Navigation experts came to the defense of the late Adm. Robert Peary Wednesday and attacked recent revelations that a lost document proved the Arctic explorer failed to reach the North Pole and was a fraud.
Last fall, historian Dennis Rawlins, of Baltimore, said his analysis of a navigational worksheet conclusively showed the "discoverer of the North Pole" actually missed his mark by more than 100 miles - and was aware of the fact and covered it up.But at the request of the National Geographic Society, the non-profit Navigation Foundation took a second look at the document and concluded "Rawlins' analysis is clearly incorrect."
Rawlins based his claim that Peary committed "one of the biggest scientific frauds in history" on a single slip of paper found in 1987 among the files of Isiah Bowman, a former Johns Hopkins University president and director of the American Geographical Society.
Peary had apparently stashed the worksheet away, but after his death his daughter gave the document to Bowman, who also kept the paper secret.
The worksheet lists astronomical observations made by Peary on April 7, 1909 - the day Peary said he reached the North Pole. According to Rawlins, the observations Peary took were sextant readings of the sun and the notes prove Peary was 121 miles to the right of the pole.
But retired Adm. Thomas Davies, president of the Navigation Foundation, in a letter to the geographic society, said, "Properly understood, the worksheet says nothing about whether Peary did or did not reach the Pole."
Davies said the foundation's eight-member board of directors is still in the process of analyzing "all of the available observational data" in an effort to establish whether Peary reached the Pole. He said a final report is expected in several months.
In September, National Geographic published an article by British polar explorer Wally Herbert casting doubts on whether Peary achieved his goal, but the article gave no clear-cut answer to the navigational debate.
Eighty years ago, the National Geographic Society and others financed Peary's expedition, and its acclaim of the explorer helped persuade Congress to pass a bill declaring him official discoverer of the North Pole.
Navigation Foundation investigators said Rawlins' analysis employed "several navigational techniques that are nonsensical" and his explanations of two key sextant readings were based on wrong calculations.