Polar Research Today

Archive of Past Articles


Amundsen, Cook, and Late Nineteenth Century Antarctic Exploration

Four individuals, from four nations, played key roles in the 1897-1899 Belgian Antarctic Expedition



‘For his part, Frederick A. Cook deserves to be remembered for his work on Gerlache’s expedition . . . the men of the Belgica survived in large part because of the expertise and character of Frederick Cook’ 

by Prof. T. H. Baughman 
Central Oklahoma University 

On October 18, 2007 Prof. T. H. Baughman of the History Department of the Central Oklahoma University gave the dinner address at the third annual Workshop on the History of Antarctic Research at the Byrd Polar Research Center at the Ohio State University.

The Workshop was supported by the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Byrd Center and the German Antarctic Research Group. Dr. Baughman is the author of The Last Heroes and other works on Antarctica. His lecture was sponsored by the Frederick A. Cook Society as part of the 2007-2009 Centennial of the discovery of the North Pole. 


Byrd Collection now includes 
Library of Congress microfilm of Cook Collection

Bookmark from the Research Collections of the Explorers Club in New York City: 
items at right include a post card support Cook, the Polar flag of the Arctic Club, circa 1901 
and a copy of The Last Voyage of the Miranda.

Raimund E. Goerler, Chief Archivist at the Byrd Polar Research Center of the Ohio State University Columbus, recently acknowledged the $5,000 contribution of the Society towards the archival work of the program.  In a letter to Society President Warren Cook Sr., he wrote:

"As always, it has been a pleasure to work with the Dr. Frederick A. Cook Society and we are excited about your plans for 2008 and 2009. A few weeks ago, we received a grant that will allow us to purchase our own copy of the microfilm of the Dr. Cook collection at the Library of Congress.  So we will soon have a complete collection.

"Currently, we are planning a conference for spring 2007 that focus on IGY and IPY.  Last week we received inquiries from the International Scientific Committee on Antarctica to host an historians meeting in October 2007.  So, there is a flurry of polar activities."

The Frederick A. Cook Collection at Ohio State will thus have the most comprehensive location of all of the works of the explorer, including those deposited with the Library of Congress in 1989 following the death of Janet Cook Vetter, the grand-daughter of the explorer.

Other sites in Hanover, NH (the Steffansson Collection), Hurleyville, NY (the Sullivan County Museum, Cook Collection) and New York City (the Explorers Club) have additional holdings of Cook materials.  Reproduced above is a recent bookmark issued by the Explorers Club Research Archives.


Russians continue their research findings on Cook

In September, the popular Russian magazine, Vokrug Sveta, had a lengthy profile on Cook and his Mt. McKinley and North Polar expeditions, well illustrated and with further evidence that many in the Polar research community and scientific circles in Russia are looking favorably toward the claims of Frederick A. Cook.

The article is by Dr. Dmitry Shparo, a member of the Polar Commission of the Russian Geographic Society and a colleague of V. S. Koryakin, of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Dr. Koryakin has researched the Cook-Peary issues for more than 30 years and was the editor of both the Russian reprints of the Peary and Cook accounts of their respective North Pole expeditions..


Three 20th Century explorers, one 'mystery' island



Frederick A. Cook (1865 - 1940), Vilhjmur Stefansson (1879 - 1962) and Hans Kruger (1886 - 1930?) were three early 20th century Arctic explorers whose careers were inextricably entwined with Meighan Island.  Stefansson is acknowledged as its discoverer in 1916 and Kruger is presumed to have perished after leaving a note in the island's cairn in 1930.  Cook's role would become a significant sub-dispute in the larger controversy involving his 1908 - 09 Polar expedition.  


1 Finding Kruger’s Last Camp?
2 Stefansson’s Redoubt Collapses
3 The Solution: Cook’s Vindication


A crucial moment in Cook’s journal proves him passing 850 30’ North

by Wayne Davidson

An Inversion caused what appears to be land afar on a western Arctic coastal horizon, really consisting of open water, thin ice and warmer air aloft. There are a few clues which gives away the mirage: note the land profile mimics the apparent distant double ‘landscape’. This is due to an inversion hugging the land horizon at about the same height throughout. Unless a map is available or one goes strait into the direction of the mirage, one can easily assume that there is a big island about 50 to 100 miles away, with also clouds on top. 

