Forget Ali vs. Frazier. The biggest fight of the 20th century? Was Robert Peary versus Frederick Cook.
They were both explorers, and they both loved cold places. Cook claimed to be the first guy to summit Alaskaâs Mount McKinley. While Peary specialized in expeditions into the vast Arctic Circle.
The two were friendly rivals until 1909. Thatâs when Peary returned from an Arctic expedition and announced he and his crew had reached the North Pole. The first men everÂ to do it. Only problem? Just weeks before, Cook had returned from a long Arctic expedition – and announced he had reached the Poleâ¦ a year earlier.
A public battle ensued. Newspapers polled readers about which man they believed. Pearyâs supporters painted Cook as a fraud, who not only hadnât reached the PoleÂ but never summited McKinley, either. Eventually, a Congressional committee was convened to weigh the evidence. They named Peary âfirst man to the Pole.”
Thatâs still what history books say. But is it the truth? Who knows? True, Cookâs own crewmen later contradicted his polar claims. And turns out he did fib about the whole McKinley thing. But Pearyâs claims are suspect too. In the 1980s, several studies of his records concluded heâd missed the Pole by miles. In 1988, The New York Times issued a correction to its 1909 article claiming Peary the victor.
Update 3/25/2016: Maybe neither Cook nor Peary was first. In which case, the runners up were probably a crew who got to the Pole decades later in 1968… using snowmobiles. There was also an expedition in 1926, in which a crew of airmen floated over the North Pole in a blimp.
The Bitter Explorer
Iced up by Bob Pokorney, bartender at Lavelle’s Bistro in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is about as close as one can get to the Arctic Circle and still get a cocktailâ¦
- 2 ounces American whiskey
- 2 ounces Campari
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Champagne to top
Combine whiskey, Campari, bitters, and ice in a blender. Blend until Arctic-level ice-slush is achieved. Scoop into glass. Top with Champagne.
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