The first American explorer to reach the North Pole was Robert E. Peary. Few people have heard of him; yet, he is best remembered as courageous and daring, whose exploration is considered to be historically significant. Peary was born in 1856, in Cresson, Pennsylvania. After his graduation from Baudoin College, in Maine, he joined the United States Navy, as a Civil Engineer. His interest in Arctic exploration began in 1886, when he initiated an expedition that brought back a great quantity of geographical information, one of which was the fact that Greenland is an island. He made several other trips to the Arctic, and by the year 1898, he had determined to find the North Pole.
Peary came within four hundred miles of the Pole on his first try, but severe problems, such as shortage of supplies, prevented him from proceeding further, causing him to turn back, much to his dismay. He had been gone for four years, and had reached a point farther north, where no explorer before him had managed to do so. In 1905, in a ship called the Roosevelt, especially built for the purpose of counteracting obstacles that he had previously encountered, he made another attempt to reach the North Pole, but this time, he managed to get within two hundred miles of his objective, having surpassed his previous attempt.
On the third try, in 1908, Peary sailed the Roosevelt to Grant Land where he spent the winter preparing for the dash over the ice to the North Pole. On April 6, 1909, he finally reached the North Pole, accompanied by his assistant, Matthew Henson, and four Eskimos. In the meantime, not long after his success, supplies ran out, forcing the rest of his party to turn back.
Ironically, when Peary returned home, his triumph was dimmed by the claims of Frederick A. Cook who claimed to have reached the North Pole the year before. It took a long time for the seemingly endless controversy to end, when the United States Congress proved Cook’s claim to be entirely spurious, and in 1911, congratulated Peary for his success in having been the first explorer to discover the North Pole.
Peary retired from the Navy as a rear admiral, not long after he was commended for his persistence and perseverance.