Polar Priorities and Membership News
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Bolling Byrd Clarke, 1922-2007, daughter of famed Polar explorer Admiral Byrd and Society board member


1922 - 2007

Bolling helped organize her father’s papers for the Byrd Polar Research Center Archives at Ohio State University. She is shown with a photo of her and her siblings, circa 1920s. 

Bolling Byrd Clarke, 1922-2007, daughter of famed Polar Bolling Byrd Clarke, the daughter of famed Polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd and an active member of the board of the Frederick A. Cook Society for a decade, died on November 3 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.  Bolling (her name was on one of the ships in the early Byrd expeditions to Antarctica in the 1930s) was present last summer when a new US Navy vessel bearing her father’s name was launched in San Diego’s shipyard.  That, her family said, was one of her proudest moments, the other highlight being a visit to the Antarctic in 1989.

Bolling was educated at Windsor School in Brookline, MA. During WWII she volunteered her services to the nation and became a hand on a Maine farm milking cows and tending other livestock. After the war she was employed as a technician at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Anatomy, and went on to become a pre-med student at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore.  Married to William A. Clarke Jr. in 1947 (she was divorced 1969), she cut short her studies to stay home and raise her children, Evelyn Byrd Clarke, Made Ames Clarke, Eleanor Stabler Clarke II and Richard Byrd.


Sir Wally Herbert: he followed Cook and Peary 


British polar icon Wally Herbert died June 12 at age 72. The third expedition to walk to the North Geographic Pole, Wally and his men continued across the Arctic Ocean in a monstrous trip that included overwintering on the ice in 1968-69. 

Wally’s polar life was marked by human ambition and controversy typical for Arctic explorers of the time. In 1908, American-born Frederick Cook claimed to be the first to have reached the North Pole. Fellow American Robert E Peary said he reached the pole the next year, disputing Cook and claiming the first for himself. Next to reach the spot was Wally Herbert in 1969, soon disputing Peary. With that the North Pole “first” got its third contestant (not including a number of accompanying team members and local Inuits). 

The will to be the first 

With a Norwegian first to ski to the South Pole, Nepal/New Zealand first to summit Everest, Soviets first to fly to space and Americans first to walk on the moon - Wally’s dispute of Peary gained many fans among his countrymen (often with inflated claims) and the North Pole debate rages to this day.  


Wally was a doubter as far as the North Pole 
was concerned.  He did not believe that either Cook or Peary got there, but his earliest
opinions were decidedly for Cook, as in his 
1970 book, The North Pole.


New ‘Admiral Byrd’ is commissioned

On May 15 Society board member Bolling Byrd Clarke, daughter of legendary 20th century Polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd, broke the ceremonial bottle of champagne on the bow of the newly-commissioned USN Richard E. Byrd at the San Diego naval shipyard. 

USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE-4) is a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship in the United States Navy. She is the second United States Navy ship to be named after rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. 

Donald Winter, Secretary of the Navy, Matron of Honor Marie Giossi, Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s daughter and Ship’s Sponsor Bolling Byrd Clarke at launching.

The contract to build her was awarded to National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) of San Diego, California, July 2003. She was launched from the building ways into the San Diego Bay. Bolling Byrd Clarke, Admiral Byrd’s eldest daughter broke the ceremonial bottle of champagne on the ship’s bow to start the launch amid fireworks and fanfare. The ship is scheduled to be part of the Pacific Fleet. 

The first United States Navy ship to be named after Admiral Byrd was the USS Richard E. Byrd (DDG-23) a Charles F. Adams-class guided missile destroyer.

Two Commemorative Cook US Postal stamps for 2008

Two commemorative stamps will be issued this year as part of the United States Postal Service commercial photo stamp program, both to mark the centennial of the discovery of the North Pole in April 1908. Two Commemorative Cook US Postal stamps for 2008. 

The first stamp depicts Cook from the 2000 Arts & Entertainment cable documentary series on “The Race for the Poles.” The inscription on the stamp is “Frederick A. Cook, Discoverer of the North Pole, April 21, 1908.” 

The companion stamp is a reproduction of a rendering from the book Finding the North Pole, which was published in late 1909 after Cook had returned to the United States from the Arctic via Copenhagen. The inscription is “Centennial of the Discovery of the North Pole, April 21, 1908.”  

Society members interested in obtaining sheets of 20 stamps should write the Society. They will be available after July 1 by writing to Polar Publishing Co., PO Box 11421, Pittsburgh, PA 15238.

