Date: Tue, 04 Apr 2000
On the "whose next" question, the answer is that no one has done what Peary,
Henson, et al. did, i.e., go to the pole with absolutely no hope for relief
from any other person.
Every later expedition, to a greater or lesser extent, has relied on
aircraft and radio to dramatically alter the nature of the feat. Byrd flew
over the pole in '27 (contested), knowing that a search party could be
organized if he failed to return on schedule. Amundsen, Nobile and Ellsworth
crossed the pole and went on to Alaska a few days later.
In the early 30s, a Soviet team (one of whom was a professional acquaintance
of my father) established a camp about 30 miles from the pole and rode the
ice down into the East Greenland sea. After the war, the Air Force flew
regular missions to the Pole, and a fellow named Fletcher set up bases on
various ice floes. Not sure how close any of these were to the actual pole.
Then come the stunt men:
• Plaisted, 1967, "first" to go over the ice (by snowmobile, with air lift
• Herbert, 1968, ("first" by dogsled; first to cross the ice over the
surface; supported with 28 tons of airdropped supplies, including a hut and
a bathtub, provided by the armed forces of 3 countries);
• Steger (by dogsled, no air re-supply, but airlifted out); and numerous
later persons (first by skis, etc.).
I believe within the last few years, two men made it to the pole and back
without re-supply. Nevertheless they had the advantage of an emergency radio
beacon and relatively good chance of air rescue. (In the appendix of their
book they dispute the Peary/Henson achievement-calling them "amateurs"). The
fact remains that these guys could push things to the absolute limit knowing
they could always call for help, subject only to having to fork out the
cost. Its too bad they could not be more gracious, and admit that their
exploit simply serves to demonstrate that what might appear, based on the
experiences of others, to be impossible can be achieved by someone with the
right combination of skill, strength, planning and good luck. Their
conclusion should have been that folks who claim that Peary/Henson's feat
was impossible need to rethink that.
In short, if Peary and Henson did not do what they set out to do (but of
course, they did), then no one did it.