Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Matthew Henson

After losing his parents at a young age, Matthew Henson (1866-1955) had a few odd jobs before becoming a cabin boy on a merchant ship. His time on the ship started a life of full of travel experiences, which included adventures in China, Japan, Russia and the Phillipines and turned him into a skilled navigator, mechanic and carpenter.

Henson is known for being one of the first people to reach the North Pole as part of an expedition led by Commander Robert Peary in 1909. It was one of his many expeditions with the Commander, which included visits to the Arctic where he learned the Inuit language and various cold weather survival skills. Accounts of the story vary (when I was researching this post, I found two different ones!). In one account, Commander Peary was not able to continue at a certain point during the North Pole expedition. Henson led another group that continued northward, and Henson ended up reaching the exact position of the North Pole first. Another account has them both Henson & Commander Peary reaching the North Pole at the same time.

Unfortunately for Mr. Henson, he wasn't acknowledged as being one of the first men to set foot at the North Pole for many years. Henson was later recognized for his accomplishment by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower before his death in the 1950's. He's also been honored by the Explorers' Club and the National Geographic Society.

Matthew Henson is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

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1 comment:

Monique said...

I love your black travel history. Glad to hear his achievement was acknowledged while he was alive.


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