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100 Years Ago: Explorers’ rival claims

09 September 2009

September 10th, 1909.

[On 3 September 1909, the Church Times had commented cautiously on a telegram from Dr F. A. Cook, an American traveller, which an­nounced that his “dash” for the North Pole, as the paper called it, had been “successful”.]

WHEN we were all engaged in weighing the probability of Dr Cook’s discovery of the North Pole, lo and behold! we are informed that Commander Peary has also found, and, what is more, that he saw no evidence of Dr Cook’s having been there before him. That Peary has achieved his long quest everybody seems prepared to believe, but Dr Cook’s story has been met with incredulity, and it remains for him to substantiate it with evidence that cannot be doubted. While we ungrudgingly congratulate the United States of America, we cannot restrain a patriotic sigh over the fact that, whether by two persons or only one, the North Pole has been decorated with the Star-spangled banner, and not with the Union Jack, though it is contended that the land in the neighbourhood of the Pole belongs to Canada and so to the British Empire. We scarcely think that its value as an Imperial asset, or as a source of revenue as undeveloped land, can, at present at least, be estimated so highly that the annexation of it by the United States of America will be regarded as a casus belli; neither need we regard it as an additional reason for hurrying on with our Dread­noughts. We can keep our minds easy on that score, while we await with curiosity the scientific results of Peary’s expedition, which should promise a better yield than would Dr Cook’s dash for the Pole, even if he really made one.

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