Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
COOK'S PREPARATION FOR HIS GREAT TASK.
While Dr. Cook was being thus honored by rulers and mobbed by his admirers, people everywhere were passing through alternating feelings of trust and disbelief.
History never furnished a keener topic of argument. Nothing in the realm of invention or of discovery could seem more impossible than that a comparatively little known traveler had actually done what men had failed in for so many centuries. As soon as the first news flashed over the wires two camps arose: Those who threw up their hats and hurrahed, and those who said, "I don't believe it. Who is this Cook?" Everybody who had a tongue to talk with joined in the clack of tongues. Scientists gave out weighty reasons for and against. A few preferred to withhold any comment until the explorer could furnish his proofs. Many others broke into the open with statements purporting to show how Cook could or could not have done it. It was even suggested that the doctor might be the victim of mania, and have imagined he reached the pole. Hints were thrown out that Cook had always been a "faker," and that he had carefully prepared for the claim of his discovery before he even left America.
But had Cook always been a "faker?"
A glance at his career seemed to prove the contrary.
Frederick A. Cook was born June lo, 1865, and was therefore forty-two years and ten months old when he discovered the pole. He passed his forty-third birthday while struggling back across the ice fields to the nearest place of human habitation; his forty-fourth in a Greenland settlement, awaiting strength to move on again.
He was of German-American parentage. The family name was originally Koch. Frederick's birthplace was the little town of Callicoon. in Sullivan county, New York state, among the hills of the upper Delaware River.
When still a youth he sought his fortune in New York City and after working his way through the College of Physicians and Surgeons there he succeeded in establishing for himself a practice of the profession in that city.
As a surgeon of the Peary expedition, in 1891-92 at the age of 26, he first identified himself with the work of arctic exploration. On this expedition he was the first scientist who devoted special attention to the studies of the arctic highlanders.
In 1894 he organized the famous Miranda expedition of sportsmen, scientists and explorers. Though the Miranda never returned from this trip. Dr. Cook won fame for himself through an incident of the expedition when their ship was disabled at Sukkertoppen, by leading the party safely through a perilous trip in an open boat to Holsteinberg, where they obtained relief. Later he shared with the late Captain Dixon of the Gloucester schooner Riegel, the arduous duty of the return voyage.
In September, 1897, Dr. Cook was honored by the appointment to the post of surgeon of the Belgian antarctic expedition. Two years after he had joined the ship at Rio Janeiro to assume his new position he returned with the party all in good health and with the loss of only one man. He had performed the unique feat of leading the crew safely through the first antarctic night. For this service he received gold medals from the Geographical Societies of Belgium and was given the rank of chevalier from King Leopold. Dr. Cook later published the narrative and a resume of the scientific work of this expedition in a volume entitled "Through the First Antarctic Night."
As surgeon of the Peary "Erik" auxiliary expedition in 1901, Dr. Cook revisited the scenes of his northern work of ten years before. A year later he married Miss Mary Hunt in Brooklyn.
On October 3, 1906, just three years after he led the first expedition to attempt the approach and ascent of the unknown Mt. McKinley in Alaska, he satisfied his ambition and reached the summit of the unexplored mountain, 20,464 feet above the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Dr. Cook's was the first ascent of this mountain on record, and he achieved success only after repeated failures and many thrilling adventures, which he described in his book, "To the Top of the Continent."
A member of the party that accompanied Cook to Mt. McKinley has described some of the incidents of the trip, as well as Cook's bearing on that occasion. Says this man:
"He was a quiet man and did not talk much and was not given to boasting of his deeds. I have been with him for weeks at a time among the mountain ranges of Alaska and I never knew him to be untruthful or to misrepresent anything whatever.
"When he failed in 1903 to reach the top of Mt. McKinley he came back and frankly admitted his failure. There are those who doubt that he reached the top on his second attempt, but I went with him far enough to know that he did reach the top, and Jack Grill, an old Montana rancher, went to the top with him."
Mount McKinley is the highest peak in America. Its altitude is more than 20,000 feet and its summit had never before been scaled by man.
"I left Seattle on the steamship Santa Anna May 1, 1906, bound for Nome, to do some prospecting," said the man quoted above. "On the ship I became acquainted with Dr. Cook through a Seattle newspaper photographer, who was a member of Cook's party.