This is not the first time when Dr Cook’s diary gets dissected, but it will be a first literally showing that he couldn’t have made up his journal on Arctic Ocean ice without actually being there. Astronomers like Denis Rawlins, and Stockwell in 1910, rightfully questioned the veracity of Dr Cook’s claims, as another astronomer correctly stated: extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence. 

In this case proof comes along as repetition, a key component of applied science. Claims given by Cook must be repeated, otherwise they remain without justification, a tenuous place to be. This essay merely complements my previous verifications on Doctor Cook’s North Pole journey. Sheldon Cook’s conclusion that there was nothing but ice at the Pole as reported by Dr Cook in 1908, is complemented by actual strange sun disk observations that turn out to be equally true, but not only that, true at the location reported. 


Sunspots in the eyes of Peary ‘network navigator’

by Wayne Davidson

Two sun shots at the same 6 degree elevation, tell a different story. To the left, Resolute sun disk is shrunken by 109 arc seconds, temperature outside was about -20 C. At right, a Montreal sun shot was taken with higher resolution equipment, it was +26 C temperature, the sun disk shrank vertically by 31 arc seconds. 2002 was a colder year than 2003, sunsets came much later in 2002. Peary’s sun disk at the North Pole in 1909 shrank by an impossible 10 seconds of arc, impossible because not even a sun shot taken during mid summer near Maine, can give this result.

 Doug Davies is the son of the Admiral of the Foundation for the Advancement of Navigation, backed by National Geographic, dedicated to refute Sir Wally Herbert’s essay printed in their magazine in 1989. But Admiral Thomas Davies passed away, I regrettably missed having this debate with him, I am sure he would have found it stimulating. However Doug turns out to be his son, he decided to criticize my work with refraction, especially because it kills any chance of Peary ‘s North Pole sextant measurements to be true. The first section of his critique fails, as all mean name calling does: “All Cook supporters are crazy” etc, of course this really explains why Peary’s sun measurements were grotesquely impossible. At least his father read more like a gentleman with respect to Dr Cook.

Doug Davies has bad Internet manners as well, like using copyright to claim intellectual ownership of other peoples web sites, even of Cook and Peary’s pictures. And not replying to E-mail’s while using the content of those E-mails for his web page. The man appears to have caught Peary’s very own obsessiveness with control over other people’s thoughts.

Atmospheric refraction at the Poles is a new subject of science, just breaking out, almost 100 years after Cook vs. Peary. To make it simple, consider the sun disk as tires on automobiles. If it is very hot outside the air within the tires expand and the tires look really round, however if it is very cold outside, say -20°C, then the same tires appear and are really flatter. Polar Priorities readers living in Cold winter areas are probably quite aware of this. For similar reasons, the sun disk appears flatter in very cold air, while much rounder in warm air. As explained in past P.P. articles, the science involved is a bit complicated. To make it simple, here is the first proposed rule of sunset science:

“A colder atmosphere always causes significant upward refraction elevation boost accompanied with vertical sun disk shrinkage.” Except for sun disks nearly touching the horizon, the above is a law, unalterable by critics or sextant experts. Peary’s own few measurements of the sun disk vertical dimension alleged to have been taken at the North Pole were shrunken by an average of 10 seconds of arc. This is impossible for many reasons: foremost it is now known that cold air shrinks Peary’s sun disk by at least 40 Arc seconds, that authority is none other than the US Navy, but in reality the sun disk in Peary’s time of much colder atmosphere should have shrank by 60 to 120 arc seconds. Secondly, I use a digital camera and telescope method, which is far more precise than the sextant, it has never given the same vertical sun disk measurement twice. No technique can always give the same vertical sun disk measurement, because the air above is constantly changing from one moment to the next, this phenomenon is not significant enough to be perceived by naked eyes, but any optical instrument can show this.

Figure 2 blow up of Peary’s April 6, 1909 sun from The Foundation’s 1989 Supplemental Report. It very much looks like the sun has a vertical diameter shrunken in excess of 120 Arc Seconds! The vertical diameter appears 12 times smaller than Peary’s measurement. But to confirm this one needs the original pictures. If verified, this picture proves that Peary couldn’t have measured a much rounder sun as he claimed by his sextant measurements.

