Cook, Peary, and Byrd

July 11, 2012 9:07 PM

Here is my entry into the "Educational Song" challenge from March of last year. (THIS IS AS FAST AS I WORK, PEOPLE.) It is a searing exposé / sing-along waltz that reveals the truth about early arctic exploration. My dad plays trumpet, my friend Jessica plays trombone and sings, my wife Sue sings just a little bit, and MeFi's own dubold and Pecinpah sing as well. Lyrics and (yes!) citations are inside.

Not only did I get to run a keyboard organ through the El Capistan pedal, I also ran a Thingamagoop through an autotuner. Check that off the bucket list!

Many thanks to dubold and Pecinpah for stepping up and helping out. They both sent me great stuff.

posted by Karlos the Jackal (4 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite


Cook, Peary, and Byrd -- the first, the second, the third. As each man announced that he had reached his goal (journey by land or plane to the North Pole), we all took them at their word: Cook, Peary, and Byrd.

Frederick Cook was a doctor from Brooklyn who pretended he’d climbed Mt. McKinley. Later, he claimed to be first to the pole, but his story was spread much too thinly: Cook’s only evidence was that Cook said he did, and eventually he was discredited once everyone got a look at the incomplete journals of Cook.

Robert Peary hired experts with sextants, but as they neared their destination he sent them all packing so that he could make up his numbers without moderation. To get to the pole and back, Peary would need to have broken all previous records in speed; though his stories were so grandiose, more likely he never got close.

Richard Byrd had a plane,
Josephine Ford, and a pilot to fly her about. They noticed an oil leak in mid-flight and decided the full jaunt was out, so they went just one hundred miles away and flew in a circle the rest of the day and returned. The pilot averred he’d keep secret the short flight of Byrd.

Cook, Peary, and Byrd -- the first, the second, the third. Roald Amundsen thought that he was the fourth, but he was the first man to reach that far north, never mind what you may have heard about Cook, Peary, and Byrd.

Everyone who wrote a history book, scientists, journalists, and the public got took by a liar, a fraud, and a crook: Byrd, Peary, and Cook.


Schroeder, Andreas. Cheats, Charlatans, and Chicanery. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1997.

Tierney, John. "Who Was First at the North Pole?" New York Times 7 September 2009.

Tierney, John. "A Clash of Popular Frauds and Those Who Believe." New York Times 8 September 2009.

posted by Karlos the Jackal at 9:10 PM on July 11, 2012

This was thoroughly awesome. I feel like I've just spent a pleasant evening drinking with the world's most erudite and amusing Salvation Army band.
posted by MrVisible at 10:56 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

ooh! i'm glad it's done, sounds great. It's quite the earworm though, I was singing it for weeks after recording the vocals...
posted by dubold at 7:36 AM on July 12, 2012

It's quite the ear worm though, I was singing it for weeks after recording the vocals...

Me too!

Great song, man! I'm glad to finally see it here. Thanks for letting me contribute!
posted by Pecinpah at 11:25 AM on July 12, 2012

« Older No Surprises   |   Nirvana- Zappa Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments