At first, the group journeyed about ten miles a day. At night, they slept in snug igloos built from blocks of snow. But after traveling 45 miles, Peary was halted by a jagged crack of black sea that snaked for miles through the ice.
Peary called it the “Big Lead” and waited impatiently for it to freeze over or for the ice to close back together. Days passed, his Eskimo helpers talked about leaving, and Peary fretted that his expedition was doomed.
After seven long days, the lead froze over, and the party hurried north. As he had planned, Peary began sending back the weaker dogs and men to the ship, allowing the main party to continue quickly. By April 1, only 133 miles of ice separated Peary from his goal.
Five days later, after traveling more than 25 miles a day, Peary, Henson, and four Eskimo companions reached the Pole. In triumph, Peary took out an American flag sewn by his wife, nailed it to a staff, and planted it at the top of a snow pile.
To confirm the discovery, Peary continued north another ten miles, until he noticed that he was no longer traveling north but south. He had passed the Pole. With the trail made and igloos already constructed, the return trip to their ship at Cape Sheridan on Ellesmere Island took only 16 days.
By mid-July, the expedition was safe and sailing south, and Peary telegraphed the world of his success.