October 1997 forum hears of ‘Belgica’

Dr. T. H. Baughman, professor of history at Oklahoma Central University and author of Before the Heroes Came: Antarctica in the 1890s delivered a paper on Cook and Amundson at the Workshop on the History of Antarctic Research. 

The presentation was held October 25 at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University and was part of the forum on “National and Transnational Agendas in Antarctic Research from the 1950s and Beyond.” While the agenda was concerned with the second half of the 20th century, the Baughman paper was selected to place into perspective modem South Polar exploration and research.  

The “Belgica” expedition of 1897- 99 was the first multi-national and interdisciplinary expedition to winter the Antarctic. Amundson as First Mate and Cook as surgeon-anthropologist set the stage for their assault on both Poles a decade later through their South Polar experience.  

The sponsoring group for the Workshop, headed by Dr. Cornelia Ludecke of Germany, says that “we want to study what degree research in the Antarctic has been driven by scientific criteria and to what extent compromises were made in the light of political barriers and logistical limitations. In historical perspective, a review shall be made of essential background factors at work, both scientific and non-scientific ones, when nations were moved to participate in the IGY (1957-58). Additional background factors will be considered with regard to major nations that chose not to contribute to the IGY with expeditions.

April conference will hear scholars from Norway, Russia and Nunuvat

Explorers, researchers and historians from Russia, Norway and Nunuvat will participate in an international symposium that will discuss the attainment of the geographical North Pole on April 21, 1908 by Dr. Frederick A. Cook. The forum will be held at the Yale Club, located at 50 Vanderbilt at 44th St. in New York City, just opposite from Grand Central Station.  



From the May-June diary of Oleg Banar on McKinley

(Note:  This journal extract is a companion piece to our featured article on the Mount McKinley page.)

“We are standing in front of the Denali Pass, and through-winds are passing via it as through a tube. Dr. Cook and Barrill were also shivering from cold in this place. Their silk tent was stretched near the rocks 200 meters from the place of our Camp. “

Oleg Banar Dmitry Shparo

Let us look at the notes in the Diary of Oleg Banar, the Leader of our Jubilee Expedition, carried out 100 years after the ascent of Dr. Cook:

May 23, 2006.  We have ascended to the crosspiece (bridge) between the Peak 11,000 feet andthe Peak 10 370 feet. From this bridge we turned to the familiar shelf, which we know from last year’s expedition, and following it we ascended to the East Ridge to the right of the Peak 11,000 feet”.

Then the mountaineers started to move along this crest to the Traleika Col, but their route was blocked by an unstable snowy peak, made out of newly drifted snow and snow cornices. They did not manage to come out to the Traleika Col.“


Cook’s Letter and Map to the Danish Governor of Greenland

by Warren Cook, Sr., President Frederick A. Cook Society

Last January the Society received a letter from Ida Thron Mardal of Copenhagen, Denmark, telling abouta letter written by Dr. Cook, accompanied by a map, which was presented to the then Governor of Greenland, Nicolai Thron in 1909. 

This was a year of Cook’s return from northern Greenland along the west coast of the huge island, then under Danish sovereignty, and his ultimate departure to Copenhagen where he was hailed as the discoverer of the North Pole. Cook has several references to his month at the residence of the Governor General Kraul in Upernarvik during May and June, 1909. 

Governor Thron’s granddaughter indicated that the letter and map would be of interest to the Society, but it went to auction in Copenhagen and was purchased in March of 2006. Mrs. Mardal sent a copy of the letter and the map which was drawn by Dr. Cook, to myself a few weeks ago. 


.Articles from 2007 Membership News

Museum Crisis sparks Cook, community cooperation

A trend in many smaller communities throughout the United States-rising costs for public service agencies and building-caught up with Sullivan County in the Catskill region of New York State this year.

One of the issues affecting the Frederick A. Cook Society was the possible closing of the Sullivan County Historical Museum, home for the Society since 1974 and the location of its refurbished F. A. Cook Room, the collection of various papers and the personal library of Dr. Cook, involving several hundred books and documents.


Who was first? US News revives the North Pole debate

"Who was first?"  Polar historians and those who know the Cook and Peary stories have been familiar with that for almost a century. This past year the question because part of a cover story on US News and World Report (August 14, 2006) and resulted in a letter fro the Society in a subsequent issue.

Board member Marcia Hutchinson of Golden, CO, a great-grand-daughter of the explorer, alerted the Society of the advance issue and the resultant exchange. 


