Born in Pennsylvania in 1856, Robert Peary spent 23 years of his life preparing to achieve what had eluded explorers for centuries: reaching the North Pole. Driven by ambition and unwavering determination, Peary, an American explorer and United States Navy officer, believed he and his team had finally accomplished this remarkable feat on 6th April 1909, and in his diary that day, having stood where no one had stood before, he put into words his awe and disbelief. Much to his dismay, this moment of triumph was quickly marred by controversy, as doubts emerged regarding the accuracy of his navigational records and the true location of their final camp. The debate continues to this day.
The Diary Entry
The Pole at Last!!! The prize of 3 centuries, my dream and ambition for 23 years. Mine at last. I cannot bring myself to realize it. It all seems so simple and common place, as Bartlett said “just like every day.” I wish Jo [his wife] could be here with me to share my feelings. I have drunk her health & that of the kids from the Benedictine flask she sent me.
Robert Peary’s handwritten diary is part of the Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary Family Collection at the National Archives. It can be seen in full on their website. As mentioned, there has been some debate about Peary’s purported achievement, and about this particular entry, written on a loose sheet and held firm between the pages of his diary.