In the last half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century the compulsion to be the first person to reach the North Pole drove much, if not all, Arctic exploration. It was no simple matter to reach the North Pole in those days. First of all, no one knew what to expect. The North Pole existed only as a theoretical point on blank charts, a point where the meridians met. Was it on land, was it on sea ice? A few individuals even claimed there was a huge hole there leading to the center of earth.
The most famous of the early Polar explorers was Robert “I must have fame” Peary, but his attempts in 1900, 1906 and 1909 were preceded by fifty years of prior exploration that he was able to build on. Those endeavors along with the final attempt of Peary to reach the North Pole in 1909 went a long toward filling in the blank areas on the charts and maps of the Arctic.
This was especially true for the map of northern Greenland. By the time he attempted to reach the North Pole in 1909 Peary had mapped most of Greenland’s north coast. In 1900 he had rounded its northernmost cape and proceeded on for another sixty nautical miles. This expedition located the world’s northernmost land, Cape Morris Jesup, and also mapped a small island that would someday supplant the Cape at the top of the world.
My book Beyond the Edge relates how early attempts to reach the North Pole led to important discoveries in northern Greenland. The book adds to the lore of these early North Pole explorers and brings to light the names of those who accomplished more recent discoveries.
Interested in learning more about the North Pole and North Pole explorers? Get your copy of Beyond the Edge today!