But there is much more than just compression, Peary actually measured a sun disk larger than the sun disk itself! 32 minutes 10 seconds. This is absolutely impossible. To explain this, Davies used a term called standard deviation, which is essentially an error factor, usually associated with all instrument measurements. For now, this error is 20 arc seconds, for Peary’s sextant it use to be 10 (in 1989), but this changes according to the intensity of challenge. Even with this 20 arc seconds standard deviation, Davies defense of Peary turns sour, having a sun disk average of 31 minutes and 57 seconds (31.95'), is equally absolutely impossible according to all observatories own Earth. But to compound this further, there was never any extensive Polar refraction work in the past, it turns out that refraction in the Polar Regions is much more strong than estimated. Peary’s very measurement of the sun disk confirms that a) didn’t make a sextant measurement at the Pole and b) he fabricated it.

Doug Davies one time explanation: “Peary rounded his sextant numbers” so as to always achieve these impossibilities, was a ridiculous assertion, and it is a good thing he removed this poor defensive stance from his web site. But Davies biggest challenge is for him to come up with a sun disk shrunken at 10" of arc at Peary’s North Pole sun elevation from any sea level location on Earth. Why did the 1989 Foundation for the promotion of the Art of Navigation reported that this 10 arc seconds was “normal”? Is it because up until 1989, it was some sort of scientific theory? Mr Davies also fails to grasp that nowadays, averaging differential refraction readings within one degree segments is now an outdated method, we can compare many shots at exactly the same astronomical elevation in order to analyze the results a little better.

Reading Davies web site shows how well Davies understands refraction and or meteorology, he takes (without permission) a quote from mine: that Cook “observed the sun with about 5 atmospheres [of pressure] and a surface temperature of -31 to -44 F, a great deal of cold air.” the: [of pressure] is an add on from Davies, which demonstrated his incapacity to grasp concepts of distance, as 5 atmospheres of distance, rather than pressure. If he would have corresponded, like a gentleman, he would have been taught of this essential concept in refraction.

Davies then comes up to criticizing Dr Cook’s North Pole measurements. They are to say the least fascinating, nowhere near what 1908 science would have explained, nowhere near a forger from 1911 can possibly imagine. Dr Cook’s sun disk shrank 5 times more than I have ever measured in Resolute Bay. Yet again what was the Atmosphere like above Dr Cook’s expedition? Was the Arctic ocean so frozen with ice thick enough to dramatically cool the atmosphere well beyond present day Arctic ocean ice made much thinner by world wide Global Warming? Or were Dr Cook’s measurements flawed? I don’t say forged, because no self respecting explorer can come up with such outrageous numbers. None more preposterous than seeing the sun when it was 4 degrees below the horizon, but this is possible, and proven*, and yes just as Dr Cook reported on his way to the Pole in 1908. But why didn’t Marvin nor Peary write about the same thing? It is perhaps not a mystery, but a concealment. Peary (like Davies) wanted to be credible; he needed no controversies, seeing the sun when it was well below the horizon was very controversial. A true explorer calls it as it is, a fame seeker calls it as it should be.

Extreme shrinkage of the sun disk is a matter worth investigating, but we must wait for very cold air to make a come back, and perhaps someone will take a few measurements, but for now I suggest coastal Antarctic colleagues to take up the challenge during their early Spring .

But to give a little credit to Davies, he concludes that Peary and Cook are essentially equals in their respective sun measurements at the Pole, which means that neither can be certified without further research. Although, the research with respect to Peary, has been researched many times over, and there is not a chance that he can be vindicated, especially in light of the cover up of Peary’s data (from 1909 to 1989), compared to Cook’s very early information release. Both Peary and Cook were explorers, but Cook was by far the most honest one, especially open for others to explore him, he was an explorers explorer.


Robert E. Peary at the North Pole. A report to the National Geographic Society by the Foundatin for the Promotion of the Art of Navigation. Supplemental Report, 1989.

* = Applied Optics-LP, Volume 42, Issue 3, 379-389 January 2003 Gerrit de Veer’s Ture and Perfect Description of the Novaya Zemlya Effect, 24-27 January 1597 Stebren Y. van der Werf, Gunther P. Konnen, Waldemar H. Lehn, Frits Steenhuisen, Wayne P. S. Davidson


www.douglasrdavis.com, My web pages: www.ch2r.com stands for extremely high horizon refraction

Where All Meridians Meet

Cook's Fantastic Trip to the Pole




by Russell Gibbons

For much of a century (considering that we are just seven years away from the centennial of the beginning of the North Pole controversy) the "mainline" literature that has addressed the rival claims has generally tilted toward a bias for Robert E. Peary, or dismissed both explorers.