Cook's 1909 return to New York found in painting

The Oscar II, one of the finest of the passenger liners of the Danish-American Steamship Company, arrived off Fire Island near New York Harbor on the afternoon of September 21,1909 after a nine-day voyage from Copenhagen. A salute of guns from the fort at Christianland, by order of King Haakon, highlighted the transfer of what was then the world's foremost explorer to the great liner at the start of the journey.

After a week of collecting the highest awards and tributes of the Danes, Frederick A. Cook was now coming home. The reception would rival that of his European hosts, who had a special interest in his achievement as Greenland was a part of Denmark and its most northwesterly shores had been the base camp for Cook's historic expedition to the North Pole and his dramatic return in the Spring of 1909, after most had considered him lost in the Arctic wastes.


.Article from the 2005 Issue of Membership News

On September 23,1909, Frederick A. Cook was presented a Gold Medal for the Discovery of the North Pole by the Arctic Club of America. The event was captured in a wide-angle photograph of 1,000 guests in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, two days following Cook's triumphant return to the United States from Denmark and the Polar Regions.

Both events were represented in the 2005 number of Polar Priorities. The whereabouts of the Gold Medal has eluded interested writers and scholars, as well as the family for much of a century since. This month part of the mystery was resolved....

Arctic Club of America Gold Medal
Presented to Dr. Cook on September 23, 1909.


‘True North’ study favorable to Cook claims

     They had started out as friends and shipmates, with Cook, a doctor, accompanying Peary, a civil engineer, on an expedition to northern Greenland in 1891. Peary’s leg was shattered in an accident, and without Cook’s care he might never have walked again. But by the fall of 1909, all the goodwill was gone. Peary said he had reached the Pole in April 1909; Cook scooped him, presenting evidence that he had gotten there in 1908. 
~ True North

Bruce Henderson, a non-fiction writer whose books have appeared on the New York Times best-seller lists, and who was previously acclaimed for his work on the ill-fated Polaris expedition, has authored a new work on the Cook-Peary expedition. True North: Peary, Cook and the Race to the Pole (W.W. Norton) will be published in February 2005.

Henderson’s narrative, which is reviewed in this issue of the journal on page 46, is conclusive toward a favorable assessment of the North Pole priority of Frederick A. Cook with six specific arguments:

  • Experience and readiness for the journey

  • Proven ice traveler

  • Original descriptions

  • Unknown westerly drift

  • Ice islands

  • Credible and consistent narrative.


Cook reflections on early Antarctic exploration 

Toward the South Pole: Antarctic Voyages of Exploration From the Earliest Times to the Departure of the Belgica

This is the title of the unpublished manuscript Bette Hutchinson, Dr. Cook’s granddaughter recently donated to the Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program. According to Dr. Cook’s handwritten notes that accompany the documents, the manuscript was a ten-year project, finally completed on the Belgica in 1898. Dr. Cook states further, “(this is) valuable because material here given has been largely ignored by later history. Compare with Hayes and other Antarcticans. Here discoveries are cited in words of the explorer. This should be set into a book.”


‘Terrae Incognitae’ Journal reviews
Koryakin’s Russian biography of Cook 

Termed by a reviewer as a “notable piece of Polar exploration scholarship”, by Dennis Reinhart of the University of Texas, the Russian biography of Cook by V.S. Koryakin, Frederick Albert Cook, 1865-1940 was reviewed in the 2004 number of the Journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries, Terrae Incognitae volume 26.

Highlights from the Reinhart review follow: “ Few people outside the circle of those with a real interest in polar studies know of the American Dr. Frederick Albert Cook. He is nevertheless a significant figure in the history of polar exploration, and a controversial one as well. Born and educated in New York, he first went to the Arctic with Robert E. Peary, 1890-1892 as his surgeon. Thereafter, Cook was a participant in the seven other international Arctic and Antarctic expeditions through 1909.


The Frederick A. Cook Living Museum:
Cook’s 1908-9 Winter Den
Cape Hardy, Devon Island

by Louis O. (Lon) Constantini

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Cook's winter quarters at Cape Hardy (Sparbo) as sketched by J. M. Wordie in 1937.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Cook's den, c 2003.  The site is about 200 ft from the Jones Sound shore line landfall, 1908.

Exploring the high arctic is a wonderful experience even when challenged by weather and terrain. However, there is a definable and recurring experience that I always enjoy the most. Upon arriving at some arctic location, on ice or gravel bank, the most pleasurable time is when the DiHaviland twin engine Otter has it’s engines rev’ed to takeoff pitch; the plane rolls forward and in a space less than I can kick a rugby ball, it’s huge tires leave the ground. The plane lifts off, and in this instance flies towards the cliffs, pivots on a wing tip and then, as is customary, roars over our heads. In the time it takes to lift a rucksack, it looks like a bird lost in a cloud. It would be gone, and we would still be there. 


