An AJ Reading: They Were First to the North Pole—Accidentally

In 1968, an insurance salesman named Ralph Plaisted led a group of workaday Minnesotans over the ice on snowmobiles to the North Pole. When he solicited support from National Geographic before the expedition, he was laughed off. “They said nobody could take a group of cronies from Minnesota to the North Pole,” Plaisted later said. “I told them they could watch me.”

What nobody knew at the time, was the Plaisted expedition was the first to reach the North Pole. Robert Peary had long been credited with reaching the North Pole decades prior, but later evidence, based partly on Plaisted’s data, led to serious doubts Peary could possibly have made it. Plaisted’s party was indisputably the first documented expedition to reach the northernmost point on the planet. 

Their expedition was filled with mishaps, including a false start in 1967. But Plaisted was indefatigable and determined, the two most important qualities for an expedition leader. It’s a story worth the Hollywood treatment. 

In this week’s podcast, senior editor Justin Housman reads his story chronicling the expedition, “Hold My Beer,” from Adventure Journal 23. Enjoy.

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