Robert Peary to his wife, Jo

Robert Peary
(1856-1920)
was born in cresson, Pennsylvania. At 24, he joined the navy, which gave him leave of absence for Arctic exploration. He made his first expedition to Greenland in 1886 with his lifelong associate Matthew Henson; on his second expedition in 1891 he discovered Independence Fjord and brought back evidence of Greenland being an island. Attempts to reach the North Pole in 1900, 1902, and 1905 all ended in failure. Finally, in 1909 he announced to the world that he had succeeded. That same year his rival Dr. Fredrick Cook claimed to have reached the Pole a year earlier. Cook’s claim was dismissed, and Peary’s was eventually accepted, in spite of widespread doubt. He retired as a rear admiral in 1911, and lived with his family in Eagle Island off the coast of Maine until his death nine years later.

Josephine Diebitsch
(1863-1955)
was born in Washington D.C., the daughter of a Prussian father and a Saxon mother. She met Robert in 1882 when he was an ambitious young naval officer. He proposed to her in 1887 as he was preparing for an expedition to Nicaragua, and the couple married on his return, the following year. In 1891 Jo went with her husband on his first trip to Greenland, becoming the first white woman to have traveled so far north. Six months pregnant, she insisted on going with him again in 1893 and gave birth to their first child. Marie, in Greenland. She went again in 1897 and in 1900, when their ship was ice-bound for the winter. After this Jo stayed at home, raising funds for Robert’s expeditions and enduring long separations, often for two or three years at a time. The National Geographic Society awarded her its Gold Medal in 1955.

Letter

August 17, 1908
S.S. Roosevelt,

My Darling:
Am nearly through with my writing. Am brain weary with the thousand and one imperative details and things to think of. Everything thus far has gone well, too well I am afraid, and I am (solely on general principles) somewhat suspicious of the future.
The ship is in better shape than before; the party and crew are apparently harmonious; I have 21 Eskimo men (against 23 last time) but the total of men women and children is only 50 as against 67 before owing to a more careful selection as to children…
I have landed supplies here, and leave two men ostensibly on behalf of Cook. As a matter of fact I have established here the sub-base which last I established at Victoria Head, as a precaution in event of loss of the Roosevelt either going up this fall or coming down next summer.
In some respects this is an advantage as on leaving here there is nothing to delay me or keep me from taking either side of the Channel going up. the conditions give me entire control of the situation…
You have been with me constantly, sweetheart. At Kangerdlooksoah I looked repeatedly at Ptarmigan Island and thought of the time we camped there. At Nuuatoksoah I landed where we were. And on the 11t we passed the mouth of Bowdoin Bay in brilliant weather, and as long as I could I kept my eyes on Anniversary Lodge. We have been great chums dear.
Tell Marie to remember what I told her, tell “Mister Man” [Robert Peary, Jr.] to remember “straight and strong and clean and honest”, obey orders, and never forget that Daddy put “Mut” in his charge till he himself comes back to take her.
In fancy I kiss your dear eyes and lips and cheeks sweetheart; and dream of you and my children, and my home till I come again.
Kiss my babies for me.
Aufwiedersehen. Love, Love, Love.

Your Bert

P.S. August 18, 9 a.m. …Tell Marie that her fir pillow perfumes me to sleep.

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