Campus News

Peary and the Pole: The Centennial Celebration

Story posted April 06, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009, marks the centennial of Robert E. Peary's historic expedition to the North Pole.

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American flag and sledges at the North Pole in April 1909. Photograph by Robert E. Peary or Matthew Henson.

One hundred years ago, after more than a month of sledging over moving sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean, Peary, of the Class of 1877, Matthew Henson and four Inughuit men stood at the northernmost place on earth.

Peary recorded his feelings about that day in his journal:

"The Pole at last!!! The prize of 3 centuries, my dream and ambition for 23 years. Mine at last."

Such journal entries by Peary, MacMillan and others on the expedition have been included in the Northward Blog, a historic blog that allows you to follow the daily activities of various expedition members. Visit the Northward Blog.

The Celebrations

To mark the occasion, the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum will be open all day with its showcase exhibition, Northward Over the Great Ice: Robert E. Peary and the Quest for the North Pole.

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Robert E. Peary greeting crowds in Sydney, Nova Scotia, upon his return from the North Pole.

Another exhibition, Reaching for the Pole: An Exhibition Celebrating the Centennial of Peary's North Pole Expedition, featuring rare books, manuscripts, and photographs, is currently on view on the second floor of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.

A wreath-laying ceremony with full military honors is planned at Arlington Cemetery where Peary and Henson are buried. Speakers include Rear Admiral Wayne G. Shear Jr., Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command and Chief of Civil Engineers, in recognition of Peary's service in the Civil Engineering Corps, and members of Peary's and Henson's families.

There are celebrations in New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, as well as in Peary's hometown, Cresson, Pa., Newfoundland-Labrador and at the North Pole.

Congressional Record

Sen. Susan Collins

In honor of the centennial and Peary's 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.

It also highlights the effects of climate change and notes the celebratory exhibition at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. Read the statement.

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State of Maine Proclamation

Governor John Baldacci, D-Maine, has proclaimed April 6, 2009, Robert E. Peary North Pole Attainment 100th Anniversary Day, citing Peary's accomplishment, his education at the College as well as his leadership and ingenuity. Read the proclamation.

Bowdoin Magazine


The cover story of the Winter 2009 issue of Bowdoin magazine is dedicated to the centennial.

The article puts the 1908-09 journey into context and consults members of Bowdoin's faculty as to why the race is still on, and what's at stake. Read the Bowdoin magazine article.

The Climate Connection

In conjunction with the Peary centennial, and over the Spring 2009 semester, Bowdoin faculty are presenting "Polar Extremes: Changes in a Warming World," a series of public lectures, film screenings, exhibitions and symposia investigating these and other environmental issues. Read more here.

Peary in the News: Now and Then
The SS Roosevelt reflected in the water as the ice at Cape Sheridan, Ellesmere Island, breaks up in the spring of 1909.

Selected Media Coverage:




Maine Sunday Telegram

Down East magazine

One hundred years ago the North Pole was front page news. From 1900 to 1913, more column inches in The New York Times were devoted to the Pole than to any other story, in large part due to the Great Polar Controversy that played out in the press over competing claims to its attainment.

More about the Peary Centennial:

Celebrating the Centenial of Robert Peary's Expedition

Peary and the Pole: A Hundred Year Old Controversy and Reunion

'The Pole at Last!' Exhibit Opens March 26

Library Exhibit Traces Peary and Arctic Exploration Histories

Peary and the Pole: Approaching Centennial, How College Celebrated Expedition's 50th

North Pole Bound: Robert E. Peary's Christmas Feast

MacMillan's Book about Peary's 1908-09 North Pole Expedition Re-issued

Celebrating the Centennial: Peary Packs for the Pole

Centennial of Peary's North Pole Expedition Celebrated at Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum

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