Russian glaciologist advocates Cook priority

Vladislav S. Koryakin, the Polar historian of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a glaciologist-scholar who has researched the pioneer efforts of western explorers to reach the North Pole for more than 30 years, has published the first foreign-language biography of Frederick A. Cook.

Prof. Koryakin, who delivered a paper at the Symposium on “Cook Reconsidered” at the Byrd Polar Research Center in 1993, has edited the Russian editions of Cook’s My Attainment of the Pole and Peary’s The North Pole. He has also assisted in the translation and editing of the works of Amundson and Freuchen in Russia. He has published several papers on scientific and historical themes involving the changing currents of the North Polar regions.

'My Attainment': same response to both reprints 

Same endorsements and reviews for both reprints on the Internet


The Polar Publishing Co. edition sponsored by the F.A. Cook Society Bryce's cover:  First it was 'North Pole' then just 'Pole' reflecting the mixed agenda

While it may not be the first instance of "copycat publishing," it has without a doubt introduced confusion into the world of internet book buyers, with special emphasis on those who follow the new and reprint editions dealing with classic polar exploration.

My Attainment of the Pole, Frederick A. Cook's account of his 1907­09 North Pole Expedition, was published in 1911 by Mitchell Kennerley, a respected New York publisher. While Robert E. Peary's book, The North Pole, had come out a year earlier, the "Cook book" soon gained a popular audience on the explorer's Chatauqua lecture circuit and eventually would surpass his rival with three editions in the United States. Editions in the United Kingdom and Germany soon followed and Cook's book has long been considered one of the out-standing accounts of exploration, discovery and survival in the polar regions.



Admiral 'Tommy' Thomas, Ice Captain of both polar regions in war and peace


He captured the first enemy ship in World War II, was called by Admiral Byrd as 'the best ice sailor alive' and became president of the reorganized Frederick A. Cook Society in 1957.

Charles Ward Thomas (1903­1973) was quite possibly the greatest "ice admiral" of the United States in the twentieth century. He claimed pioneering experience guiding U.S. Navy ships through the treacherous Arctic Ocean floes off eastern Greenland and then in the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

President Roosevelt awarded him the Legion of Merit for heroic service in capturing the first enemy ship in wartime since the Spanish-American War, and in overcoming a German weather service base in eastern Greenland in October 1944 with the surrender of all of its personnel.


What happened to the original Andrew Freeman manuscript in 1937?

The son of Cook's biographer says that 'powerful forces' stopped its publication

The perspective of a youngster not quite nine years old is different from that of an adult, so my reflections on the summer of 1936 in the Hudson River community of Brewster would be far different from those of my parents. They were literary people, well traveled and sophisticated about the world which judged the lives and deeds of their contemporaries in harsh standards.

My father had obtained the notes of a previous manuscript on Dr. Frederick A. Cook by a contemporary of Cook, Felix Riesenberg, who had served as the navigator with Walter Wellman in his famous but abortive airship expedition to the North Pole. This took place in the same year that Cook departed for his expedition to the Pole in 1907. Riesenberg had tried to write about the Cook­Peary controversy, but all his sources were secondary, and he found that there was an extreme reluctance by those who knew both explorers to provide their conclusions or even recollections.


The Woman Assistant U.S. Attorney General and the Prisoner at Leavenworth, 1928-29.

Called the "most influential woman in America" in the 20s, Mabel Willebrandt was a key advocate for prison reform and a player in the pardon of Cook in 1930.


The trial, imprisonment, appeals and pardon applications of Frederick Albert Cook occupied thousands of pages of Federal Court proceedings for eight years of the second decade of the last century. And those same years involved the career of the highest ranking woman in the federal government, Mabel Walker Willebrandt, the first woman Assistant Attorney General of the United States.

Possibly dismissed by many political historians and those who would later chronicle the women's movement, Willebrandt had the unpopular call to enforce the equally unpopular 18th Amendment, which amounted to enforcing Prohibition at its highest legal levels in the "roaring Twenties."

Born on the Kansas prairie in 1889, Mabel Walker Willebrandt began school at 13, was a teacher at 17, a principal at 22, and a lawyer at 27. Five years later, at 32, she was appointed an assistant attorney general by President Harding, heading the division in the Justice Department responsible for prohibition, prisons and taxes. Arguing before the Supreme Court, she compiled a winning record seldom equaled.


