By: David Dailey
Henson, Peary and Their Expeditions
Henson and Peary first met in Washington D.C. in 1887, as Peary prepared for an expedition to Nicaragua. Henson was working as a store clerk when Peary hired him as a valet. From that point on they would be partners in many historical explorations.
One of their first expeditions was when they traveled to the interior of Greenland in 1886. Peary led an expedition in 1891 to Northern Greenland. On this trip Peary proved that Greenland was an island. Through these expeditions Henson was his personal assistant and dog driver.
In 1898 the two, along with others, traveled on the ship The Windward to discover the North Pole. After four years they did not reach the pole. The expedition traveled farther north than anyone had reached in the American Arctic, 390 miles south of the pole.
In 1905 they tried again on The Roosevelt, a ship designed to sail among masses of moving ice. Hardships forced the party to go back after coming within 200 miles south of the pole, another record.
In 1908 Peary and Henson set out over ice from Ellesmere Island. On April 6, 1909 they finally reached the North Pole. The first people ever to set foot on the North Pole that day were Robert Peary and Matthew Henson, who were accompanied by four Eskimos. It is said that Peary had to rest three miles from the pole making Henson the first American to reach the North Pole.
There are over hundreds of books about Henson and his adventures, although Henson only wrote a few himself. In 1912 Henson wrote a book about his explorations titled "A Negro Explorer at the North Pole". Later, in 1947, he worked with author Bradley Robinson on another book. That book, called "Dark Companion", was Henson's biography.