Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Discovery of the North Pole
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo



Dr. Cook's dash for the pole, Like most of the great actions of history, was as secretly conceived as it was heroically carried out.

Few even of the explorer's most intimate friends suspected he was about to undertake the most difficult journey within the reach of man. The discovery of the North Pole was the termination of a voyage that started ostensibly as a fishing-trip.

On July 3, 1907, Dr. Cook was the guest of John R. Bradley on board his schooner yacht, the John R. Bradley, which left Gloucester, Mass., to go on a fishing trip up the Labrador coast. Mr. Bradley is a New York man of wealth, interested in sports, and has followed Dr. Cook's polar aspirations closely.

Mr. Bradley invited Dr. Cook to go on the fishing trip, never dreaming that it would end in the Brooklyn man's making a dash for the pole. Aboard the schooner were half a dozen Newfoundlanders who were thoroughly familiar with the coast of Labrador and who were to act as guides.

The fishing party ran into treacherous weather and heavy ice packs as it proceeded along the Labrador coast. Then the gasoline engines got out of order and the vessel was involved in difficulties. The ship was at length headed for Cape York harbor, but owing to the heavy ice it was unable to land there and a landing was made in North Star Bay. There some days were spent in hunting and fishing.

While the time was being spent in this way, Dr. Cook became fired with the ambition to reach the pole. He spoke to Mr. Bradley about it, and the latter declared that if any such trip was to be made, he would not join it.

Dr. Cook was insistent. He wanted the entire party to go with him on the expedition. As Mr. Bradley would not be one of the party, Dr. Cook organized a force of Eskimos, and, with Rudolph Francke, made preparations for the expedition. Mr. Bradley left in August, 1907, on his fishing schooner, to return to New York, leaving the determined Brooklyn man and his party to seek the pole.

Dr. Cook had an entirely different idea of how the trip to the pole ought to be attempted from that followed by Peary and other explorers. He calculated upon going through Nansen Strait and doing his traveling in the winter months. H is reasons for choosing the period of extreme cold was that the ice fields would be smoother and that there would be less danger of encountering the jagged passages of ice, through which travel is extremely difficult.

When Mr. Bradley returned to New York in October, 1907, he told of Dr. Cook's scheme and the preparations for the trip.

"Dr. Cook told me before he left Gloucester that it would be a great thing if we tried to reach the pole before we returned," said Mr. Bradley.

"I did not give him any encouragement then, but thinking that he might insist upon making the attempt when we reached the farthest point north on our trip, I ordered provisions put aboard that would furnish an arctic expedition for three years.

"When the vessel sailed, therefore, we had everything necessary for a polar expedition. On our trip we went as far north at Etah, Peary's former winter quarters. Here we enjoyed a fine view from the high hills of Smith Sound. There was no great amount of ice in the sound, so Dr. Cook, the first mate and myself, took a motor boat and went through Smith Sound to 79 degrees north latitude. There the farthermost settlements of the Eskimos are, and we spent several days among them.

"Dr. Cook knows the Eskimo language and had no difficulty in conversing with them. He had been up there on Peary's first expedition and some of the Eskimos remembered him.

"When we returned to Etah we brought the greater part of the Eskimo settlement back with us. Once back at Etah conditions looked so favorable for a dash to the pole that Dr. Cook could not resist the impulse. We found we could get all the dogs we wanted and all the natives that Dr. Cook wished to have with him. The natives had already cached their winter supply of food. I helped them kill walrus, seals, white whales and narwhals to augment the supply. The Eskimo women were kept busy catching arctic hares and birds to make their winter clothing.

"Dr. Cook concluded to stay and make the dash for the pole as soon as feasible after the long, dark night should begin to break. Dr. Cook took about fifty Eskimos, men, women and children with him to a place farther north of Etah and established winter quarters."

From another source come further details of the Bradley expedition which had so startling a result. The ship used was a Gloucester fishing schooner before Mr. Bradley bought it, fitted the 111 ton craft with a gasoline engine and rechristened it with his own name. He put the boat in charge of Capt. Moses Bartlett, who had been first officer of the Peary ship Roosevelt, and engaged a Newfoundland crew.

