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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Sept. 17, 1909)
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VOLUME 9, NUMBER 39
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THE COMMONER, Lincoln, Nob.
bald simplicity of the narrative deepened the
favorable impression of the. genuineness of.
Cook's feat. .
Any journalist could havo embroidered with
thrilling, sensational passages his plain narra
tive, but Cook abjured purple patches and ig
nored chances to tell exciting anecdotes. Never
theless, the statement, although necessarily un
intelligible to many, was followed with eager
The British and American ministers were con
spicuous to the right and left of the crown
prince's chair. Cabinet ministers, admirals,
Arctic explorers and leading members o the
Geographical society occupied front seats.
Cook's convincing narrative described the ex
pedition from start to finish. He paid a tribute
to Bradley, without whose money, and to Sver
drup, without whoBe discoveries, his rush to the
pole would have been impossible. His descrip
tion of the pole as an area of polar ice one
kilometre in diameter, wherein the center of the
Arctic region is located, disappointed some, who
seemed to have expected that he ought to have
found something that would afford material for
a cinematograph exhibition.
When lecturing for popular audiences Cook
will do well to indulge in thyrambics and gar
nish his talk with stories of hairbreadth escapes
of which he had plenty. The lecture was a
model of modesty and simplicity.
No details of Peary's success have yet arrived
whereupon the Danish Geographical society can
base its judgment, but from Cook downward,
every one hopes Peary has succeeded.
, Peary's alleged contention that Dr. Cook did
not reach the pole because he went west of
the route of previous explorers is regarded as
absurd. As all roads led to Rome, so all routes,
whether west or east, lead to tho pole.
Dr. Cook maintains that for a three-man ex
pedition to the pole through the game country
ho could not have been better outfitted if a
million dollars had been expended. The con
trast between the generous enthusiasm of Cook
for Peary, and Peary's jealous attempt to dis
credit Cook excites obvious remarks.
A London cablegram to the Chicago Record
'"The question of the ownership of the land
pf the north pole came up in the house of com
mons when Premier Asquith replied to Sir Gil
bert Parker, and led to some playful badinage.
The premier wanted , to know if the latest in
(Continued on Page ,5,): ;ini tc j0"
How the Explorers9 Claims Will Be Verified
Father William P. Rigge, professor of as
tronomy at Creighton University, has written
for tho Omaha World-Herald tho following in
structive and timely article:
Dr. Cook's discovery of the north pole is most
deservingly called one of the most daring and
successful exploits of discovery ever undertaken
in all history. It owes its success to the fixed
and inflexible determination of tho will which
was not deterred by any difficulties or dangers
whatever, not less than to the clear and prac
tical Intellect which quietly and securely studied
the method to be employed, and provided for
every possible contingency that might occur on
While the glory of the undertaking and of
the planting of the stars and stripes on the
north pole will be sufficiently presented by the
press, it may be of interest for us in this place
to examine a little into the scientific and practi
cal side of the achievement.
Could Cook Deceive Us?
The assertion has been made that Dr. Cook
has no corroborative evidence of his discovery,
and that we have only his unsupported word.
It is not possible for Dr. Cook to wilfully
deceive us in his claim of having reached the
pole. His observations will show a regular
variation in the date, which no man could pos
sibly put down in bad faith without being de
tected. Dr. Cook must have kept a double record of
his journey, an astronomical one, and tho one
by dead reckoning, each of which was a check
upon the other. By the latter method he noted
the direction in which he was traveling and
his rate of progress. This would give him his
positions differentially with respect to previous
positions, and would enable him to find his way
in cloudy weather, in the same way exactly as
Is done at sea under the same conditions.
As the latitudes and longitudes of his pre
vious position were known, those of his subse
quent stations became known also.
By the astronomical method he found his
positions from the sun by means of his sextant,
or small transit, and his chronometer. These
observations would give his position absolutely
without reference to other stations.
The difference between his stations found in
this way ought, of course, to be practically the
same as by the method of dead reckoning.
It would bo a practical impossibility for Dr.
Cook to deceive us in the original data and
figures which he will show us in his note books.
