic explorer of the Northern Hemisphere. We still cannot say for sure whether it was Robert E.Peary, Mathew Alexander Henson, or Frederick Albert Cook without substantial evidence to back up their discovery.

On April 6, 1969, Sir Wally Herbert, a British explorer, who got to the North Pole by skiing. He crossed a 3.800-mile arctic road from Alaska to Spitsbergen. This way, April 6, 1969 was fully recognized by the international community as an official day for a human to set their foot in the 90-degree northern latitude.

Arctic expedition with Ragnar

See the Majesty of the Arctic


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