My 4th Grade Report on Robert E. Peary




Who do you think was the first person to go to the North Pole? Well if you say Santa Claus, you're wrong. It was Robert E. Peary. He was the first person to go to the North Pole. He was a very determined person who was born on May 6th, 1856 and died on February 20th, 1920. He achieved his dream by exploring Greenland and the North Pole


Early life

Robert E. Peary was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania in 1856. He was called Bert when he was a kid. He had no brothers or sisters and was not rich or poor. He loved nature and loved to explore. When he had typhoid fever, he missed school. Later he won a scholarship to Bowdoin College and studied a lot. He was quoted as saying, “So much to do and all of it fun.”  He made the college basketball team, went on long snowshoe trips, and studied engineering in college. Peary graduated at the head of his class.

Adult life

Robert E. Peary was an engineer in the Navy in Washington, D.C. He took a test and passed it with a very high mark. His first job was to fix a pier. One day he felt sick and dizzy because he had yellow fever. He had to stay in bed because the doctor told him to. Peary had to finish the pier so he needed to use a wheel chair because he couldn’t walk. When he felt better, he went to his boss who said “I will get rid of the contractor and put you in charge.” Peary went back to his job. He said, “I will find a way or make one.” The workmen liked him and the job went fast. The contractor had asked for $30,000 for the job but Peary built it for $6,000. His boss was proud.

Peary liked to walk around Washington, D.C. and liked to read about Greenland. He wanted to go to Greenland to find out more. Peary talked to some fellow workers and they got him a sixteen month vacation. He found a ship, the Eagle sailing north to hunt for seals. The ship sailed up the west coast of Greenland into the Arctic and landed at a trading post. There he met someone named Maigaard from Denmark.  Peary talked to him with his hands because Maigaard could not speak English and Peary told him he wanted to cross the ice caps. They carried the food on two sleds for their trip so they did not have to carry it on their backs. They met a bad storm and had to camp because Maigaard had fallen into a river that had ice over it. After five days, they had to turn back. They reached the ship safely. They had traveled 100 miles. Nobody had ever made it that far north

When Peary went back to Washington he went to many parties and dances. He liked a girl named Josephine Diebitsch and they got married.

Later Peary was going back north again. Some rich people gave him money and the Navy gave him eighteen months leave. He took six men with him on his journey. Each man did something different. One was a doctor, another was Peary’s servant and the other was his wife Josephine. The ship Kite could not go that far up Greenland’s west coast because of the ice. The ship charged at some ice to break it up but the impact knocked Peary over and he broke his leg. So they had to camp until he could walk again.

Eskimos came to hunt for seals and walrus in the open water near Peary’s boat. Peary began to speak their language and he wanted to learn more about them. He said to his crew that they should give the Eskimos food to get them to come to their boat. They became friends with them and stayed at the Eskimos camp that summer and winter. They prepared for their trip while they were there. In the spring, the Eskimos taught them how to survive in the cold, made them warm clothes, and gave them dog sleds. Matt Henson, one of the people with Peary, was good at dog sledding, which would help them on their trip. That Christmas, Peary got a flag with his first initial on it from his wife which she had hand sewn from a dress. Later he would use this flag on his journey.

In May, Peary left to cross northern Greenland taking three men with him. There were three weeks of hard travel and two of the men turned back. There was not enough food for all so Peary and Matt Henson went on alone. There were many storms, thick fog, and ice caps. On July 4, 1892, they reached the end of the ice caps. They had little food for themselves and the dogs. Their sleds were broken, and the dogs were weak. They found an animal that looked like a buffalo. Robert Peary killed it for food for both the men and the dogs
On August 6th, 1892, Peary walked 1,300 miles to measure and make a map of Greenland. He had to cross the ice caps again to go back to the base camp. He did not have enough proof that Greenland was an Island, so he felt he had to go back and make more maps. Peary also thought there would be a way to get to the North Pole from Greenland.

When he went back to Washington, he gave talks to people about the Eskimos to get money to go back to Greenland. At last Peary got enough money to go north. This time, he got a bigger ship, the Falcon. Peary got 10 people to go with him on this trip. Two of them were Matt and his wife.

In June of 1893, the Falcon sailed for the base camp on the western part of Greenland.  After dropping off Peary and his group of 10 men, the Falcon returned to America. In September, Robert Peary’s daughter was born in Greenland. She was named Marie Ahnighilo, but the Eskimos called her Snowbaby. He spent the winter getting ready for his long trip in the spring.