It carried a twenty-seven foot whale boat with a ten horsepower gasoline engine. The Bradley was fitted with everything needed on a polar expedition.

The route of the Bradley was from Gloucester to Battle Harbor, Labrador, thence across Davis Strait to the South Greenland coast. Ice first was encountered at Sisco, and it damaged the machinery. After shooting bear in Melville Bay, the party reached Cape York and North Star Bay. Later it touched at McCormick, Bowdoin and Robinson Bays, and reached Etah, Greenland, Peary's old winter quarters.

Taking the motor boat Bradley, Cook and some others went through Smith Sound to 79 north, and brought back some Eskimos to Etah. There Cook decided to stay, and with him and the natives there also remained Rudolph Francke, a member of the expedition. Cook's idea was to start about February i, 1908, across Smith Sound and strike out in a northwesterly direction across Ellesmereland to find an open polar sea at about 83 degrees north latitude. His reason for going in this direction was to avoid the easterly drift of polar sea ice. He had with him a canvas boat in which to cross the open polar sea. He expected to reach the pole and to get back to Kennedy Channel in about three months. Three families of natives were to be left at three separate stations, but he and two Eskimos were to make the dash, together with two sleds.

On March 3, 1908, he left his base of supplies at Annatok on the northwestern coast of Greenland, and with abundant supplies disappeared in a northwesterly direction over Ellesmereland into the little known regions toward the Arctic Ocean.

Francke was left at Annatok, twenty miles north of Etah, which is the northernmost inhabited settlement on the west coast of Greenland, and on May 7, 1908, the last word from Dr. Cook came to Francke a letter dated March 17, and therefore written just two weeks after the start northward instructing Francke to go back to New York in case Dr. Cook did not return to Annatok by early June. On his nonappearance at that time Francke started southward, endured terrible privations in his struggles over the ice, was picked up at Etah on August ly by Peary's auxiliary steamer Erik, and was brought to St. John's, Newfoundland, whence the news of the possible loss of Dr. Cook was sent out by telegraph. Francke returned to his home in Hoboken.

Francke's story throws vivid light on hardships endured by Dr. Cook. .He started south, accompanied by two Eskimo youths with a sledge and canvas boat, and hoped to connect with the whalers at North Star Bay in Greenland, six hundred miles from where he was. On the way he met some Eskimos, to whom he turned over his dog team, as the ice was broken and loose and he had to travel by boat in the open water. Weather was most unfavorable, rain, fog, hail, and gales prevailing, and as the matches they carried became damp he and the Eskimo boys had to eat raw meat and sleep huddled together under the overturned boat at night, as they had no fire. Francke became afflicted with rheumatism and scurvy and could scarcely hobble over the floe.

After reaching North Star Bay he rested and doctored himself, and then started back for Etah, making the journey in a little over a month. Both ways the party existed on the meat of seals, which the Eskimos killed, and one polar bear which met the same fate. While he was absent from Etah the Eskimos broke into his house and stole all his supplies. On getting back he was so ill that he could walk only with two sticks, and until he joined the Erik, had to exist on walrus meat, which the Eskimos gave to their dogs, as they refused him the better provender which they possessed.

But Dr. Cook's message to Francke of March 17 stated that he had made good progress in crossing Ellesmereland and was then at Cape Hubbard, on the northwest side of Ellesmereland, sixty miles below Cape Columbia, Peary's point of departure from land on his journey toward the pole in 1906, He allowed three full months for his dash over the Polar sea and return, which is the maximum time usually taken for excursions by sledges.

Three months! Even Dr. Cook, experienced explorer that he was, hardly counted on the torturing delays, the terrible weariness, and other drawbacks of getting back to civilization once he had pushed beyond its borders.

It was a year and four months, and more, before Dr. Cook reached a point where the electric spark of the telegraph placed him in touch with home and country.

From the Cleveland Leader.

In the meantime Bradley, the backer, was waiting anxiously at home for news of the great dash. He had taken a long chance on Cook, as the popular phrase has it, and success or failure meant much to him.

But Bradley was accustomed to taking long chances. All his life he had been a hunter of big game; a tempter of fate. His career as a hunter probably has not been surpassed by an American. He has been called "the greatest amateur big game hunter in the world." To scour the African jungles it cost him the sum of $20,000. In his caravan were one hundred and thirty natives.

