The wind sang its song reminding Henson just how far
away from home he was and stared at the old woman.
“So, that’s what happened, the ones that came before Mr.
Peary and myself.”
Ahnah nodded her ancient head. “About two months
later, maybe longer, I don’t know, an English whaling
ship came. Irwin and Oaks had made it to the post, we’re
picked up and we were rescued.”
“And Dunn, he stayed?”
Ahnah nodded and smiled. “He stayed, was my
husband and leader of our band. We raised Tah, whom
you know as Tahsa and is now our chief. Dunn died in…
“I’m sorry, Ahnah.”
“He drowned on a hunting expedition. I miss him. I
heard his sister was still alive.”
Henson stared at the snow. “And the others?”
“Tim Reiner became a whaling captain himself, I see
him every two or three seasons. He’s told me about the
others. Irwin is a boat steerer with Tim. Denhard
drowned in some faraway place, I heard he was a first
mate. Aesop and Mason never went back to sea. Aesop
took his money and started a dry goods store. Mason and
his woman Mai-Ling raised their son. I heard Mason
died last year. His wife is still alive, their son is a doctor,
I heard. Hollister never did get his sight back, he
married his woman, he died in 1906.
“Why didn’t Mason or anyone else say anything?”
Ahnah shook her head. “Tim told me they wanted too,
but the men who gave them the money told them to say
nothing and paid more money for them to be quiet. They
were disappointed and worried that Mason’s failure
would reflect on them. Tim said Hollister tried to publish
something but it never went anywhere. Tim said it was…
it was…” she was trying to remember the word.
“Suppressed?” ventured Henson.
“Yes, suppressed, that’s what Tim told me.” She sighed
and looked at Henson. “It doesn’t matter anymore,
nobody cared then, it doesn’t mean anything. Not
“I’m sorry Ahnah, really I am.”
“This is your time, enjoy what it brings you.”
Henson nodded and walked away. Tasha walked over
to his aunt. “You told him?”
Ahnah nodded her head. “Someone had to know, I
didn’t want those men to be forgotten.” “Your sled is
prepared as asked,” said Tasha. “Must you go? I wish you
“I must Tasha, it is my time.” Ahnah smiled, “So much
like your mother and father, they live in you. They would
have been proud of you.” She stood at the back of the sled.
“Good bye Tasha, take care of yourself and the band.”
She cracked the whip and the dogs, barking and
straining pulled the sled away taking Ahnah into the
distance, into the white, into nothingness.
Robert Peary returned to civilization and announced
his triumph to the world. Something he thought would be
so easy wasn’t to be. Dr. Frederick Cook contested
Peary’s claim to the North Pole with his own, saying he
had arrived there a year before on April 21, 1908. Both
claims were criticized, the decision finally falling in
Peary’s favor. He was given a number of awards and a
Rear Admiral’s pension in the United States Navy. He
died February 20, 1920 and was buried in Arlington
Frederick Cook maintained his was the rightful claim
to the Pole and was involved in a number of somewhat
questionable claims and deals and served a term in
prison. He died August 5, 1940.
Matthew Henson returned to the United States and
was largely forgotten by many concerning his important
role in Peary’s expedition. He worked as a clerk in a
Federal Customs House in New York and in 1944,
congress awarded him a duplicate silver medal that was
awarded to Peary. He was honored by Presidents Truman
and Eisenhower. He died in 1955.
Today, the claims are considered doubtful, but what if a
whaling ship and her crew…?
About The Author
Joseph Fick was born and grew up in northern Illinois
in the United States. At the age of 17 he joined the U.S.
Navy where he was trained as a Marine Engineer. He is
at present an English teacher, residing in Japan with his
wife and children. NORTH is his first novel.