32 episodes

Many wanted to claim its discovery—but only one could be the first. In The Quest for the North Pole, a new podcast from Mental Floss and iHeartRadio, we'll dive into the adventure, excitement, and danger surrounding our obsession with the North Pole. In each weekly episode, we'll analyze the motives and celebrate the triumphs of the people who sought the northernmost point on the globe, from the questionable methods of early explorers to a century-old controversy that's yet to be settled. In our story, we'll look at Sir John Franklin's brave but disastrous attempt, Fridtjof Nansen's innovations for polar travel, and Robert E. Peary's expeditions with Matthew Henson—and the way Peary robbed Henson of the credit he deserved.

Mental Floss Presents: The Quest for the North Pole iHeartRadio

    • History
    • 4.7 • 398 Ratings

Many wanted to claim its discovery—but only one could be the first. In The Quest for the North Pole, a new podcast from Mental Floss and iHeartRadio, we'll dive into the adventure, excitement, and danger surrounding our obsession with the North Pole. In each weekly episode, we'll analyze the motives and celebrate the triumphs of the people who sought the northernmost point on the globe, from the questionable methods of early explorers to a century-old controversy that's yet to be settled. In our story, we'll look at Sir John Franklin's brave but disastrous attempt, Fridtjof Nansen's innovations for polar travel, and Robert E. Peary's expeditions with Matthew Henson—and the way Peary robbed Henson of the credit he deserved.

    Polar Past, Present, and Future

    Polar Past, Present, and Future

    Global warming is changing the Arctic rapidly. Explorers of the past would barely recognize its green tundra, diminished glaciers, and ice-free seas. We’ll hear from journalists and historians who have followed in the footsteps of the explorers, and discovered their original routes have disappeared. What do these changes mean for the people who live there now, and our relationship to the Arctic today? Are there still places left to explore? How will we confront exploration’s nationalist and racist past and make the future more inclusive? This episode will look at the North Pole’s many legacies.
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    • 51 min
    Triumph by Snowmobile

    Triumph by Snowmobile

    In 1968, decades after Peary’s and Cook’s competing stories emerged, a Minnesota insurance salesman named Ralph Plaisted was sitting in a bar, talking to a friend about snowmobiles. His friend said that if snowmobiles were so great, he should be able to ride one to the North Pole. Plaisted accepted the challenge. Thus began one of the most improbable expeditions, led by one of the unlikeliest adventurers, ever made to the Pole—a journey by Ski-Doo that ended up being the first to indisputably reach 90° North latitude. We’ll look at how Ralph Plaisted did it.
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    • 44 min
    A Gold Brick

    A Gold Brick

    Robert E. Peary expected glowing accolades and worldwide fame for being first at the North Pole. But a New York physician named Frederick Cook said he had been first. Peary sensed his glory being snatched from his grasp—and mounted a relentless campaign in the press to prove his claim. And Henson? He supported his longtime expedition leader—though Peary didn’t return the favor. He had no more use for his loyal assistant after they returned from the Arctic for the last time. In this episode, we unravel Peary’s and Cook’s controversial claims and recognize Henson as one of history’s most important and innovative polar explorers.
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    • 1 hr 8 min
    Third Time’s the Charm

    Third Time’s the Charm

    Peary and Henson had one more shot at the North Pole in them. With their trusted Inughuit partners in Greenland, they spent months in the Arctic preparing for their dash to the Pole in spring 1909. And after traveling over hundreds of miles of dangerous ice, they believed they had reached their goal: They were the first men to stand at the top of the world. Or were they? Before Peary could claim his laurels, another explorer declared that he had conquered the Pole almost a year before Peary. Henson would help establish Peary’s preeminence. But whom would the world believe?
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    • 49 min
    Meet Peary and Henson

    Meet Peary and Henson

    No explorer tried harder or over a longer time to claim the North Pole than Robert Edwin Peary, a tough Mainer who suffered setbacks that would have permanently discouraged others—he even lost most of his toes to frostbite and still wouldn’t give up his dream. But he wouldn’t have been able to do it without Matthew Henson, his African-American right-hand man on seven grueling expeditions. In this episode, we’ll meet Peary and Henson, two adventurers with completely different backgrounds and temperaments who formed one of the most enduring and successful partnerships in the history of exploration. But there were also disappointments, betrayals, and a lot of drama. We’ll tag along as they make their first stabs at the Big Nail—the North Pole itself.
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    • 1 hr 3 min
    Inuit and the Explorers

    Inuit and the Explorers

    European explorers often thought of the Arctic as an empty wasteland, and the Indigenous people who lived there as childlike. But as one historian put it, “the real children in the Arctic would be the white explorers.” From Martin Frobisher’s expeditions in the 16th century right up until Robert Peary’s time, Inuit people helped explorers in countless ways—from providing food, to teaching valuable skills, to saving their lives. In this episode, we’ll learn how Indigenous people viewed the Europeans and Americans in their lands, why they chose to assist in their expeditions, and how explorers often exploited them in their quests for the North Pole.
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    • 53 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
398 Ratings

398 Ratings

Allison918 ,

TR

Thoroughly enjoyed listening to the first season about Teddy Roosevelt. They did a great job of covering a wide range of topics and it was entertaining to listen to. Highly recommend for any fan of TR or of American History!

JBinSouthCarolina ,

Hooked

And searching maps and routes and this is so interesting! Great job - the use of sound just makes me FEEL cold while listening. Before publishing a producer unfamiliar with the content should listen, catch, and fix the missing items - Needs a touch more description for the ear; feels like an print writer wrote this and not a broadcaster. Did I miss why Peary didn't have photos from the pole - a photo of his compass showing 90 degrees North? It’s just not clear why he couldn’t prove his achievement. Also could’ve used a description of those old compass instruments. Episode 8 had audio issues for me with weird edits-Kat’s voice layered over herself. Just loved it though. Thank you!

Musicman Dan ,

Great and inspirational

Thanks for showing us how we can change the world (if we have enough caffeine)

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