Reaching the North Pole
Robert E. Peary was the first person to get to the North Pole. It is also said that Fredrick A. Cook was the first one. It is hard to tell for sure who was the first one because there isn’t much evidence to look at except their word. The North Pole is also a sea with a bunch of floating ice, so there isn’t really a way to mark that you’ve been there. It was so hard to get there because compasses don’t work and much of the Arctic and Antarctic weren’t even mapped. You have to use a chronometer and a sextant to tell where you are. A chronometer is an instrument used to keep time accurately, and a sextant is an instrument that is used to determine latitude and longitude by using the sun.
Fredrick announced that him and two Inuit companions had reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908. They supposedly had a hard time coming back south because of bad weather and drifting ice, and they had to stay in an ice cave. Robert announced that he had reached the North Pole a week later with his companion Matthew Henson. Robert claimed the Fredrick was a fraud. Robert had the big sponsors New York Times and the National Geographic Society. Fredrick was ok with sharing the spotlight with Robert, but Robert wasn’t ok with it. He was a very driven man that had tried three times to get to the North Pole.
What made it questionable about Fredrick was that he claimed to be the first one to reach the top of Mt. McKinley in Alaska. He had been called into question for it. Critics felt like if he lied about Mt. McKinley that he could lie again. Robert’s claim didn’t take long to cover up the claim of unknown Fredrick. When they both got back, they both wrote books about their journey, and they both became bestsellers. These books also fueled the debate between who got there first.
Without modern technology explorers had to keep a well-detailed diary with navigational calculations of their travel. They had to go to the nearest town to even be able to share their discoveries since radio transmission was limited. It has been researched over 90 years and they still don’t know who actually made it. The world may never know.
Reaching the South Pole
Roald Engebreth Gravning Amundsen was the first to get to the South Pole. He was a powerfully built man that was born into a family of merchant sea captains in Norway. When he was young he slept with his window open so it prepared him for the Arctic air. To establish him as a sailor and an explorer he successfully led a 70-foot boat the entire way through the Northwest Passage. The Northwest Passage is a route that goes between Canada’s Arctic islands and Northern Canada’s mainland and is full of ice. It took three years for him and his crew to get all the way through because they had to wait for ice to thaw.
When he got back to Norway, he heard that Englishman Ernest Shackleton was going to try to get to the South Pole. Shackleton however didn’t make it all the way to the South Pole. He had to abandon his journey 97 miles away from making it. Amundsen studied Shackleton’s journey so he could prepare for his own journey. When he started preparing for the journey, he made sure that his crew members would be suitable.
By August 1910, he was ready to leave for the South Pole. He was keeping it a secret that he was going to the South Pole. Everyone thought that he was going to the North Pole, but he already knew that Robert Peary and Fredrick Cook had claimed to make it. He even kept it secret from the Norwegian government because he didn’t want them to make it a race against Great Britain, whom they were dependent on. When he was off the coast of Morocco, he announced that he was going to the South Pole.
Since sled dogs were a crucially part to the journey, he made sure that he got dogs that were a good fit for being in the Arctic. They even called them their children since they were the ones to determine if they got to the South Pole or not. On October 18, 1911 Amundsen and his crew set off from the Bay of Whales for the final stretch. On December 7th Amundsen got pass the point where Shackleton had to turn back. On December 14, 1911 Amundsen put the Norwegian flag in the ground at the South Pole at 3 p.m. It took 99 days and 1,860 miles to get there after they left the bay. On January 25, 1912 they got back to their base camp.
That wasn’t Amundsen’s only Arctic journey. In 1926 he flew over the North Pole in a dirigible. The Arctic also claimed his life too. He went on a rescue mission in 1928, and Amundsen’s plane went down into the Arctic Ocean killing him. That same year Amundsen talked to a journalist about his love for the Arctic. He said, “If only you knew how splendid it is up there, that’s where I want to die.”