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Mental Floss Presents: The Quest for the North Pole

Mental Floss Presents: The Quest for the North Pole

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.


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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? Learn more about your ad-choices at
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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. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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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. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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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. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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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. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Why Go to the North Pole?

The North Pole has attracted explorers for centuries. They faced an unbelievably harsh and dangerous climate, lost fingers and toes to frostbite, or even cut off their own body parts to survive. Many adventurers risked everything to claim it?but why? In our first episode, we?ll meet the generations of explorers who searched for passages to Asia, like Martin Frobisher, William Barents, and Henry Hudson. And we?ll examine how, by the mid-19th century, those quests had turned into an all-out race to the North Pole led by Robert Peary and Matthew Henson. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Mental Floss Presents: The Quest for the North Pole Trailer

In this new podcast, Mental Floss Presents: The Quest for the North Pole, we?ll dive into the adventure, excitement, and danger surrounding our obsession with the North Pole. Hosted by Kat Long, the science editor at Mental Floss and obsessive fan of polar history, this show will analyze the motives and celebrate the triumphs of the people who sought the northernmost point on the globe. Many wanted to claim its discovery?but only one could be the first. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Fact Checking TR

In this final bonus episode of History Vs., Erin and Mental Floss fact checker Austin Thompson discuss the challenges and delights of tracking down the truth about Theodore Roosevelt?and bust some TR myths, too. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR and the Perdicaris Affair

How Theodore Roosevelt used his big stick diplomacy to make the most of an international incident in an election year. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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The Statue

Recently, the American Museum of Natural History asked that the city of New York remove the famous equestrian statue of TR?which also features an African figure and a Native American figure in positions submissive to Roosevelt?from the steps outside its Central Park West entrance. In this special episode, we?re taking a look at the statue: Its history, what the artists intended, and why it?s controversial today. Plus, we?ll revisit Roosevelt?s thinking on race and discuss his views of legacy. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR vs. Houdini

Famed illusionist Harry Houdini might have been one of the only people to succeed in leaving Theodore Roosevelt truly dumbfounded. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Theodore Roosevelt and the Round-Robin Letter Incident

Theodore Roosevelt has been in the news lately, thanks to a ship with a cargo of coronavirus and a leaked letter to the navy. But more than 100 years ago, TR?that ship's namesake?engaged in a controversial letter-writing campaign of his own, one that incensed the highest levels of government. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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The Case of the Missing Colt .38

In 1990, Theodore Roosevelt's double action revolver?the one he'd used during the Battle of San Juan Heights?was stolen from Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. It wouldn't come back to the museum for another 16 years. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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10 Reading Tips from TR

A book must be interesting to the particular reader at that particular time,? and other tips about reading from one of history's greatest bibliophiles. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR vs. Bigfoot

In his 1893 book The Wilderness Hunter, TR wrote about what he called "a goblin story that really impressed" him. Mental Floss Science Editor Kat Long joins Erin to discuss "The Bauman Incident." Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Epilogue: The Other Roosevelts

Between all of his writing, ranching, and governing, Theodore Roosevelt made time to maintain close relationships with his many family members?all of whom led vibrant, adventurous lives of their own, and also helped establish TR?s legacy. From sister Bamie?s restoration of TR?s birthplace to son Ted Jr.?s heroic efforts on D-Day, this episode explores the stories of the Roosevelts that we didn?t get to cover in season 1. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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History Vs. TR

Theodore Roosevelt was a man who never stopped fighting. He grappled with his own physical deficiencies, railed against corruption, and always fought to move the nation forward in the way he thought best. One hundred and one years after his death, where can we still see the spirit of Roosevelt in our nation? Which of his policies do we still view favorably, and where did he fall short? And what is his ultimate legacy? Find out in the final episode of the first season of History Vs. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Death

At age 55, Theodore Roosevelt embarked on an Amazonian jungle trek along the River of Doubt, where he very nearly lost his life. It was, in many ways, the icing on the cake of a life brimming with near-death experiences. He had close encounters with wild animals on hunting trips, chased down dangerous boat thieves, and quit his secretarial post in the Navy to fight in the Spanish-American War. So did Roosevelt die as he lived? Decide for yourself after this week?s History Vs. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Christmas Trees

