Perhaps not surprisingly, as we observe the 100th anniversary of Robert Peary's claim to have reached the North Pole the controversy attached to it remains. It's a tale complete with courage, intrigue, and possibly even deception. There are countless stories, articles and books about it, and there's not nearly enough room in this blog to get into all the details. Suffice to say, there may always be a differing of opinion when it comes to whether Peary or Frederick Cook reached the Pole first -- or whether either man ever reached it at all.
Of course, today it's a debate that's framed by an entirely different Arctic environment than the one at the turn of the century. Reaching the North Pole these days is something that can be done by tourists aboard a Russian icebreaker. Full disclosure: one of my father's marriages was right at the North Pole (he's now semi-retired, and regular readers of this blog know he's spent many years aboard research icebreakers as an electronics technician). And just today there was another report from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center stating that more than 90 percent of the ice in the Arctic is only a year or two old, making it thinner and more vulnerable.
Land claims, shipping routes, oil deposits. Global warming, sea levels, wildlife habitats. A day when there is nowhere to stand at the North Pole because there is no ice? Regardless of the lingering discovery debate, it may be far more important than ever before to look to the future at the top of the world rather than its past.
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