Matthew Henson 1866-1955 An Arctic explorer

Early Life

On August 8 1866 in Charles County, Maryland Matthew Alexander Henson is born. At this time however, he had no idea what the future held for him. When Henson was just three years old his mother past away. A few years later his father remarried and he moved to Washington D.C. Since his stepmother didn't treat Henson very nicely he ran away at age 11 and wound up in Baltimore, Maryland. There he became a cabin boy on the Katie Hines ship. He was a good sailor and traveled to many places including China, Japan, Russia and the Black Sea. Even though he was so good at his job he was still critisized for his skin color.

Character Traits

Mathew Henson is many things but these are his main traits. Henson is both brave and knowledgeable. For example, Henson is brave because he ran away from home at age 11 and survived on his own as an african american during segregation. He also was critisized for his skin color while he was an explorer. When he was very young he also went on many voyages with Robert Peary. Henson is very knowledgeable because on his voyages he learned many things. He became a blacksmith, carpenter and a cook. Henson also spoke the Inuit language and built igloos and sledges.

From Robert Peary's Perspective

I still remember the day that I hired young Mathew Henson to be my cabin boy. It was a bright, sunny day on the Baltimore shore. I noticed a small African american boy walking along the street alone. I knew he wouldn't do very well on his own so I walked up to him. I asked him where his parents were and he said they were dead, but I knew he was lying. Then I asked him again and I finally got the truth out of him. He told me that he had run away from home but he wouldn't tell me why. I decided not to ask because I didn't want to be rude. He asked me why a white man like me would talk to an African American boy like me and I said that I don't believe in segregation. After those words his eyes filled with wonder like he had just received $100. I decided he was a smart boy and decided to take him to be my cabin boy.

The Journeys to the North Pole

After his first few journeys Henson made many trips to reach the North Pole. This was called the North Greenland expidition .This expeditions purpose was to set foot in the North Pole. Many of these expeditions took place from 1891-1908 all of which Henson was on. However only on the eighth journey did they even set foot in the North Pole. While Henson was there he suffered from extreme frost bite and lost some of his toes. As for the natives, there was no hostility between them. Eventually, as I mentioned earlier, Henson made friends with the natives and learned to speak their language.

Arctic explorers lived in igloos

How has this Impacted the World Today

This has impacted the world today because we now know about a whole new continent. Henson helped to discover the new species and weather conditions of the North Pole. If it weren't for the North Greenland expedition we might not know about animals such as Penguins or Polar Bears. Also, the world might think that there are only six continents rather than seven.

Antarctica-the place discovered


In conclusion, Mathew Henson was a very inspiring and important person. He was a brave and knowledgeable person and helped to discover a new continent. Despite his achievements Henson was judged by many people for his skin color. However, if it weren't for Henson the world may not know that the North Pole exists. Sadly he passed away in 1955 at age 88. Today, Mathew Alexander Henson is remembered as the first African American to set foot in the North Pole.


Created with images by dbking - "Matthew Alexander Henson" • diapicard - "igloo snow house" • londoncyclist - "Antarctica"

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