First of all, there are his sextant or transit
readings. These readings are affected by instru
mental errors, by the sun's actual position and
motion, and especially by the unusual refraction
of the air at such low temperatures as his ther
Secondly, there are the chronometer read
ings, which are subject to the errors of a var
iable rate caused by traveling under such severe
conditions, and by the usual temperature men
tioned, and also to some extent, by the baro
meter. Thirdly, his barometer readings must be con
sistent with those observed at other stations.
While these stations were, of course, pretty far
away, still it would not be very difficult for an
expert weather man to traco his barometer
gradient to American or Siberian stations.
Fourthly, Dr. Cook's thermometer readings
should also, to some minor extent, tally with
those observed elsewhere, and should at least
bo consistent with themselves, with the weather
he recorded, the violence and direction of the
winds, tho probable effect of weeks of isolation
and the like.
Fifthly, his data concerning the variation of
the magnetic needle, of its declination and of
its inclination, if he observed them, should also
be consistent, and not too wildly at variance
with known or supposed data.
Sixthly,, the low temperatures he experienced,
the rough handling his instruments were ex
posed to, and unavoidable accidents which no
human ingenuity could foresee and provide for,
must have introduced many .accidental errors
of observation,.-which may tax. an expert to the
jwhi lieu-. .ojUIs Hj e&l-.-t; i- ,h tu
limit of his ability when he investigates their
effects upon the recorded data.
That any one mortal man should be able to
design such a journey; such a connected series
of observations; that he should Introduce into
the theoretically correct data a host of practical
errors of observation; and especially that ho
should devise such a consistent chain of figures
that all the experts of the world should not be
able to detect the forgery, is surely an under
taking that immensely surpasses the genius of
tho greatest mathematician, tho greatest abstract
and practical scientific man, and of the greatest
and shrewdest detective that ever lived.
No living man would surely expose himself
to such a searching examination before the en
tire world, without having the Intrinsic convic
tion of the actual truth of his figures as ho
saw them, and as he noted them down under his
Has No Doubt Personally
So far as I am personally concerned I never
for an instant doubted tho genuineness of Dr.
Cook's reported discovery of the north pole.
While, of course, there will always be some
people whom no evidence can convince, I am
certain that the scientific world will unanimous
ly accept Dr. Cook's data and credit him with
the glory of being the first known human being
to have reached the earth's north pole.
The north polo is the north end of the earth's
axis of revolution. The earth is a big ball and
Is turning much like a colored ball that children
throw up into tho air. As It turns it brings
successively some parts of its surface into the
sunlight and takes others away, and thus causes
day and night.
In thus turning it must spin about a lino or
an axis passing through its center. The ends
of this axis are called the poles, the north pole
and the south pole.
At the same time that it is turning on an
axis the earth is moving forward as a whole
and its center moves in a well defined orbit
about the sun. The time it takes the earth to
complete Its course about the sun and return
to the same point is our definition of the length
of a year.
The earth's axis is set at an angle to the plane
of its orbit. The consequence of this is that
the sun in the course of a year appears to chango
its position in the sky, running high and large
circles in the spring and summer and low and
smallones in the fall and winter. All these
diurnal circles of the sun, as well as the ap
parent circles traced by the stars at night, aro
the consequences of the earth's rotation on Its
axis. They are only apparent the same as the
.backward movement of trees and houses and
other objects seen from a railway car.
All the circles have the same center, or rather
they have two common centers, the north and
south poles of the heavens, both of which are
visible at the equator, but only one anywhere
else on earth. These celestial poles are the
points in the sky where tho earth's axis pro
duced would cut them.
Height of Polo
The height of the pole is equal to the lati
tude of the place. At the equator both poles
are In the horizon, but as we travel northward,
for example, the north star, which is .very near
the pole, appears to ascend in the sky until if
we should ever reach the north pole on the earth,
as Dr. Cook did, it would be directly overhead.
This is the. way, therefore, that Dr. Cook
know that he was at the north pole. He saw
' the north star directly overhead. In principle
this is very easy. In practice it is one of the
most difficult of all problems to solve. The
eye Is no guide whatever, except In the roughest
possible way. One must use an angle-measuring
instrument, such as a transit or a sextant.
Practically, this Instrument must be small, or
it could not be transported, and therefore it
can not give an observer's position very accu
rately. At sea sailors are generally satisfied
with the nearest mile or Jialf mile.
Then again the pole star is not exactly at the
pole, but more than a degree away. It moves
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