Time Travel to the North Pole with “Matthew Henson” on July 2nd
Portsmouth, New Hampshire (June 28, 2017) — In 1884, thanks to the rescue organized by New Hampshire’s William Chandler, US Secretary of the Navy (and later US Senator for New Hampshire) the survivors of Adolphus Greely’s failed 1883 expedition to reach the North Pole were brought to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and “enjoyed” an elaborate parade through the streets.
In 1909, Robert Peary, Matthew Henson and their Eskimo guides used Adolphus Greely’s camp at Fort Conger in the High Arctic as a base camp. On April 6, 1909, Peary, Henson, the guides and 40 sled dogs arrived at the North Pole, although only Peary was credited with the “discovery.”
Now many historians believe Henson, an African-American, was actually the first man to reach the North Pole and on July 1st and 2nd visitors to Strawbery Banke Museum and the gundalow Piscataqua will be able to “meet” Matthew Henson and hear his story from role-player Keith Henley.
“This is a story of courageous men battling adversity, persevering against nature and journeying into the unknown. It is also a story of the world to which they returned,” Henley observed in describing what visitors will learn. “Henson was Peary’s most loyal and trusted companion. From age 25 to 43 Henson accompanied Peary on seven grueling Arctic expeditions. It was Henson who learned the Inuit language and arctic survival skills. It was Henson who became the best man with the dog sleds. It was Henson Peary said, “must go all the way. I can’t make it there without him.”
“Matthew Henson” is one of dozens of re-enactors participating in Strawbery Banke’s day-long “Timeline of History” on Saturday, July 1st from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission: Adults $19.50; children 5-17, $9; Family (2 adults/2 children) $48. Children under 5, members, and active duty military and their families admitted free. Visit StrawberyBanke.org/tickets
On Sunday, July 2nd. Passengers join “Matthew Henson” on a cruise through Portsmouth Harbor – past the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard where Greeley’s expedition described the difficulties Henson and Peary were able to overcome — 26 years later. The Henson trips aboard the gundalow will sail at 12:30 pm and return at 2 pm. Tickets are: Adults $30; children 3-13, $15; and under 3, $5.
Keith Henley graduated from South Carolina State College and went on to study Theatre Education at Camden County College in Blackwood, New Jersey. He began his historic interpretation career with Historic Philadelphia Inc. and has since worked for American Historical Theatre and History First Hand, and has performed for the Smithsonian Associates Teaching American History program, Historic Germantown, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia as well as local libraries. He currently owns and operates J.O.Y. Productions, Queenie’s Homemade Sweets and Catering, & Alpha Designs. In addition, he is the Artistic Director and Choreographer for Folkloric Heritage Culture Arts Company Inc. of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.