National Geographic : 1988 Sep
before startingfor home at 4 p.m. on April 7. He later railedagainst - critics: "No one except the most ignorantwill have any doubt but what, at some time, I had passed close to the precisepoint, and had, perhaps,actually passed over it." Or he may have been from 30 to 60 miles away, concludes author Wally Herbert,who has projected three locations based on different combinations of navigational errors.Peary's "astonishingly slack" records make it impossible to prove or disprove his achieve ment. His diary indicates,almost as an afterthought,that he took a latitude readingof 89'251 on April 5, but no calculationssurvive. Peary took no longitude readings, and there is no evidence that he correctedhis course for detours. Ice drifting west in "violent" east erly winds may from the start have carriedPeary off his in tended track, the Cape Columbia meridian.Each day his heading would have been set by the shad ows cast at local noon. But if he was not on the Columbia merid ian he would not have headed due north.And if his route indeed lay to the west, his errorwould have been increasedby the fact that his chronometerwas ten minutes fast. There is also conflicting evidence on whether he checked the mag netic variationof his compass. "Conditions could have been phenomenal," says Herbert, but Peary'sround-tripspeed from Bartlettborders on the incredible. Equally puzzling are the psy chologicalmysteries. If Peary's final readings told him he was off course, what was his reactionto this discovery?April 7 and 8 are blank in Peary's diary, and later accounts by him and Henson are contradictory.He "scarcely spoke" to Henson on the return trip, and back on the Roosevelt he was subdued about his feat.