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Welcome, welcome everyone and congratulations.
I have some great news.
I, your trusty narrator, have just come across
a previously undiscovered island paradise—and
for the low low price of you clicking on the
sponsor link in the description, plus three
small installments of $49,999, I am willing
to give you the exclusive naming rights.
What’s your username—xXSirFartALotXx?
Well then, xXSirFartALotXx Island it is.
Oh, you want to visit the island?
Ummm…well…why would you want to do that?
You know what, why don’t I pencil you in
for February 31st of next year?
Oooh, that date doesn’t work?
Hmm, you know what, how about this: instead
of letting you visit the island, I’ll tell
you a story that’s not at all relevant to
this situation at all, of course.
In 1907, Robert Peary was the most famous,
and most experienced Arctic explorer in the
world, but he had a problem—he hadn’t
yet managed to become the first to visit the
most arctic of arctic places, the North Pole,
and his cash reserves were becoming nonexistent.
The previous year, he had almost made it—supposedly
getting within 175 miles or 280 kilometers—but
was turned around by a combination of storms
and depleting supplies, but Robert Peary was
sure he could get there if he just had another
He possessed the kind of confidence that only
a man with a Lorax level mustache can have.
All he needed to make another journey was
However, the arctic adventure capital market
was a bit reluctant to give him more after
the previous failures, so, Peary hatched a
The key to that plan was a wealthy San Francisco
financier named George Crocker, who had previously
donated $50,000 to Peary’s failed 1906 voyage.
This was, of course, a time when 50k bought
you more than two buckets of movie theatre
popcorn and a calculus textbook.
Peary wanted Crocker to help fund his new
voyage but, considering the previous trip
he financed achieved diddly squat, this could
But what if, and hear me out, the previous
voyage wasn’t a colossal failure.
Peary thought of a way to not only convince
Crocker that the previous voyage hadn’t
been a failure, but also to butter him up
a little bit by doing the one thing that rich
people love more than anything else—naming
things after them.
And so, Peary revealed that on his 1906 voyage,
though he hadn’t made it to the North Pole,
he had seen, from a distance, an enormous,
previously undiscovered land mass.
He wrote that he spotted, “faint white summits,”
130 miles northwest of Cape Thomas Hubbard,
and that once he got closer, he could make
out, “the snow-clad summits of the distant
land in the northwest, above the ice horizon.”
In honor of George Crocker, the San Francisco
financier, Peary named this beautiful, snow-peaked
land mass, “Crocker Land.”
But then Robert Peary had two problems.
The first problem?
George Crocker had already given most of his
money to boring causes like rebuilding San
Francisco after the earthquake of 1906, and
so as flattered as he may have been, there
wasn’t money left for funding Peary’s
The second problem?
The island was totally, 100%, made up.
Now normally, this might not be such a big
Guy makes up an imaginary island, who cares?
Captain James Cook did so three centuries
ago and still nobody’s called him out, but
this fake island ended up mattering a lot.
You see, eventually, Robert Peary did manage
to secure funding for another voyage, mostly
from the National Geographic Society.
On April 6, 1909, he finally made it to the
North Pole, or at least, he said he did.
He had a picture, but this could be any old
pile of snow.
He returned home proudly proclaiming that
he was the first man ever to reach the North
Pole, to which a guy named Frederick Cook,
another Arctic explorer, replied, “um…I
was there, like, a year ago,” but, Cook
said that he’d sailed through where this
giant land mass called Crocker’s Land was
If I know anything about boats, it’s that
they don’t work well on land and, since
Cook hadn’t found a thing except for cold
water and walrus farts, someone’s lying
But, because of this, the existence of Crocker
Land became crucially important as it would
prove who had really gone to the North Pole
If it did exist, then Frederick Cook must
be lying about going to the North Pole.
If it didn’t exist, Frederick Cook did go
to the North Pole, and Robert Peary was the
Of course, at that time you couldn’t just
fire up your handy household satellite to
check and so, to settle it, a man named Donald
McMillian decided to go on another expedition
to find the land.
Not only would this prove who was telling
the truth, but it would possibly give McMillan
the opportunity to be the first to step onto
what was considered, “the last great unknown
place in the world.”
That voyage was, incredibly, a failure.
In addition to their ship getting stuck in
the ice for three years before they could
return home, the only bright spot came when
a crew member saw what looked to be the island—a
beautiful, snowy-peaked landmass—but it
turned out to be a mirage.
In light of that fact, some have suggested
that Peary didn’t lie about the island,
but was actually just seeing a mirage, but
unfortunately for Peary’s reputation, it
looks like that’s letting him off too easy.
Historians looked at Peary’s original notes
and logs for the date that Crocker’s Land
was supposedly discovered, and they found
that he doesn’t mention anything about it.
All he says happened that day was that he
climbed up some rocks, and then climbed down
Plus, the early drafts of his book even didn’t
include anything about it, but then three
paragraphs about Crocker Land mysteriously
showed up just before the book was published—just
when Peary needed to get more money.
In other words, Crocker Land was a load of
One of Peary’s major issues, aside from
inventing an island, was that, when he supposedly
went to this north pole, his crew did not
include a single navigator who could make
their own independent observations as to whether
or not they were truly at the pole, or just
some pile of ice, and so people didn’t believe
Instead, his crew should have learned to navigate
starting by gaining a fundamental understanding
of geometry through the course on brilliant.org.
This would give them the skills needed to
use a sextant, for example, which measures
the angle between the horizon and the sun,
or another object in the sky, in order to
calculate a ship’s position.
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