(born May 6, 1856, Cresson, Pa., U.S.—died Feb. 20, 1920, Washington, D.C.) U.S. explorer. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1881 but was granted leaves of absence to pursue his Arctic expeditions. He explored Greenland by dog sled in 1886 and 1891, finding evidence that it was an island, and returned there in 1893–94, 1895, and 1896 to transport large meteorites to the U.S. After announcing his intention to reach the North Pole, he made several attempts between 1898 and 1905, sailing on a specially built ship and sledding to within 175 mi (280 km) of the pole. On April 6, 1909, accompanied by Matthew Henson (1866–1955) and four Eskimo, he reached what he thought was the pole, and he became widely acknowledged as the first explorer to attain that goal. (The claim of his former colleague Frederick A. Cook to have reached the pole in 1908 was later discredited.) In 1911 Peary retired from the navy with the rank of rear admiral. Examination of Peary's expedition diary and new documents in the 1980s suggested that the point he reached may have been 30–60 mi (50–100 km) short of the pole.
Learn more about Peary, Robert E(dwin) with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The contract to build Robert E. Peary was awarded to National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) of San Diego, California, on 27 January 2004. Her keel was laid down on 12 December 2006. Peary was launched on schedule on 27 October 2007, however the planned christening ceremony had to be delayed because of the local disruption caused by the October 2007 California wildfires. Robert E. Peary was christened on 9 February 2008, sponsored by RAdm. Peary's great-granddaughter, Monroe County, Fl. Circuit Court Judge Peary S. Fowler.