Robert E. Peary facts
How a Scotsman tried to steal the North Pole from Peary

"... beyond healthy controversy lies darker and more dubious ground."

Gilbert Grosvenor, National Geographic Society, 1990

(below) The Scotsman, who tried to steal Peary's Pole, smoking pipe.

(above) Aircraft delivered over 100,000 pounds of stuff for Herbert's camping trip. How this made him an "expert" on Peary is anyone's guess.

(below) Evidence Wally ignored!

This simple ocean depth map makes Herbert's drift theory impossible. Herbert also made a mistake when he overlooked wind direction comments contained in Peary's diary.

(below) This is how "iron man" Peary and his team did it in 1909 with 18 years of polar experience.

"We are restoring the dignity of legendary men who had a worthy goal - to be the first to reach an axis of the earth; to stand on top of the world. They did it and they fully deserve to be honored for that."

(below) Photo Peary never used that, with today's technology, proves they reached the Pole!

Dennis Rawlins

(above) Peary never used this overexposed photo for proof, nor another one taken at the Pole that show the sun. In fact, anti-Peary writer Rawlins conjectured that it was too bad such photos didn't exist, as they would prove Peary was not at the Pole. When 2 such pictures were found among the negatives at the National Geographic Rawlins simple changed his story and claimed they were deliberate fakes Peary staged to prove he was at the Pole. But Rawlins argument begs the simple question "Then why didn't Peary use them?" No one cares about Rawlins viewpoints ever since his famous press briefing that destroyed any credibility he may have had.

Herbert used conspiracy theories and innuendo to try and destroy Peary's credibility, not hard evidence. This remarkable photo, above, was actually discovered by the Navigation Foundation when they investigated the Peary matter. It is the abundance of evidence of this high quality that has ended all the traditional anti-Peary debates that started with the vindictive book by polar fraud Dr. Cook.

1910 lecture series, Reserved seats $1, $2, and $3.

The rumor that Peary may have missed the North Pole by up to 60 miles may be approaching "urban legend status".

But is totally untrue.


In the last 15 years a certain segment of the public have begun to believe it is true without any substantial proof. Here is an example from The encyclopedia Britannica concise (at Yahoo!) that delivers this misinformation: "Examination of Peary's expedition diary and new documents in the 1980s suggested he may only have reached a point 30-60 mi (50-100 km) short of the pole."

One should ask "who examined Peary's diary?" And the answer is Wally Herbert.  And also ask, what are these "new documents"? The answers to that is that there were no new documents. But who is Wally?
What happened? Well, its a long story.

Briefly, the National Geographic was disgusted by the efforts of the anti-Peary conspiracy—a vendetta perpetuated by Dr. Cook's daughter—that led to a TV movie starring Richard Chamberlain as Dr. Cook.

This Janet Vetters production portrayed Peary and Henson as too dumb to find the North Pole with Dr. Cook as the hero who was cheated out of his discovery. Absolutely untrue. But it was on TV and millions of innocent people viewed it. Chamberlain was a cute looking "good guy" so public sentiment was on his side--even though he was portraying a real life criminal.

The National Geographic commissioned Wally Herbert, an unemployed writer who once went to the North Pole, to examine Peary's diary and other records at the National Archives.
(below) TV movie perverted true history when it glorified the long dead fraud perpetrated by hoaxer Crook.
When they commissioned him to write an article for the NGS magazine they fully expected that his research would be honest. What happened next has perverted American history, outraged Gil Grosvenor of the National Geographic, and alienated numerous people who helped Herbert.

Herbert lied about the contents of the Peary diary! Wherein Peary mentions numerous times reaching the Pole and returning from it Wally said the opposite. He could only get away with this at that time since the diary was a rare document kept by and cherished by the Peary family. It had never before been available to public inspection. Ah ha! Herbert was the first to gain access to it and he could say whatever he wanted about the contents and no one could refute him!

No one that was until the National Archives made the microfilm publicly available. Then it became web published for all to read. No longer can Wally Herbert lie about its contents. We can all read it now and see that it is a true record of the polar achievement.