Thus it was with some surprise that we encountered the September/October 2002 number of Mercator's World, The Magazine of Maps, Geography and Discovery which has a regular feature department called "Field Notes," and which in this issue featured "Where All Meridians Meet:  Cook's Fantastic Trip to the Pole."

This proved to be a three page summary of Cook’s field notes from “My Attainment of the Pole,” with entries from early April 19, 20 and 21,1908 detailing the final approach and arrival at the Pole. The short preface to the notes is a brief summary of the controversy, fair and dispassionate.

(With one factual error: “Peary, officially recognized by the U.S. Congress in 1911 as the Discoverer of the Pole...” is incorrect. Congress, after the 5-4 recommendation of the Committee on Naval Affairs, removed that designation and gave the “Thanks of Congress for his Arctic Explorations resulting in reaching the North Pole.” The distinction is significant, for many Cook supporters had no objection to Peary’s claim of having reached but not having “discovered” the Pole.)

The subtitle did offer initial qualifications, for “fantastic” can be either variations of unreal or superb, but any reading of the Mercator’s piece would soon bring the positive side of the word into play. It is worth checking out by any reader. Coincidentally, two contributions in the 2002 issue of Polar Priorities deal with Cook’s field notes, that by Wayne Davidson in part and by Sheldon S.R. Cook as a significant point of argumentation (the title was also in place before the magazine.)

Two other contributions in this number of the journal reflect the “field notes’ of two of the board members of the Society- Jim Garlinghouse in an essay about his last ascent of Mount McKinley (Denali) and Lon Constantini in his account about a backpacking expedition on Baffin Island. Not all Society members are just “armchair explorers.”


Discovering a Long-Forgotten Aspect of
Northern Studies:  Inuit and the Explorers

Symposium sponsored by the Society and Byrd Polar Center will have papers in POLAR GEOGRAPHY


Presenters at the Inuit/Explorers Symposium held on April 20 at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University (from left): 
Patricia Huntingdon, Ted Heckathorn, Kenn Harper, Richard C. Davis, H.G. Jones and Lyle Dick (photo by David Kaufman).


In the North, explorers found no Inca treasure or the fabled riches of the Americas, but their quest was toward that and another goal-the fabled passage through the Northwest-following the undiscovered islands that bordered the frozen northern coast. Myth and legend propelled many of the early expeditions. Ship-destroying channels and icebergs took their toll and Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition of 1845 became the classic flame for the Arctic moths that would follow. It would take almost a century, from Sir John Ross to Roald Amundson to find and follow the Northwest Passage.

Ironically, the vast literature of the quest by North American and European explorers of the 19th and early 20th centuries for the Northwest Passage and the elusive North Pole has much about the indigenous peoples but little about their continuing inter-relationships with white explorers. The inevitable “white man’s view of history” intrudes into this story, as it has with most of the history of exploration and discovery, with little credit to native peoples. The true accounts of deception, subjection and in many instances extermination of native peoples in the Western Hemisphere between the 15th and 19th centuries remains as a sordid and inglorious, if less frequently told, chapter of exploration and expansion. Charles Francis Hall, the obsessed Cincinnati printer who convinced Congress of the merits of his proposed expedition, introduced the Inuit to the Western world as much as any explorer of that period. Recently, however, Jean Malaurie, who lived among”The People” for many years wrote that “despite their seeming graciousness, (they are) hard and closed, and their behavior enigmatic.”

Russell Gibbons
Raimund E. Goerler

Multiple Sun Observations Confirm Cook Reached at Least 84o N

New observations in the high Arctic reinforce Cook's locations, while questioning Peary's North Pole notes

by Wayne Davidson

Upper Air Station Operator, Resolute Bay, Nunavut


The vertical diameter of this sun disc taken in the Arctic is flatter by a factor of four times than that which Peary measured. Taken in August 2002, it can only shrink much more.

