FIRST TO THE POLE
Su,—I was much interested to read Mr. Brock's letter in defence of Peary's claim to have reached the North Pole. I spent the summer of 1909 on the west coast of Newfoundland, and ended by taking a trip up the Labrador coast. just before I sailed from Bay of Islands the news of Cook's polar claim came in, and before we actually sailed a reporter from St. John's joined the ship with the news that Peary was on his way down the Labrador coast and claimed to have been at the North Pole. The reporter hoped to meet The Roosevelt on its way South.
We ran into The Roosevelt in Battle Harbour. She had just come in and the dogs were being taken ashore. I attached myself to the news- paperman and together we hastened to pay our respects to Commander Peary. He received our congratulations with these words, which I have never forgotten: "I, an American citizen, am the only white man to have reached the North Pole." Prepared as I was for hero-worship, I was rather shocked by these words. It was so obvious that the black com- panionship had been chosen so that Peary would be "the only white man." I spent several days on board The Roosevelt, a good deal of the time in the cabin of Bob Bartlett, the Newfoundland skipper who had taken the ship so very far north. He confided to me that Peary had promised him before the expedition started that he would be his companion on the last lap to the Pole, if they got anywhere near.
The case against Peary ever having been at the Pole is very strong. I was struck in later conversation with him by his continual emphasis on the wonderful change in ice conditions after Bartlett had gone back and Peary was left alone with his black cook. Peary's record when he was a younger man for travelling over fibe-ice was about 20-odd miles. On this occasion he claimed to have travelled 70 miles on three successive days. I can't understand Mr. Brock's story about the operator in "New- foundland or Labrador" receiving Cook's despatch. Cook didn't return by Newfoundland. He turned up in Copenhagen. The wireless station in Battle Harbour had just been opened. I spent quite a lot of time listening to Peary sending his story to New York from there. I would recommend Mr. Brock to study the considerable literature on the subject. Many things which puzzled me at the time when I was on board Peary's ship became clear to me as I followed the subsequent controversy.—Yours, &c.,