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Robert Edwin Peary

Robert Peary is the first person to reach the North Pole. He did so in 1909 with Matthew A. Henson, and four what was then called Eskimos.

Robert E. Peary was born on May 6th, 1856 in Cresson, Pennsylvania. He grew up in southern Maine and graduated as a civil engineer. He moved to Washington where he met Henson, his partner for many expeditions.

In 1905 Peary’s ship, the Roosevelt, was built and set off on an expedition into the Arctic.

In 1908, after having already attempted two trips to the North Pole, Peary and his party sailed to Ellesmere Island in Northern Canada USS Roosevelt. In early March, 1909, the expedition which included Henson and Peary plus Dr. John W. Goodsell, Donald B. MacMillion, Ross G. Marvin, George Borup and Captain Robert Bartlett, left their base camp at Cape Columbia and headed north in dog sleds. Henson had built the sleds himself.

Peary reached the pole on April 6th in 1909 only with few men with him, while many of the original crew had turned back. It is though thought that the expedition was 50-100km short of reaching the actual pole because of navigational mistakes that were made. The U.S. Congress nevertheless recognized his achievement in 1911 and in 1990, the National Geographic Society investigated Peary's claim and concluded that he was as close to the Pole as navigational equipment in his time could confirm.

Upon his return on his last expedition he wrote: "My life work is accomplished... I have got the North Pole out of my system. After 23 years of effort, hard work, disappointments, hardships, privations, more or less suffering, and some risks, I have won the last great geographical prize."

Peary died on February 20th, 1920, at the age of 63.

Sources: The Arctic by Richard Sale Polar Reaches by RIchard Sale

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