"We were together a great deal and when he learned how well I knew the country in Alaska he proposed that I should go with him and take him around the mountain to the most accessible point. I agreed and landed at Seldovia at the entrance of Cook's inlet with the party.
"The Eskimos at Susitna laughed at these people and called them 'cheek hawks,' or tenderfeet.
"Finally, as the summer wore on, the 'cheek hawks' gave it up and went back. Dr. Cook, Brill, the Montana rancher, and I went to the mouth of the Chulitna River and there found the 'hog back' leading from the foothills up the side of the mountain. Cook and Brill went up this 'hog back' and reached the top September 15. Two days later they returned to the camp where I was waiting."
Henry Collins Walsh, secretary of the Explorers' Club, New York, has told of one of Dr. Cook's Arctic expeditions as follows:
"My first meeting with Dr. Frederick A. Cook was in the spring of 1904, when he had organized our expedition to make a summer trip into the Arctic regions and for which he had chartered the ill-fated steamer the Miranda, I became a member of this expedition and was its historian.
"The Miranda, it will be recalled, had many mishaps, colliding with an . iceberg off the coast of Labrador, which necessitated a return to St. John's, Newfoundland, where the ship was repaired, and later to run on some hidden reefs off the coast of Sukkertoppen, South Greenland. In this encounter the bottom was torn off the Miranda, but its balance tank saved it from sinking.
"We arranged to steam back to Sukkertoppen, an Eskimo settlement with a Danish governor, and from there Dr. Cook with a small party set out to look for assistance. He finally got in touch with a Gloucester fishing schooner, the Rigel, commanded by Captain Dixon. The big-hearted captain gave up his fishing trip, the first that he had attempted off the coast of Greenland, and came to the rescue of the Miranda and her party of stranded explorers. The Miranda and the Rigel were connected by cable and, the steamer towing the schooner, started for home.
"Dr. Cook and the rest of us took up our quarters on the Rigel, the officers and crew of the Miranda alone remaining on that ship. On the second night out, however, a -stormy one, the ballast tank of the Miranda began to give way and a signal of distress went up from the Miranda, and dories manned by the Rigel's crew went over to the Miranda and brought over the officers and crew of that ship. The cable connecting the two vessels was cut and the Miranda was abandoned to her fate upon the high seas.
"She contained all the worldly collections we had brought with us, our extra clothes, outfits, guns, ammunition, stores, etc., and all the collections that various members had made in Labrador and Greenland, probably rather undigestible food even for Arctic fishes. After dodging for a time among icebergs, the little Rigel finally landed seventeen days later at Sydney, Cape Breton Island, whence the wrecked party had no trouble in making its way back to New York."
Mr. Walsh also tells some of Dr. Cook's personal traits:
"Naturally, at the meetings of the Explorers' club and at the meetings of its officers and directors, I was thrown in much with Dr. Cook, and also had the pleasure at times of visiting him in his own home, and always found him a delightful and hospitable host, and it was pleasant to see the kindly domestic side of this man who spent so many years in wild and far-away places, where the gentler and domestic side of a man has little chance of development.
was minded of Bayard Taylor's well-known couplet:
The loving are the daring."
"I have been asked to tell something about Dr. Cook's pastimes and favorite amusements, but as far as I know he seems to care but little for the ordinary pastimes and amusements. I have never seen him play any game of cards, but in one of the upper rooms of his Brooklyn home he had a pool table around which he occasionally took relaxation. We had some games of pool together, but as neither of us was at all expert at the game, nothing remarkable can be recorded except perhaps some remarkable scratches.
"I remembered that on one occasion, after the doctor had made a remarkable shot, aided by Providence, I put up my cue and remarked that I could not play against the combination of the Almighty and a polar explorer. It was a case of cold feet.
"I do not think that Dr. Cook was ever much given to outdoor sports, either; at least, I never heard him dilate upon any of his own experiences along these lines, though he was, however, very fond of automobiling. At his home he had many relics of his various exploring trips, and naturally our talks ran much in the channels of exploration, and it gave me great pleasure when I was able to draw him out in regard to some of his own remarkable experiences, for I doubt if any man living has had more."
From the Philadelphia Record Herald.