In spring, he said good-bye to his family and took five Eskimos and several men to begin his trip. He took every thing he could carry with him. Many dogs died and supplies ran low, so they were forced to turn back. That summer Peary sent supplies to places along his next trip route. He went back to base camp and decided that he was going to do it again. He had more bad luck. Twice the supplies they had left were buried and lost in the snow. He told Matt and Lee that they could go back but they refused.

Finally they reached the north coast of Greenland. This time the dogs were fighting and Lee’s toe froze. Peary hunted for some food, and then they started the 600 miles trip back to the base camp. On the way back, Lee became weaker and could not walk or stand. Lee said, “Go without me” but Peary said “No!” as he would never leave a member of his group. When they made it to base camp, they were all very weak and it took them months to regain their health. Peary was disappointed that he still hadn't mapped Greenland

Later Peary got a new ship, the Windward. He told his wife that he would be gone awhile, so she made him a silk American flag as a gift. The Windward did not go as far north as Peary had hoped. It was frozen in between Greenland and Elmers Island. They had to camp 250 miles away from Fort Congor if they could make it there. Peary took six men and thirty dogs with him as they crossed the sea and ice. In March, it was cold and there were a lot of snowstorms. Finally, they found the camp nearly covered by snow. They dug in to it and found some stale food. While there Peary had to have seven toes cut off due to frostbite. He had to lie there in pain for six weeks till it healed enough that he could walk on them. It was then he wrote his motto on the wall besides his bunk for courage - “I will find a way, or make one.”

The men had to pull him to the ship on a sled. Finally, on the ship he got better and was able to walk using crutches. They got supplies every year at the base camp and each spring they would try again but never make it. Finally Peary had to return to America.

Again Peary got a new ship called the Roosevelt, named after Theodore Roosevelt. The Pearys also had a son in 1906 named Robert Edwin Peary, Junior.

In July of 1906, on the Roosevelt, with Peary and Bob Bartlett as captain left for the north. It sailed past where the Windward was frozen in and finally stopped 440 miles from the North Pole. This was the farthest north that a ship ever went. Peary had a plan to split into five smaller groups. Each group would leave 3 days after each other with Peary being in the fifth group. His hopes were that each group would be able to go a little farther than the one before it. His plan failed when he caught up with all four groups that were ahead of him when they ran into open water. When great cracks opened up behind them, Peary sent some of the people back. Peary’s group moved carefully forward from ice cake to ice cake. They also ran low on food and were forced to turn back. Before doing so, Peary took a piece of the flag that his wife had made him and buried it in a bottle, as this was the farthest north that any man had been. While returning to the base camp they had found that they were on an ice cake that was drifting away from the base camp. They waited 5 days till a thin sheet of ice formed between the ice cake and the land. Peary said that they had to take the chance and put on snowshoes and walked on the ice and finally made it to the shore. The ice cake behind them broke off and drifted east of Greenland. Peary made it back to base camp.

After that, Peary returned to America for more supplies. In 1908, Peary and Captain Barlett took the Roosevelt still farther north. They made it to Grant Land on the north coast of Ellesmere Island. Here they could hunt and shoot seals and polar bears for food. The ship was frozen in and they camped. They built new sleds and the Eskimo women made clothes for them. In March, Peary moved thousands of pounds of supplies to Cape Columbia. This camp was 413 miles from the North Pole, but they found a lot of open water. A lot of the dogs also died of hunger. Many of the men turned back. On April 6th the weather finally cleared and Peary and his group made it within 3 miles of the North Pole. So that Peary was sure that he would cross the North Pole he criss crossed forward and backwards. Peary took his wife's American flag and raised it at the North Pole.

In September 1909, the Roosevelt sailed into the Indian Harbor. He wrote his wife a letter saying  “Have made good at last, I have the pole.”  Peary also wrote to the newspaper saying “Stars and Stripes nailed to the North Pole”

However, Frederick A. Cook, a fellow explorer, announced that he made it to the North Pole in 1908. Experts have rejected his claim but there are some people that still thought that Cook had made it first. Not until 1969 did a study come out proving that Peary did make it first.

Peary spent his remaining days in Maine. He died in 1920 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.



We can be proud of Robert E. Peary because he was determined and he was the first person to make it to the North Pole. His motto was “I will find a way or make one” and he did. Without him the United States would not know as much about the North Pole or Greenland.


Berry, Erick. Robert E. Peary. Garrard Publishing Company, 1963.

“Admiral Robert Peary: First to the North Pole”. Admiral Robert E. Peary: First to the North Pole. 1998. Online. 20 March 2000.

“RADM Robert E. Peary, CEC, USN Arctic Explorer and Air Pioneer”, Admiral Peary Special. 11 March 1998. Online.