Source: www.eh2r.com

Ahwelah and Etukishook, Dr Cook’s Inuit exploration companions, were hardened hunters of fame, people capable of surviving with spears and arrows in the cruelest environment in the world. But even for these tough travellers, nothing was ever so frightful as on the Arctic Ocean ice on March 25, 1908:

“Half-dazed, I heard beneath me a series of echoing, thundering noises. I felt the ice floor on which I lay quivering.”...” Ah-we-lah leapt to his feet. In the same dizzy instant I saw the dome of the snow house open above me.” (Dr F.A. Cook, March 25, 1908)

On March 25, 1908 they just passed the “Big Lead” by a few days, when all of a sudden the lead became active. The Big Lead area is a treacherous place. A sudden ice displacement is a known occurrence especially near the full or new moon periods, lately more often noted, witnessed by several expeditions, the Big Lead zone is more understood but still mysterious. Eighty years later at about the same date, just North of Ellesmere Island, March 23, 1989 had moving sea ice which made such a noise, frightened a young North Pole snowmobile guide enough to leave the Arctic ocean.

The Big Lead swiftly opened that day, cracking hard ice to open at a staggering length of about 800 miles along the archipelago coast, on some spots the lead was several miles wide. The lead closed the following day, causing a huge noise. Heard at Ward Hunt Island some 40 miles away, it was like “continuous thunder”, according to a British station manager. Once silence returned, the end result was a huge pressure ridge as long as the eye can see, 1 km wide, 10 meters high, made mostly of crushed fresh ice stacked like myriads of shingles 30 feet high, it was a living hell to the expeditions who tried to cross it.

Cook was therefore past the Big Lead when he heard the frightening ice thunder. This event can’t be faked or manufactured as a work of fiction, Dr. Cook was about at 84N.

A few days prior, on March 21 Dr. Cook looked through his igloo ice glass, an igloo window: “As I awoke on the morning of March 21 and peered out of the eye-port of the igloo, the sun edged along the northeast.”

Innocent as it seems, this statement proves his location. The sun was about -4 degrees below the horizon at that time.No work of fiction could have come up with this apparently preposterous story. A careful lie, would have been double checked and corrected before being published. On the other hand, a full account would and should look a bit strange, since no human had ever observed at Cook’s location. But, how did he see the sun?

A new discovery, I call Extremely High Horizon Refraction (EH2r),confirms this observation. The colder the air, the more refraction is created, the higher the sun gets boosted upwards. Other similar observations can be found in history, the most famous one was Gerrit de Veer with William Barents in 1597.

More recently the sun has been frequently filmed at -2 degrees below the horizon, while one photo from 1987 shows the sun above ground when it was -4.5 degrees below. Concordingly, Dr. Cook’s temperature on March 21 was -63 F, extremely cold weather boosted the sun to appear much higher that day. Admitting, as some historians claim, that Dr. Cook never ventured northwards past the tip of Axel Heiberg is discounted , for he was well on his way to the Pole, as he claimed.

Finally, March 28, at 84 42' North Dr. Cook wrote: “Midnight; north cloudy, but the ice bright; many hummocks.” Again another innocent statement, but crucial information, the sun was -2.2 degrees below the horizon at that moment, but thanks to strong refraction, the sun was above sea ice. Despite clouds the ice was bright. It is common for the below the horizon sun to be boosted by about 2 degrees elevation in the high Arctic.

There is more evidence supporting Cook, but for now, it is safe to say he was at 84 42 N or Northwards. Crucial research with Differential Refraction is underway at this time. Differential Refraction is a study of the flattening of the sun or moon by air. In our case it is very cold air which shrinks the sun to a line. From its known vertical diameter in space, about 32 minutes of arc, the sun shrinks vertically to a line less than 6 minutes of arc.

At higher sun elevations, such as found with Peary and Cook sextant observations, the sun disk appears shrunken depending on how high it is above the horizon. Peary’s belated defense team, “The Foundation for the Promotion of Art of Navigation” claim that at 6 degree elevation, 10 seconds of arc compression is normal. But in fact the sun shrinks by two minutes of arc or more at 6 degrees.

It remains to be seen whether Dr. Cook’s observation can be repeated though, his April 1908 observations indicate enormous compression. More so than measured today, but the air during Dr. Cook’s expedition should have been much colder than present times. Peary’s 10 seconds of Arc compression, can’t be explained in view of present data; he is off by a factor of 12. Dr. Cook’s sun disk observations, have not been repeated but they show a great deal more promise because it is expected that in very cold air the sun disk image compresses a great deal more.

This March 15, 2002 sunline had another before it set at 2.29 degrees below the horizon. Sun is flatter vertically compared with horizontal measurement. March 15 2002 sunline had another 15 minutes to go before sunset. The official sunset time was wrong by 35 minutes. No Navigation table or program can calculate High Arctic sunset times.

