Friday, November 12, 2010

Maine Minutiae: North Pole or Bust!

One of the most celebrated explorers of the 20th Century was Admiral Robert Peary, a resident of Fryeburg, Maine, near Portland. On April 6, 1909, Peary claimed to be the first man to reach the geographic North Pole. This amazing accomplishment had its detractors at the time, and is widely doubted even today. No matter the claim as accurate or not, a feat of this magnitude is simply amazing just considering the "technology" of the day. I realize that a dog sled is a dog sled is a dog sled, but modern technology in just the clothing alone as compared to the clothing worn by Admiral Peary in 1909 and before, is like comparing the Wright Brothers' flight to the space shuttle. I don't know how many of you have spent any time at altitude, but it can be damn cold. I have experienced, live and in living color, 32 degrees BELOW ZERO, with 40 mph winds. What Admiral Peary and his crew experienced at or near the North Pole in 1909 is something that escapes me. Those SOB's were COLD. The navigation equipment in the early 20th Century was a compass and the North Star. Today, GPS devices can pinpoint your exact location to within a foot or so anywhere in the world (!), thanks to satellites orbiting the Earth.

I am not writing this post to debate whether or not, Admiral Peary reached the exact location of the geographic North Pole, but to show that what the man and his crew accomplished is nonetheless historic. They made it to the Top of the World with the hand that was dealt them. The Admiral and his comrades exemplify the Spirit of Maine and of America - the innate urge deep inside the human soul that somehow spurs us to seek and understand the unknown. I believe that urge to explore and discover is something that bring us closer to God. He created this world for the benefit of Man and left it to us to endeavor to understand it so we can understand Him. Otherwise, I think, we would lead a lonely existence on this big blue marble and we would have an empty place in our souls. And God would be irrelevant to us. But He had a much better plan than that, and He gifted us a magical place. A place where our discovery and exploration of such wonders as the North Pole, would give us pause to think and marvel at what we see around us. When we observe the seemingly ordinary things in the world, I think we should look at them through the eyes of a child - with wonder and amazement at how things "work". How does something as innocuous as an acorn create something as majestic as an oak tree? Or how does a seed smaller than the eraser on a pencil evolve into the magnificence that is a tomato.

 I think that is how men like Admiral Peary see the world. For example, the North Pole doesn't represent the top of the world, it represents something much more than that. It's a challenge waiting to be met. An obstacle waiting to be overcome. An army of sorts waiting to be conquered. Simply put, the adventurer that is part of the character of men like the Admiral, seek the most arduous task to complete's there.

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