This Is How Many Toes North Pole Explorer Robert Peary Lost

There are certain jobs that have risks attached to them. Firefighters are always in danger of getting burned, according to Chron. The same goes for scientists who work with certain flammable materials or even bacteria, via The Scientist. CareerExplorer explains that people who spend their time at sea are well aware that they could possibly drown. They do their best to safeguard themselves to prevent this from occurring but things happen even with the most preparation.

The danger that an explorer faces, particularly those who go to the most inhospitable places on Earth, is the loss of body parts to the elements. Those who like to roam through the jungle might have a creature decide to snack on a limb or two. Then there are the ones who prefer to climb up mountains where both the lack of air or the freezing temperatures are racing to end their lives. But there is a special cost for those who like to wander the polar regions: frostbite.

Explorer Robert Peary, a man who made multiple trips to the North Pole, paid that price once, when he discovered that both his feet were severely frostbitten, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. His traveling companion, Matthew Henson, took off Peary’s socks and eight toes just popped right off. Peary was undeterred, however, chalking it up as a price that he was willing to pay to make it to the North Pole.

Before he was an explorer, Robert Peary was a naval officer

While Robert Peary lost toes, he brought back things with him, including meteorites that weighed upward of 30 tons (and no, he didn’t carry them on his back). Those are now on display in the American Museum of Natural History, according to their site. The original occupants of the land that Peary took it from, the Inughuit tribe, originally used it as material for tools but didn’t need it for that when Peary arrived.

The intrepid explorer also did this during a time when there was no satellite technology or other amenities. Both he and Henson were so tough that they hunted musk oxen when they were starving during a trek … and they did it in the middle of the herd, according to National Geographic. His wife, Josephine Peary, was no weakling, either. She made a trip with him while eight months pregnant, according to Britannica.

Peary knew the risks that went into his travels; he was a former Naval officer. When he lost his toes, he didn’t let that deter him. His exploits won him the support of President Teddy Roosevelt, who even congratulated him by telegram, says The Theodore Roosevelt Center. There were some questions about Peary’s trips and whether it was Peary who first discovered the North Pole or Frederick Cook instead, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Cook’s diaries were lost, though, and Peary had a lot of powerful people backing him, so history still recognizes him as being the first. In this case, he only lost his toes, not his achievement.