Campus News

Sen. Collins Commemorates Peary Centennial in Congressional Record

Story posted April 03, 2009

In honor of the centennial of Robert Peary's historic expedition to the North Pole and his various connections to the State of Maine, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, on April 2, 2009, entered into the Congressional Record a statement calling attention to the anniversary, highlighting the effects of climate change and noting the celebratory exhibition at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum.

Sen. Susan Collins

Mr. President, I rise today to commemorate the expedition of Admiral Robert Peary and his discovery of the North Pole one hundred years ago, on April 6, 1909.

Mr. President, while Robert Peary was born in Pennsylvania, he was educated in the State of Maine, at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. He graduated in 1877. He lived in Portland and Fryeburg, and built a home on Eagle Island, which is now a state park.

A century ago, Admiral Peary and his men set sail for the North Pole in the Maine-built SS Roosevelt. They sailed through the frigid, ice-laden North Atlantic and froze the ship into a bay off northern Ellesmere Island. After more than a month of dog sledging over the moving sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean, Admiral Peary, Matthew Henson, and four Inughuit men stood at the northernmost place on earth, the sea ice that marked the North Pole.

Peary's success had come after a number of previous failures and the lessons learned. Nations had competed to get there; countless men had suffered trying to do so, and some had even perished.

The story of Robert Peary, his expeditions, and his attainment of reaching the North Pole is a celebration of the triumph of leadership, creativity and ingenuity.

Though traveling there has become significantly easier than it was in 1909, the North Pole remains a destination for scientists. The fact is, however, the North Pole of today is not the same North Pole that Admiral Peary discovered. The thick, multi-year sea ice that Admiral Peary encountered has disappeared. In the last 30 years, the Arctic has lost sea ice cover over an area ten times as large as the State of Maine, and at this rate the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free by 2050. Global climate change is one of the most significant environmental challenges facing our country, and it has renewed scientific interest in the North Pole.

Today, visitors to the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College can learn more about Admiral Peary's historic journey to the top of the Earth. In special recognition of the one hundred anniversary of the expedition, the museum has brought together an impressive collection of objects that were at the North Pole on April 6, 1909 including an American flag that flew at the pole on that day, a page from his diary where he reflects on his accomplishment, and one of his sledges.

Mr. President, the people of Maine, and especially those at Bowdoin College, are proud of Robert Peary and of all of those involved in his epic journey. I am pleased to honor the anniversary of this historic occasion.

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