Mabel Walker Willebrandt, the first appointed woman Assistant Attorney General, served from 1922 to 1929.

Additional Journal Highlights:  September 2001

Book Reviews

  • Dishonorable history
  • Robert Peary as non-author
  • Solomon on Scott
  • Cookman on Franklin
  • Niven on Bartlett


South Pole 'Icebound' doctor had  
a 19th-century role model 

The story of the American woman doctor who discovered a fast-growing cancer in her body while at the height of the winter season at the South Pole gripped much of the world in the Antarctic winter of 1999-2000. Dr. Jerri Nielsen wrote a book in which she gave inspiration to her two "dead doctors," pioneer Antarctic physician explorers Frederick A. Cook and Edward Wilson.

Serving as doctor to the Americans "wintering over" at the South Pole in 1999, Dr. Nielsen made headlines when she discovered a lump in her breast that a self-administered biopsy revealed to be cancer. No flights in or out of Antarctica are possible during the continent's long winter, and Nielsen's account of giving herself chemotherapy while she and her fellow "Polies" waited for the weather to break is even more gripping than the news reports at the time. She's candid about her pain and fear; the media battle waged by her embittered ex-husband made her ordeal even more challenging.


Saving the pioneer U.S.
icebreaker 'Glacier'

Glacier ship.JPG (9557 bytes)

The USS/USCG Glacier made Antarctic history in February 1960 by becoming the first ship to penetrate the Bellinghausen Sea (where Cook wintered in 1898-99) and make landfall on Thurston Island. Four decades later, the Glacier is moored in Suisun Bay, CA at the Maritime Admin-istration's Defense Reserve Fleet Facility. However, the Glacier Society, a Stratford, CT based group, hopes to change her fate. Their goal is to restore the Glacier to an educational resource as a museum and operational oceanographic research community, in port and at sea.


Additional Newsletter Highlights:  April 2001
  • 'My Attainment of the Pole' in two 90th anniversary reprint editions
  • Verdict of 20th century scholars, and geographers
  • Recalling Cook's decade in Toms River
New Zealand Expedition
Confirms Cook Observations

14Reaney.jpg (26139 bytes)

In 1996, Richard Reaney, a veteran of both Polar regions, led a nine-member expedition from New Zealand to place their flag at the North Pole for the first time. In a letter to the Society, he wrote that "on the 21st of April 1996, the 88th anniversary of Cook's arrival at the Pole...we determined that Cook's sextant readings (are now) determined by modern navigational data."

As a member of the Commemorative Centennial Circumnavigation of the Antarctic in 1994, Rainey had a discussion with Sir Edmund Hillary which led to their expedition to the Pole two years later.  The party determined to journey to the Pole to be there on Cook's arrival date of April 21, for "nowhere could we find if anyone had gone to the Pole to confirm Cook's observations--on exactly the same day and the same time.  We discussed our plans with Wayne Davidson, then at Eureka Weather Station and I believe we have found good reason to support (Cook's) findings and his observations."


Computing Refraction Data
at the North Pole:  1908/2000
13lowsun.jpg (6011 bytes)

Wayne Davidson, the upper air station weather operator at Resolute Bay, in Nunavut, in the Canadian high Arctic, presents a theory that "historical allegations at being close to the North Pole are provable."   Davidson, who has provided weather data to virtually every private and government-sponsored expedition to the Western region of the Polar Sea in the past decade, maintains that the only way to validate the claims of Robert Peary and Frederick Cook "is by analyzing results from the sole instrument they have used to get them to the Northernmost piece of earth, the sextant."

In a two-part contribution, Davidson utilizes the field notes and published accounts of both explorers and declares that "newer Polar refraction tables can pin point with higher accuracy Cook and Peary's locations (in 1908 and 1909)."  He cites data from the Nautical Almanac Office of the US Naval Observatory as well as other published and analytical data on Cook and Peary.                        


Newsletter Highlights:  December 2000
  • Cook in 'Echoes in Ice' Exhibition at Ohio State University Library
  • New board member Lon Constantini has Arctic motto: 'think coldly, act warmly'
  • Polar & Alpine Medicine Report is published
  • President's Message: Untapped treasure of 'Hell is a Cold Place'
  • Videotaping the Society's Historian/  Revamping the Cook Web Site
  • To the Ends of Earth:' Chicago Newberry Library explores Polar discovery
  • Book review:  'Let Heroes Speak: Antarctic Explorers, 1772-1922"

Copyright 2007 - The Frederick A. Cook Society