Robert Bryce and his Hysterical Polar History

The junior college librarian as a self-proclaimed polar authority ignores the work of others with pronouncements from his reference desk armchair

by Ted Heckathorn

Most history consists of dates, facts and information that are a matter of record and not the subject of debate. There are, however, a few disputed events that have generated heated historical disputes for decades such as Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy Assassination, and the North Pole Controversy. For over 45 years my goal had been to collect all pertinent data on the polar issue to determine if it could be resolved. Ten years ago, with the demise of Robert E. Peary's 1909 polar claim, I expressed the hope that scientists, explorers and historians would now be able to examine Dr. Frederick Cook's 1908 claim in a dispassionate manner to arrive at areas of agreement. Unfortunately I neglected to anticipate and factor one hysterical librarian's ego into the equation, which leads us to the current situation.

Recently Russell Gibbons, the editor of Polar Priorities, advised me that librarian Robert Bryce had written a vituperative, personal attack on me in DIO & The Journal of Hysterical Astronomy. This came as a surprise because I had known and frequently shared Peary polar research material with DIO's publisher Dennis Rawlins for over 25 years. Rawlins had sent me no advance notice, opportunity to respond, or a copy of the article as is customary with reputable periodicals and newspapers. The librarian included similar ugly personal attacks on the Frederick A. Cook Society, Russell Gibbons, and Sheldon S.R. Cook. Apparently our collective crime had been to question some of Bryce's pet theories and write semi-critical reviews of his 1133-page opus, Cook & Peary: The Polar Controversy Resolved. In my case, I had praised his research efforts in finding obscure archival material, pointed out some factual errors and disagreed with several of his conclusions that were refuted by data that I found during many years of archival and field research.



'Neither good science nor good journalism' The quarter century saga of 'DR', the self-described skeptic of history and science who comes off as a loose cannon among his peers

by Russell W. Gibbons

"It was after midnight on a Saturday night when University of Toronto astronomer Bob Garrison was awakened by a phone call. The caller identified himself as a member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and according to Garrison, he spent the best part of the next hour urging the U of T scientist not to participate in [an upcoming] conference on astrology."

Canadian Science Forum, July-August, 1978

The caller was Baltimore astronomer Dennis Rawlins. Essentially the same account was earlier reported in Britain's New Scientist magazine (June 28, 1978), which also asserted that Rawlins was engaging in some free speech suppression, a charge which he would strongly deny. Yet the planned conference on astrology and science at the university which had been well received in advance was subsequently canceled.

This incident, which took place almost a quarter of a century ago, was somewhat of a symbolic launching of a career of unofficial debunking and scientific skepticism for DR as he calls himself which would follow a tortured path of interior dissent with fellow skeptics, intemperate publicity assaults, and self-publication of his ranting under the covers of an odd little magazine called DIO.

In time, Rawlins would be unceremoniously booted out of the organization he had become a director of, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), which charged that he "demonstrated his inability to distinguish between official (Committee) actions and those of its individual members." Others in CSICOP charged that Rawlins had "unleashed a rambling harangue" against the organization.

Philip J. Klass, a onetime colleague of Rawlins, had an extensive essay which was printed in the Rational Inquirer in October 1992, dealing with Rawlins from the perspective of "those of us with first hand experience in trying to work with him and who are familiar with his modus-operandi." Indeed the Rawlins "MO" would be the central issue in his attacks against onetime associates in the Skeptical Inquirer community and in his venture into polar and mountaineering history and his invective in attacking such explorers as Frederick A. Cook and Richard E. Byrd.

"After three years of working with Rawlins, I was well aware of his proclivity for making harsh, exaggerated charges," wrote Klass, adding that "most often these were directed against supporters of the para-normal, but sometimes also against Council members who disagreed with his proposals for intemperate action against the 'believers.'" Others have been harsher: Michael Gauquelin, a French psycho-physiologist, publicly accused Rawlins of distortion and misrepresentation in a 1977­78 dispute involving both of them that involved the CSICOP as an organization. 

With me or against me

DR soon earned a reputation among his fellow skeptics as an all-or-nothing guy. If you agreed with him then you were among the fortunate intellects who were on the side of Truth. If you had doubts, you were consigned with the enemy. For the majority of years in Western thought, it has been characteristic of historical and scientific controversy for an opposition to challenge or question another's interpretation of the data.