Photographs of this expedition show a caravan, each man carrying from eighty to 100 pounds on his head. The men were picked from various tribes and were under the guidance of native experts from the country of the Mad Mullah. By playing one faction against another, Bradley was able to preserve peace and order.

Of this African hunt Bradley has written as follows: "I have been a sportsman all my life, not a hunter. A hunter is a professional who goes into the jungle for ivory and skins for the market. The sportsman hunts for the trophies only. I selected Africa, near the equator, to hunt and bury myself becoming practically dead to the world.

"When I left New York I took along a friend who had shot with me in the Rocky mountains, a man who was equal to any emergency. In making up a hunting expedition it is best to have men of several tribes. I had a hundred porters, ten policemen carrying Snider rifles, and eight gunbearers, with personal servants.

"I had thirty tents, accommodating five men each. We carried 10,000 rounds of ammunition with guns, revolvers, knives, and everything necessary for a complete African hunting expedition.

"We hunted from 6 in the morning until 10 o'clock, the hour for luncheon and rest. From 10 to 4 we staid in camp, then shot again from 4 until 6. The days were intensely hot under the equator, but among the highlands the nights were cool.

"It is curious that I never found a native who really knew how to hunt game. The Massi tribe knows nothing of stalking wild animals which roam in thousands around their villages. Many natives are killed by lions, leopards and especially by the rhinoceros. I consider this animal the most dangerous of all.

"There are about eighteen varieties of horned game in eastern Africa. You find bunches of from one thousand to two thousand or three thousand head of game, the giraffe, zebra, eland, gazelle, and hartebeest, herding together. The leopard is probably more dangerous than the tiger or lion, next to the rhinoceros the most formidable of all animals."

Bradley's expedition into Asia was even more thrilling. He was able to make the hunt through the courtesy of the Russian government, but he met with considerable trouble with the secret police. Finally, he was given what was said to have been the strongest credentials ever issued to a traveler in those parts.

"I shot through the mountains in June, July, and August," he wrote in reference to this expedition. "It was the mildest part of the year, yet the storms were terrific and the cold almost unendurable. Even in those summer months the blizzards raged, and I had to sit in my tent, wrapped in furs all day long, with nothing to do but just smoke and recall the scenes of my recent trip under the burning skies of equatorial Africa.

"The Atlai mountain sheep is the highest ever known. To get one of these animals requires a lot of dangerous climbing in a country so stupendous that you could drop Switzerland and a dozen Yosemite valleys into it and miss them.

"Hardly a day passed that I did not see from sixty to 100 sheep, but I could not get near enough to fire a shot. There were plenty of ibex, Mongolian gazelles, big gray wolves, bear, and deer, but it was the sheep that I was after. They are considered the hardest of game to stalk.

"I found the ibex, like the Rocky mountain goat, to be a stupid animal, always looking down instead of up. So if the hunter gets above them he can lie in wait behind the rocks until the animals are feeding on the moss below and then bring down the game.

In talking of Cook's trip Mr. Bradley took pains to explain that the Brooklyn explorer's success in reaching the North Pole was not so much the result of chance as the opinion of several polar experts would indicate. "This was no haphazard expedition," he said, "no intensified Arctic joy ride undertaken on nerve. We went about our preparations for this thing quietly and without brass-band accompaniment, but every imaginable contingency had been provided for.

"We studied out the mistakes and misfortunes of other men who had tried for the pole, hoping to benefit by their errors, and we certainly benefited by their examples.

"I am not going to tell what the cost was, but I'll tell you this much: One single item of the equipment was 5,000 gallons of gasoline and another was two barrels of gum drops. An Eskimo will travel thirty miles for a gum drop. His sweet tooth is the sweetest in the world.

"Now Cook has as much nerve as any man in the world, I guess, but he had something besides nerve to carry him through. I'm not trying to take any of the credit, but I want to say that he had the right kind of an outfit to take him through."

That this last statement was true was the testimony of Dr. Cook when the thrilling story of his exploit came from his own lips.

From the Washington Star

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.