A Century Later, a Polarizing Debate Endures





You cannot plant a flag on the North Pole.

It is not Antarctica. It is not a body of land, but a mathematical spot, a maze of shifting ice floes that would swiftly carry any marker away from true north. When explorers reach the Pole, they must rely on navigational instruments and witnesses to prove their location.

One hundred years ago yesterday, Robert Peary and Matthew Henson said they had become the first to reach the North Pole. Yesterday morning at Arlington National Cemetery, more than 20 of the two men's descendants gathered at Peary's and Henson's adjacent graves to honor this achievement. With them were members of the Navy, the Explorers Club and the National Geographic Society, plus an Englishman named Tom Avery -- a young explorer so taken with Peary's story that he re-created the journey himself in 2005. He recently wrote a book about this endeavor.

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