Matthew Henson: Arctic Explorer
Matthew Henson was born on August 8, 1866, in Maryland. His parents were freeborn black sharecroppers. When Henson was four, his family moved to Washington D.C. where more jobs were available. When his parents died, he and his siblings moved in with a nearby uncle. Henson was fascinated by stories about life at sea, so when he saw a chance to become a cabin boy for Captain Childs, he took it. Childs instructed him in math, history, geography and the Bible as they traveled to such exotic locations as China, Japan, North Africa and the Black Sea. After Captain Childs died Henson became a furrier, a person that sells furs, this is where he met Robert Peary who would be the co-discoverer of the North Pole with him.
In April of 1891, Henson & Peary along with 4 other began their explorations that would lead to the North Pole 18 years later. After many trips around the artic. On July 6th, 1908, the USS Roosevelt departed from New York for what would be their final attempt to the North Pole. Henson was forty and Peary fifty. Both knew they were getting too old for exploring the Arctic. They spent the long dark winter in the Artic at Cape Sheridan. During this time Henson used his carpentry skills to build all the sledges and trained the less-experienced members of the group on handling the dogs. On March 1, 1909, Henson pointed his sledge north and, under Peary's orders, stated breaking the trail across the icepack toward the pole. Each of the Americans knew that not all of them would be able to go all the way with Peary to the Pole. The plan called for each team to go so far along the path, then cache the supplies it was carrying to be used by the other teams going closer to the Pole. However Peary had stated from the beginning that "Henson must go all the way. I can't make it there without him." Perhaps this was to fulfill a promise to Henson Peary had made when Henson had saved his life in Greenland years ago, but more likely...
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