Bowdoin marks 100th anniversary of Peary's expedition

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BRUNSWICK — While controversy hovered over Robert E. Peary’s 1909 trip to the North Pole, his alma mater is planning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his Arctic quest.  

Beginning on Friday, April 3, Bowdoin College will hold a series of events marking Peary’s milestone, an achievement that will be viewed in the context of the North Pole as a bellwether for climate change. 

The college’s Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and the Arctic Studies Center will hold a series of programs and exhibits.

On April 3, the museum will present “Arctic Explorers in Motion,” a film featuring archived footage of 1900s explorers working in concert with Inuit Indians during the expedition. Museum staff will provide commentary. The program is free, but tickets are required. 

On Saturday, April 4, scholars and museum staff will conduct a symposium, “Peary’s Quest for the Pole.” It will feature discussion about Peary, his wife Josephine, his expedition partner Matthew Henson and other key assistants, including the engineer of the ship, George Wardwell, and Capt. Robert Bartlett. 

The symposium is free and welcome to the public.

On Monday, April 6, the museum will be open all day to celebrate Peary’s historic achievement. In addition, celebrations are being held across the country, including a graveside ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where Peary and Henson are buried. Other events are being planned in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Newfoundland and the North Pole. 

In 1909, Peary’s achievement became the subject of much debate because another American explorer, Frederick Cook, claimed to have reached the North Pole a year earlier.

In 1989 the Navigation Foundation determined Peary was within five miles of the geographic North Pole, but the “Great Polar Controversy” flares up around both anniversaries. 

For more information about the programs offered by the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, or to follow the 1908-1909 North Pole expedition, visit

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or