Wally Herbert, you see, is a British citizen. Apparently he realized that if he pushed Peary off the North Pole pedestal he could claim his own 1969 dog sledge trip as first to reach the North Pole. So he wrote a book comprised of a mass of slurs & innuendos towards Peary (his mother dressed him as a girl, he was too obsessed with fame, he took the "unreliable witness" Henson (a Negro) to the Pole, Peary was a "weather beaten old fanatic, etc.) and a theory that the expedition drifted west. How could Herbert try to repudiate the findings of the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain from 75 years ago?
The Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain did not agree with Wally Herbert 
"...the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain accorded Peary the highest honor within their power, ... on May 4, 1910, at a meeting of the society in Albert Hall, London...Charles Darwin, extended to him, in the presence of its members, the fullest assurance of ... "Commander Peary, as the first and only human being who has ever led a party of his fellow creatures to a pole of the earth"...Admiral Peary laid before the Royal Geographical Society additional proofs of his attainment of the Pole and supplemental to those previously submitted. This was not done at their request, but voluntarily, that there might be no question hereafter as to the action of that world-famous organization being based upon adequate examination of Admiral Peary’s proofs. ...the Royal Geographical Society wrote Admiral Peary advising him that the documents he sent had been “most thoroughly and critically examined.” Both these letters are set out in full in the record of the proceedings before our congressional investigating committee..." (Fess, 1915)

Herbert's book was an outrage
. His self serving motive to be greater than Peary was all too obvious, his "conspiracy theory point of view" made him seem paranoid. But far worse, his "theories" were shown to be demonstrably incorrect. Herbert made numerous errors, and did not have information as fundamental as the ocean floor depth map (left column) made from Peary's depth soundings. That fact alone tosses Herbert's theory out the window. The diary he examined? That was a misrepresentations of an historical document. The Herbert description of it is just short of ridiculous. The entire Peary diary is being posted on the Internet so that anyone can examine it themselves. (June, 2002)

Herbert's biases & mistakes
1) "Many of the Bryce reviews (Cook & Peary) bow down to Herbert. One refers to him as a navigational expert. ...Herbert was not the navigator on his own trip and frankly admits he doesn't know anything about celestial navigation.

2) "...Herbert keeps harping on "proof" but ...when Wally got to the Pole (1969), they took some pictures holding flags, because, "what other proof could we offer?"

3) "...he is a conspiracy theorist...constantly looking for some ulterior motive. For example, and entire chapter on the 1906 farthest north is entitled "The first day of dark." ... What does first day of dark mean, Wally wonders? ... It must refer to some mood that came over Peary, because he knew he wasn't going to make the Pole, or even a farthest north, and would have to fake it. Buzzzzz. Wrong, Wally.

Anyone familiar with Peary's handwriting knows that he leaves the bottom of cursive s's open, so they look like cursive r's. ...first day of dash (handwriting) only looks like first day of dark. The diary starts on the first day of the final northward dash..." (text derived from Doug Davies)


Gil Grosvenor of the NGS then commissioned the Navigation Foundation to do a formal investigation of the Peary record. The report they issued was a landmark work that fully vindicated Peary. Peary told the truth, and they found ample proof of his correct position. They uncovered new evidence and used new techniques to authenticate photos. You may read their report for yourself on the Internet.

Despite the repudiation of Noose of Laurels
, Wally Herbert was a hero back home in England. The Queen made him "Sir" Wally. Why? Well, this harkens back to an old wound the British people have about being polar losers with both the North and the South Pole. Their bunglers were Scott who killed himself and his entire expedition, and Shackelton who had a knack for repeated failure. English enmity towards Peary stems from the fact that 133 nautical miles before the Pole Peary went on with Henson, while Bartlett returned to land. Bartlett was a British subject. Get it? If Peary had taken Bartlett to the Pole, then the event would be shared by both nations. Instead Peary took his Negro assistant so he would not have to share the victory with anyone. Negroes, like Eskimos and Indians, had no place in turn of the century white society. (Sorry, Matt.)

