To Stand at the Pole—The Dr. Cook-Admiral Peary North Pole Controversy. William R. Hunt. Stein and Day, New York, 1981. 288 pages. 21 photographs. $19.95.
To Stand at the Pole is an extremely interesting discussion of the Dr. Cook- Admiral Peary controversy. Both were charter members of the American Alpine Club. An early AAC investigation led to Dr. Cook’s dismissal from the Club. Subsequent investigations have done little or nothing to vindicate Dr. Cook. His blatantly fraudulent claims of having made the first ascent of Mount McKinley have further cut the ground out from under his credibility. Hunt gives us a fascinating and complete history of this intriguing character.
Hunt also presents us with a summary of earlier polar exploration by such Americans as Elisha Kent Kane, Charles Francis Hall, George Washington De Long, George Melville and Adolphus W. Greeley. Much of the rest of the book is dedicated to the still continuing Cook-Peary controversy. Hunt is clearly on the side of Admiral Peary. Much of this material has been aired before as may be seen from his extensive bibliography. One bit of new evidence, in print I believe for the first time, is definitely in favor of Admiral Peary’s having reached the North Pole, a fact disputed by some who also discredit Dr. Cook. This evidence is a letter from Peter Freuchen to Vilhjamur Stefansson, dated November 16, 1934. In the letter, which fills seven pages of text, Freuchen tells of his conversations with Eskimos who had been with Dr. Cook and claimed that they had never strayed from regions they were familiar with. He also knew well Peary’s Eskimos and the story of the Polar dash. “They have told me time after time about it,” he states. Their statements would seem to vindicate Peary.
The book is a valuable addition to those written about this fascinating controversy.