30 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 • 391 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.

    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
    The Turning Point

    The Turning Point

    By the second half of the 19th century, British explorers had competition from Americans and Norwegians in the race to claim the North Pole. Nowhere was the contrast in expedition styles more evident than between British naval officer George Strong Nares and Norwegian adventurer Fridtjof Nansen. While Nares stuck to tradition, Nansen ushered in a new era of polar exploration that favored tested theories over wishful thinking, self-organization over government sponsorship, and minimalism over the idea that bigger was better. The international competition to be the first at the Pole was on.
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    • 53 min
    Go North, Young Man

    Go North, Young Man

    In this episode, we’ll dive into the first real attempts to conquer the North Pole in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As explorers pushed farther into uncharted territory, they encountered dangerous icebergs, Arctic mirages, Indigenous communities, and extreme hardship. British explorers like William Edward Parry, John Ross, and John Franklin didn’t have any idea what they were getting into—and paid the price. The learning curve for explorers who wanted to go north would be steep. But that definitely didn’t prevent people from trying.
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    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
391 Ratings

391 Ratings

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!

Snow Biscuit ,

North Pole

My review of History vs. TR is below. I gave it 5 stars. The podcast is now called The Quest for the North Pole, which I’d like to give 3 stars, but I decided I should average the two. I’m very interested in the topic, but I’ve listened to the first 4 episodes and found myself zoning out in all of them. I don’t know if the writing isn’t as interesting as in the TR series, or if the host’s voice is too monotone and soothing. I’m about ready to give up on it because I just can’t concentrate on the content and am learning very little as a result.

History vs. TR: I usually prefer history to be presented in chronological order, but the breaking up of TR’s life into themed episodes was an interesting way of doing it. I’m looking forward to finding out who the next subject will be!

Musicman Dan ,

Great and inspirational

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

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