That in itself is accepted in the scientific community, yet it is that which has on occasion enraged DR, which CSICOP Chair Prof. Paul Kurtz said had caused "Rawlins unleashing a rambling harangue" against the leadership of CSICOP, suggesting that Rawlins should "skip the invective" in his extensive memoranda to the organization, and instead "outline the problem clearly, concisely and offer your recommendations." One of his memos Kurtz said, "was an unintelligible jumble."

The jumble may have been a trail that DR initiated when he convinced his editor at Luce, a then New York publisher, to allow him to use eleven pages of notes and source citations in his uniquely unintelligible format as a reader "help" in the back of his book Peary: Fact or Fiction. This jumble under hard covers would be a challenge to any serious student of the controversy, ignoring standard reference citations and bibliography format. Indeed, it may be appropriate that DR lists a World War II expert on cryptography on the inside cover of his DIO magazine as a resource person.

The crux of the DR conflict with the Skeptics was his article in a publication that long had been considered a favorable outlet for para-normal opinion, a popular digest-format monthly called Fate. In the October 1981 issue, DR went after CSICOP with both barrels, declaring that a "cover-up" had taken place in the organization because it published a European researcher who had also been the object of a spurious Rawlins attack. DR had titled his assault "sTARBABY," a play on words that he enjoys, incorporating the dispute in question (involving the so-called "Mars Effect" on birth cycles of sports achievers). Kurtz replied with an essay targeted to DR, called "CRYBABY":

There was no cover-up, except in Rawlins troubled mind, fed by the fires of a wounded ego, and perhaps by embarrassment over his unauthorized intervention in the University of Toronto symposiumRawlins imagines many things that simply are not true [he] chooses to rely on his vivid imagination or recollections rather than to take time to check the factsRawlins decided he knew the answer without bothering to investigate. This is neither good science nor good journalism.

Without a more extensive replay of the dispute between DR and his one-time associates in the organization, it may be worthy of note to recall that the academics, editors, authors, physicists, astronomers and other critical thinkers who made up the CSICOP had a mail ballot to drop DR from its "Fellows," its top level of membership. The vote was 6 to 1.

'DIO' we believe him or 'DIO' we not?

DR interspersed his independent scholarship (this is the term for those who work off grants or who are independently wealthy and can afford not to have a real "day job") in the war with the skeptics between his 1973 Peary book and his late 80s re-entry into polar history, in which he received national attention through his charges regarding explorer Robert E. Peary. Ironically it was the same years in which British explorer and polar author Wally Herbert made allegations regarding Peary.

The National Geographic Society, virtually the last support group for his North Pole claims other than Peary's family, came to his defense again and commissioned Herbert to do an article on the issue. Herbert did, and concluded that Peary had been 130 geographical miles short of his goal. Rawlins had earlier announced that he had discovered the "Bowman lock box," a "do-not-open" source attributed to a one-time president of Johns Hopkins University. DR said it would shoot Peary's claims down, but instead according to Baltimore magazine (July 1989), Rawlin's "smoking gunhad blown a hole in his foot."

Never one to shy away from the media, DR quickly held a press conference at the National Geographic Society which was similar to his using Fate magazine to attack astrology-bashing fellow travelers to acknowledge that what he had purported to be Peary's navigational calculations were in fact serial numbers of his chronometers. "My interpretation has some problems, and I acknowledge thatI think I have not yet met the burden of proof of saying that Peary was a fraud." Others, though, had met that burden: Herbert was acknowledged as an experienced ice traveler, whose assessment of Peary was measured, detailed and conclusive.

DR's attack on Frederick A. Cook can be traced to his 1973 book. His initial assessment of Cook advocates as "well meaning but misguided folk" evolved into endless vitriol by 1998 when his DIO, subtitled The Journal of Hysterical Astronomy launched into a tasteless, vicious and ranting attack on Cook, his supporters and those in the history and scientific community who had dared to support his polar achievements. It was a polar "tarbaby" recalling his earlier rants with the skeptics.

