How Many Trips Did Explorer Robert Peary Make To The Arctic?

The 19th century Arctic explorer generally credited with leading the first expedition to reach the North Pole, American naval officer and civil engineer Rear Adm. Robert Edwin Peary, did not achieve this elusive distinction overnight. Far from it. Peary made many harrowing trips to the polar region, before achieving his dream in 1909. That triumph, however, was tarnished when he returned to civilization and discovered former colleague, American physician and explorer Francis Cook, had snatched the achievement away from him, claiming to have reached the pole a year before Peary (via Britannica). Luckily for Peary, Cook's claim was soon discredited, and Congress recognized Peary's expedition as the first to reach the North Pole (via Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). A few short years later, in 1911, the polar explorer retired from the U.S. Navy, ending his storied career and many treks into what at that time was an unknown wilderness.

Peary's travels into the northern wilds and his attempts at reaching the elusive North Pole are well documented. He made eight attempts at reaching the northernmost point on planet Earth, including his first expeditions scouting Greenland, between 1886 and 1909 (via Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). In 1886, Peary traveled 100 miles over the Greenland ice sheet. Several more expeditions followed in 1887. In 1891, the explorer again headed to Greenland, venturing 1,300 miles to northeastern Greenland where he discovered Independence Fjord and that Greenland was mostly likely an island, according to Britannica. Between 1893 and 1895, he again traversed Greenland, this time learning survival skills from the Inuit, according to Woods Hole.

Robert Peary reaches the North Pole

In 1898, he made his first full-blown attempt at reaching the pole. He didn't make it, but that didn't stop him, and he gave it another shot in 1905, but again he failed. Peary was nothing if not determined. In 1908, he headed out again and in April 1909, he reached what he thought was the North Pole. After Peary's death in 1920, researchers discovered navigational errors in his travel log that actually put him at least 30 miles short of his goal (via History). 

In all fairness, reaching the North Pole is not as easy as reaching the South Pole, which is actually a continent. The North Pole, on the other hand, is smack dab in the middle of drifting sea ice. Once at that point, 90 degrees north, where south is indicated in all directions, it's impossible to precisely record the area because the ice is in constant motion (via Smithsonian). While Peary is regarded as the first explorer to reach the most northern point on the planet, a study of his records in the late 1980s cast doubt on the claim. The truth remains as elusive as the exact point of the North Pole itself.