Are you getting all this? There is literally hatred towards Peary for numerous "reasons"—not taking a Brit, for being a "spoiled" upper class Naval officer, for taking a Negro to the Pole, for insulting the "claim jumper" (and colossal fraud) Dr. Cook, for being obsessed with fame, for supposedly exaggerating a mere fiord he discovered by naming it Independence Bay in honor of July 4th (Brits are still sore about the rebellion of "the colonies"), for mistaking a glacier packed valley, 4,000 feet below him, for a channel, and because his mother dressed him as a girl. (No, I'm not kidding)

Suffice it to say that all of this Peary controversy is directly traced back to the colossal fraud Dr. Cook and the anti-Peary conspiracy he began on the Chautauqua circuit and turned into a family legacy which lives on today through the $1,000,000 Cook Society trust fund.
Shedding light on the myth
Doug Davies became aware of the Peary situation while working on the Navigation Foundation Report in 1989. He discovered that there is abundant evidence supporting Peary's achievement, and no legitimate evidence refuting it. Every fact agrees that Peary did reach the North Pole, exactly as he had stated, within the limits of accuracy of his sextant.

Peary's 1909 achievement
was neither doubted by the press nor the public despite Frederick Cook's claim to have reached the Pole before Peary. While Cook was quickly exposed as a fraud, Peary's success was constantly accepted.

The roots of this contemporary controversy
can be directly traced to Cook's vindictive book, My Attainment of the Pole, written with encouragement from his supporters in 1911. Cook joined the Chautauqua lecture circuit for many years to promote this book while publishing additional editions totaling 60,000 copies. These were sold as he traveled from city to city. Many copies were given to the press.

By 1917 a Cook supporter, Thomas Hall, published a similar anti-Peary work Has the North Pole Been Discovered? Cook also had a congressman lobbying on his behalf. These events became the basis of all subsequent literature claiming Peary was a fraud. After Cook's death in 1940 his descendents perpetuated what became a family vendetta to discredit Peary. 

Cook's grand daughter,
Janet Vetters, was a tireless troublemaker who hounded 80 year old members of Peary's expedition to make statements supportive of Cook. None would oblige her. Vetters' correspondence, now preserved in archives, shows that she encouraged numerous writers to publish books or magazine articles supporting Cook. She was able to inspire a TV movie starring Richard Chamberlain as an innocent Fred Cook cheated out of his North Pole achievement by Peary. This created a series of events leading to Wally Herbert's publication (1988) of the worst anti-Peary work ever written; Noose of Laurels.

From Vetter's will in 1989 was born the $1,000,000.00 tax-exempt, trust-funded Frederick A. Cook Society. This not for profit corporation pays for endless pro-Cook propaganda to writers, the media, and all major encyclopedias. They provided materials, for example, that assisted Robert Bryce to produce his 1100 page biography of Cook (1997) that claimed to prove Peary never reached the Pole.

Referring to Peary critics in 1990 the National Geographic Society's (NGS) Gilbert Grosvenor had written "... beyond healthy controversy lies darker and more dubious ground." In an effort to fairly resolve this matter the Society commissioned the Navigation Foundation to examine all evidence of Peary's North Pole expedition.

Their report was published in a book and also as an article that appeared in the January, 1990 NGS Magazine titled New Evidence Places Peary at the Pole by Thomas D. Davies, Rear Admiral USN (Ret.) . Admiral Davies' son Douglas assisted with research for this and for the book length Navigation Foundation Report.

Doug's involvement led to a permanent interest in this area of history. He now enjoys a collection of all the major books on this subject in addition to the celestial navigation instruments, including a mercury artificial horizon, and Waltham watches like Peary used. Doug has the same model Kodak camera Peary used in 1909. With this he has refined the accuracy of photogrammetric tests used to determine Peary's 1909 latitude.

Doug Davies is the only writer on this subject who can explain with reliable authority how each Peary critic went wrong. An attorney by profession, Doug  brings a highly educated and disciplined intellect to this subject. He has an expert understanding of the scientific and mathematical aspects of this subject coupled with extensive factual knowledge of Peary's expeditions. Doug's examinations of the classic Peary myths are not simply a matter of his opinion, but rather of demonstrable fact that will satisfy any intelligent person.

You will find Davies forensic historical re-examination redeems our historical past while providing the reader a rewarding and enlightening journey. He applies brilliance to a murky area that had virtually swallowed up a heroic team comprised of a Naval officer, his black assistant, 4 loyal Inuit guides, and their ship load of team mates. Davies restores the honor of legendary men who had a worthy goal— to be the first to reach an axis of the earth; to stand on top of the world.

Russell R. Robinson, April, 2002


© 2002 by Russell R. Robinson. All rights reserved.