Theodore Roosevelt loved Christmas, but the Roosevelt family never had a Christmas tree. If you believe the stories, it's because TR, an avid conservationist, had banned them?and that ban is supposedly what led his son, Archie, to sneak a tree into the White House, a stunt that reportedly earned him a stern lecture.  That's what the stories say, but what actually happened? In this episode, we'll reveal the fact, and fiction, behind this pervasive Theodore Roosevelt Christmas tale.  Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. The World

Theodore Roosevelt was the first American to win a Nobel Prize, which he clinched in part for brokering peace between Japan and Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. During his presidency, he also paved the way for the construction of the Panama Canal. He got so far by ?speaking softly and carrying a big stick,? as he famously advised to others. But how did that Big Stick Energy go over with his fellow politicians, the press, and the people? Find out all that and more in this episode. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Alice

Like parents and children often do, Theodore Roosevelt and his daughter Alice butted heads in part because they were so similar?both passionate, curious, strong-willed, and intelligent. Throughout her upbringing (tag-teamed by TR?s sister and his second wife), her teenage years in the White House, and her marriage to a congressman, Alice never, ever made things easy for herself or her father. Did TR ever master the art of handling his fiercely spirited daughter? Maybe not, but he definitely had some creative ways of trying. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Other Presidents

Theodore Roosevelt revered Abraham Lincoln so much that, during his second inauguration, he wore a ring containing a lock of Lincoln?s hair. His feelings toward other presidents, however, were a little less warm and fuzzy. TR thought William Howard Taft was a ?puzzlewit,? Woodrow Wilson was a ?lily-livered skunk,? and Benjamin Harrison was a ?cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid old psalm-singing Indianapolis politician.? And these weren?t even necessarily his sworn enemies?in fact, he was sometimes campaigning for them. How did Roosevelt juggle this lack of faith in his contemporaries with the knowledge that he often needed them in order to effect change on a national level? Letting off steam through dazzlingly creative insults, for one thing. Find out more in this week?s episode. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR vs. Corruption

Long before Batman and Commissioner Gordon fought corruption under cover of darkness in Gotham, Theodore Roosevelt, president of the police commission, was prowling around New York City in plainclothes at night to make sure his policemen were doing their jobs. It was just one battle in a long war against corruption, during which TR fought against the spoils system, trusts, and lax food safety standards. In short, Roosevelt certainly tried his best to change the nation for the better. Did it work? Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Language

Shakespeare might be the most prolific English phrase-maker, but Theodore Roosevelt coined a few iconic phrases of his own, including ?like nailing jelly to a wall.? He could read in French, German, Italian, and Latin, but thought English should be the only language taught in schools. He also advocated for simplified spelling?altho instead of although, for example. In this episode, we?ll explore TR?s complicated relationship with language. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Nature

Roosevelt studied wildlife as a child, shot wildlife as a young adult, and saved wildlife as president (and beyond). How did he reconcile his passion for hunting with his deep belief in conservation as our national duty? In this episode, we?ll analyze TR?s multifaceted relationship with nature and emphasize just how much he did to preserve it in the United States. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Tragedy

Theodore Roosevelt?s reputation as a bull moose didn?t exempt him from the emotional desolation of losing a family member?and he lost several. First the death of his father, then his mother and first wife on the same day, followed by his brother, and finally his favorite son, Quentin, in World War I. Erin explores how each death affected Roosevelt?s state of mind, sometimes in surprising ways. Why did he omit his first wife, Alice, from his autobiography? Why did he sob unabashedly after the death of his brother, with whom he often clashed? Did Quentin?s death catalyze Roosevelt?s own death, just six months later? All of this and more on this week?s episode. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Time

When he was president, Theodore Roosevelt could fit eight meetings in an hour?that?s 7.5 minutes for each one. By the time he entered office, Roosevelt had had a fair bit of experience racing against time and coming out ahead: From studying under tutors to attending Harvard to campaigning for William McKinley, TR was a master at making every minute productive. We might not all have TR-level time management skills, but this episode will inspire you to try. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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TR Vs. Weakness

In 1912, after Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest, he proceeded to deliver a 90-minute campaign speech before allowing someone to take him to the hospital. Was it for patriotism?s sake, or a bull-headed refusal to show weakness? Given his history, perhaps the latter. Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy traces Roosevelt?s battle against weakness back to his childhood as an asthmatic, wildly energetic boy determined to overcome his poor health with a commitment to ?the strenuous life,? which essentially became his life philosophy. Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Coming Soon: History Vs. Theodore Roosevelt

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