War Of The North Pole
( Originally Published 1910 )
IN September 1st news was received by telegraph
On the Brussels Observatory, that Dr. F. A. Cook, an American explorer, who had been given up for dead by his friends, had reached the North Pole on April 21st, 1908. Three days later Dr. Cook landed at Copenhagen to relate his story to an all-expectant world. He was received by the King of Denmark, and royally fêted in honour of the event.
Whilst these festivities were in progress, and congratulations were being showered upon the explorer, the Governor of Newfoundland received a wireless telegram from Labrador from Commander Peary, intimating that he had taken possession of the Pole in the month of April of the present year, and offering the same as a gift to President Taft, as representing the United States Government.
Thus, in the course of a single week, were the claims of two rival American explorers dramatically proclaimed to the world.
The fact that Dr. Cook did not bring his instruments and records with him when he sailed for Europe aroused suspicion in the minds of many as to the genuine character of his claim to have reached the Pole. This suspicion has been strengthened by the fierce opposition of Commander Peary to Dr. Cook and the allegations he has brought against him.
That Commander Peary is not an unbiassed critic of Dr. Cook is evident from the fact that it has been his own great ambition to be the first explorer to reach the Pole. He has devoted his whole life to this one object. Writing in his diary in 1906 when he had reached 87 deg. 6 min., or within 200 miles of the Pole, he gives expression to this desire :
" I thanked God with as good a grace as possible for what we had been able to accomplish, though it was but an empty bauble compared with the splendid jewel I had been striving for."
The controversy continues to be waged with heat by the rival explorers and their followers in the States. Had one of the explorers been an Englishman, it is possible that even the Budget would have succumbed to international complications. Happily for once Englishmen are spectators of what Mr. Chesterton rightly interprets as an amusing episode of the present year.