Kevin McManus, a Baltimore writer familiar with Rawlins who authored an extensive essay about DR after the Peary-NGS flap, wrote in the city magazine that Rawlins "has practically made a career oftrashing other people's pet theories" and had led many of DR's contemporaries to suggest that his MO was as "an obnoxious, glory-starved showboater." The DR/MO continued into recent months when another special "double publication" of DIO offered another attack on Cook and a new assault on the achievements of Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

DIO followed the same pattern of DR and the Skeptic wars of the early 80s: ridicule, rhetorical excess, and to quote his new associate Robert Bryce "a general disdain for those who do not agree with him." Byrd advocates, and especially the scholars and staff at the library and archives of the Byrd Polar Research Center were dismissed as "for the Byrds." Examples of the infantile DR pepper DIO Byrd issue vol. 10, January 2000 (in typical Rawlinese distribution mode, mailed in August 2001): "kook elusiveness" (p. 102), "crimson-mugged genii", "nuts, sluts, Grosvenors & clones" (p. 104). That level of scholarship may be why DR is dismissed the way his hometown magazine described him 12 years ago: "an intellectual swashbucklerand gadfly."

DR, invited as a presenter to one FACS/Byrd Center symposium in 1993 and an individual participant in another in 1997, chose to be an observer in the scheduled debate between Robert Bryce and the Society's Sheldon S.R. Cook. Now he asks for debate despite the fact that McKinley associate Bradford Washburn never showed for a 1996 debate and in a "Rodney King-like" letter to Society President Warren Cook Sr. (September 15, 2001) asked that Society members need only recant their "belief system" in Cook and then would be eligible to join DR in a true celebration of "unquestioned" Cook achievements.

A final note: Ted Heckathorn described by DR as "a Seattle historian, formerly of US. Intelligence, [who] must now be ranked among the immortals of the Cook-Peary Controversy" (DIO, vol. 6, 1992) was termed in the same DIO this year as an "amateur researcher." This DIO flip-flop may be less a fatal flaw in the publication's secretive, insider-mentality in which they mail the printed final version to the people they trash. Any journal worthy of that name would have advised those under extensive critical treatment that this was the case, and that they would have an opportunity to respond. How hysterical can you get? 

'DIO' Lament: Reference works seek out the 'wrong' experts for national biography

Robert Bryce, DIO's new essayist, has many hand-wringing laments in his 72-page "Response, not a defense" contribution in the December 1999 (vol. 9, nos. 2-3 printed in June and distributed in August 2001) number of DIO, then still the official subtitled Hysterical Journal.

One of the most telling, however, may be his angry notation on page 68 that two of the DIO nemesis on Cook and Peary (the "amateur" researchers and historians as Bryce describes them) are not consigned to the ashcan of unknown "cultists" by the leading reference works of North America. Indeed, quite the opposite.

The American National Biography, a 24-volume reference work published by Oxford University Press under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies, was in the works for a decade. The New York Times said when it was released in January 1999 that it had "created a comprehensive portrait of American history."

When the ANB was released, the Council said that it "is informed by the most recent historical scholarship and reflects an unprecedented level of diversity, making this reference work the most modern, inclusive dictionary of American biography ever produced." One would think that such a production, with 17,450 biographies, would gladden the heart of any reference librarian.

Apparently not librarian Bob, who complained of a "scholarly standard" in the selection of contributors. Why? Amateurs such as Ted Heckathorn and Russell Gibbons were asked to contribute the biographical profiles on Robert E. Peary and Frederick A. Cook. DR, offering himself as a Peary expert for a quarter century was ignored.

Possibly that was the case because editors look at dispassionate and objective research in selecting "informed scholarship." They might not consider the Rawlins tirades in print worthy of consideration (ie. p. 34 in DIO, 9:2-3, December 1999: "the Cook crowd's argumentation-methods and cult-religious mental impenetrability toward incoming disconfirmatory evidence").

So was Bryce, whose Cook-Peary opus came out while the DAB was in the works and whose book presumably was noticed by those who set the "scholarly standards" at Oxford and the ACLS.


The Tragedy of Pioneer Black
Explorer Matthew Henson
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A recent revisionist school of black history has Matthew A. Henson as the true "discoverer" of the North Pole, or at the least the "co-discoverer" with Robert E. Peary.
These revisionists ignore the fact that for nearly 20 years in the Arctic, Henson endured as Peary's "manservant," later to be discarded by the man who took all the "glory and honor."  In later life Henson received belated recognition, then a sad exploitation after his death.

A web site dedicated to Henson is full of false assertions and calumny, especially toward Frederick A. Cook.  "Certain ( Afro-American) web sites are on the edge in terms of legitimacy," declares a Columbia University black studies professor, offering caution  toward such web sites.  Read about Henson's own account of the alleged trip to the Pole and his rejection by Peary.   "Co-discoverers or co-conspirators?" asks one Polar historian.


Copyright - The Frederick A. Cook Society