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Famous Flags: Flags Raised in Exploration

Last modified: 2019-01-09 by rob raeside
Keywords: everest | peary | north pole |
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Flags at the North Pole

flags at the North Pole
Source: Library of Congress American Memory Collection

According to a letter of 9 December 1909 from Peary to Edward Trenchard of the U.S. Navy League, "The flags displayed at the Pole were displayed on poles consisting of a tent pole and the shafts of the ice lances, one of which was carried on each sledge.

The five flags are, from left to right in the photograph:

  • Navy League of the United States: Held by the Inuit Ooqueah. The flag, according to Peary's letter to Trenchard cited above, was provided by the ladies of the League. Since Annin & Co., the large New York flag company, is known to have provided flags for the Peary expedition, I have followed Annin's 1914 wholesale catalogue for the design of this flag: white with a yellow border and the Navy League emblem on the center--a blue disk with a yellow anchor surrounded by the white letters U, S, N, and L. However, I should note that the flag in the Peary black and white photos is a light shade of gray, and that the hand-colored version of the photograph that was prepared in 1910 for Peary's The North Pole: Its Discovery shows the flag as light blue with a yellow border and a copper-colored disk.
  • Delta Kappa Epsilon: Held by the Inuit Ootah; the flag of Peary's fraternity as an undergraduate at Bowdoin College in Maine. It is a vertical tricolor of light blue, yellow, and red with a lion rampant on the center stripe, although the rendering of the lion may have been somewhat different. This flag also appears in the Annin catalogue. After his return, Peary was feted at a dinner given by the DKE Club of New York and displayed this flag there.
  • United States: Held by Peary's long-time assistant and comrade, Matthew Henson. Peary wrote of this flag, "We planted five flags at the top of the world. The first one was a silk American flag which Mrs. Peary gave me fifteen years ago. That flag has done more traveling in high latitudes than any other ever made. I carried it wrapped about my body on every one of my expeditions northward after it came into my possession, and I left a fragment of it at each of my successive 'farthest norths'.... By the time it actually reached the Pole, it was somewhat worn and discolored. A broad diagonal section of this ensign would now mark the farthest goal of earth--the place where I and my dusky companions stood.... In a space between the ice blocks of a pressure ridge, I deposited a glass bottle containing a diagonal strip of my flag and records." An off-white diagonal band was sewn in place of the section Peary left at the Pole. A sketch of this flag can be viewed here.
    The U.S. flag with the diagonal band seemed to have been something of an obsession with Peary; a couple of sketches of this flag appear in is notebooks (at the National Archives, one dated April 7, the day after reaching the pole with the note "Flag with diagonal white bar to be my personal flag."
    Other entries refer to using the design on his letterhead, seal, and as a trademark to authenticate "all N.P. [North Pole] articles." A reproduction of this flag was made by Mrs. Peary for the explorer to display on the lecture circuit and is now in the collection of the Maine State Museum, complete with the patches on the areas where the various fragments were removed from the original; see State of Maine Archives).
  • Peace Flag: Held by the Inuit Egingwah. Often described as the flag of the Daughters of the American Revolution, or as the DAR peace flag, Peary refers to it as the "'World's Ensign of Liberty and Peace,' with its red, white and blue in a field of white." The photograph bears out that it is not the DAR flag (a vertical triband of light blue, white, and light blue with the society insignia on the center). Since the design of the flag had nothing to do with the DAR, it was presumably provided to Peary by the society, since Peary's notes for March 28 do refer to a "D.A.R. flag," and he wrote after the expedition to the DAR discussing a flag he had displayed for them at the pole. Again, on the assumption that the flag was produced by Annin & Co., I've followed the pattern in their catalogue (granted that it was issued five years later), which includes the inscription in gold Old English lettering "Peace among all Nations" across the upper part of the white border. I've been unable to find a photograph of Peary's flag that is clear enough to tell for certain whether such lettering was present; it may well not have been. A circa US peace flag circa 1891, without the writing, by Rick Wyatt, is already on FOTW.
  • "Red Cross" Flag: Held by the Inuit Seeglo. This one is a mystery. It is invariably referred to by Peary as a Red Cross flag, yet it clearly appears in the photographs as a dark field with a white (or very light) Maltese cross. The hand-colored photo in Peary's book shows it red with a white cross, apparently the same as the modern Maltese civil ensign. It is much smaller than the other flags present at the Pole. I had thought that perhaps the American Red Cross at the time used a flag other than the familiar Geneva Convention flag, but a look at an on-line exhibition of Red Cross flags indicates not.

Joe McMillan, 13 July 2008, citing a 2 January 2004 post

First ascent of Everest

New Zealand's most famous flag photo is probably of the planting of the flags of (from memory) China, India, Nepal, and Britain's flags on top of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953.
James Dignan, 02 August 1996

Hillary and Tensing's Flag on Mount Everest undoubtedly blew away in the wind!
James Dignan, 11 December 1997

Edmund Hillary (in a striking contrast to many subsequent climbers) did not choose to place himself and his country's flag on the top of the world in the photograph. The flags, held by Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, were (top to bottom) the United Nations, UK, Nepal, India.
Per Kolmodin, 05 October 1999

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North Pole flag during Guido Monzino's Italian expedition 1971

flags at the North Pole image by Olivier Touzeau, 25 December 2018

Count Guido Monzino (born 2 March 1928 in Milan, Italy died 11 October 1988) was an Italian mountain climber and explorer. He was the son of Franco Monzino who founded the Italian supermarket chain Standa.

He made a total of 21 expeditions to places including Patagonia, Equatorial Africa, Greenland, the North Pole and the Himalaya. He led in 1973 the first Italian expedition to climb Mount Everest. In 1974 he bought the famous Villa del Balbianello on the banks of Lake Como. He willed Villa del Balbianello to the Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano and he was buried there.
NB : The villa was also used for the lake retreat scenes in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002).

The villa contains a museum devoted to Monzino which includes his collections of maps and books and many artefacts and memorabilia from his expeditions, including the flags of his expeditions to the North Pole in 1971 and to Mount Everest in 1973.
- Expedition to Mount Everest : a Nepalese flag
- Expedition to North Pole : flags from the neighbouring countries (Canada, USSR, USA, Norway, and Denmark for Greenland) and a strange flag presented in the Museum as the flag of the North Pole : blue with a thin yellow border on three sides, and with a yellow snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) and six-pointed yellow star.

See pictures of this flag in use at:

Olivier Touzeau, 25 December 2018