True North….The Race To The North Pole

This is a very personal blog giving tribute to members of my wife’s family in particular her Great Grandfather Dr. Frederick A. Cook the first man to reach the North Pole in 1908  and the first man to climb Mt. McKinley.  Also to the lifetime devotion of her Uncle Sheldon Shackelford Randolph Cook in Atlanta, Georgia who tirelessly spent most of his life vindicating Dr. Cook and getting Cook’s manuscript published and placed in the Library Of Congress as the rightful first man to the North Pole.

Dr. Cook died on August 5, 1940.  At his interment ceremony at Forest Lawn in Buffalo, NY.  The Reverend William G. Woodward said this of the man “Dr. Cook had literally gone to the ends of the Earth” during his years of exploration “and was a man of intrepid courage and fortitude and humility, who forgave his detractors and suffered the indignities of outrageous misfortune.”

Dr. Cook’s accomplishments were many as were his misfortunes.  I’ll attempt to reveal to you a few that shaped what I believe to be a real American Hero.

1  Wife Libby dies in the first year of marriage in 1889

2  Accompanies Peary to Northern Greenland in 1891.  Learns the Eskimo language and ways

3  1897 is engaged to Anna Forbes, the Sister of his first wife.  3 weeks later boards a ship bound for South America and a run at the South Pole.  During his South Pole exploration Anna Forbes dies.  Their ship  “The Belica” gets caught in pack ice and the explorers are trapped for over a year before they finally were freed.

4  1901 Dr. Cook again accompanies Peary to Greenland.  They made it within 343 miles of Pole but were turned back by bad weatherford

5 Cook marries Marie Hunt

6  Dr. Cook 1903-1906 the first man to climb Mt. McKinley.  The highest point in North America.

7  1906 prepares for his own run to the North Pole.  July 3 1907 Cook heads out for the Pole on the John R. Bradley from Gloucester.

8  March 18, 1908 Cook and two Eskimos make the final run to the Pole after traveling over 400 miles over the frozen pack ice.

9  Cook reached the North Pole on April 21st and remained for 2 days taking his readings with his sextant.

10  Sent word to the New York Herald  “Reached North Pole April 21, 1908.  Discovered Land Far North. Have left sealed exclusive cable of 2000 words with Danish Consul at Lerwick. Expect $3000 for it. I go steamer to Hans Egede to Copenhagen.   Frederick A. Cook

11  Cook leaves his instruments in the care of a trusted friend Harry Whitney in Greenland.

12  Peary had made his own run at the Pole but failed and when he heard Cook had reached the Pole was incensed.  Harry Whitney after several months stranded made it to Peary’s ship.  Peary refused Whitney passage unless he left Cook’s instruments there.  The instruments and journals were never found.

13 1909 Peary with his wealthy friends start a vicious campaign to discredit Cook

14  1911 Cook finsihes his book “My Attainment of the Pole”.  He dedicated the book to the Arctic natives.  He wrote…To the Indian who invented pemmican and snowshoes;  To the Eskimo who gave the art of sled traveling; To this twin family of wild folk who have no flag, goes the credit

15 Peary discredits not only his first to the Pole but also the climbing of Mt McKinley by bribing Cook’s companion on the climb

16  1918 Cook moves to Fort Worth, Texas after being in charge of operations for New York Oil Co. in Casper Wyo.  Becomes president of Cook oil.

17  1922 founded the (PPA) Petroleum Producers Assoc.  Cook planned to merge small oil companies in Texas to be more competitive with the larger companies.  Also to his credit he discovered the largest oil pool in the United States right here in Texas.

18  Behind the scenes from some of Peary’s old cronies launched an investigation and later convicted Cook of wrong doing and he was sentenced to 14 years in Leavenworth.  He intered the Pen April 6, 1925.  Marie later divorced him.

19  1928 Cook was pardoned by President Coolidge.  Coolidge pointed out there had been alot of oil men prosecuted in the area but none with as stiff a sentence as Cook

20 1936 Dr. Cook makes a final attempt to get his North Pole case reopened to the American Geographical Society and was turned down.

I have never read a book from which most of these bullet points came from that has so stirred my heart as this has.

If you have read this blog please read “True North”  by Bruce Henderson and make your own call.  It is my great pleasure and honor, to now, even through marriage to be a part of this great man’s family.  This is but a snippet of Dr. Cook life for the full story of one of Americas Heros read his book as well.  “My Attainment of the Pole”

Happy Trails,