Who’s on First

Frederick A. Cook vs. Robert E. Peary

The Beef
Both claim to have been first to the North Pole: Cook in 1908, Peary in ’09. Fisticuffs ensued.

The Verdict
Peary was long declared the winner, but recent research suggests it was actually a group of Soviets—and not until 1948.

Neil Armstrong vs. Buzz Aldrin

The Beef
Reportedly miffed that he wasn’t chosen to take the first lunar steps, Aldrin neglected to snap any photos of Armstrong on his historic walk.

The Verdict
Armstrong is only in the background of Aldrin’s 1969 photos; rumor has it that the two don’t talk.

As a former president of the Explorers Club, Richard Wiese knows something of the competitive nature of adventurers. He can point to many rivalries and, in fact, one he’s often heard about involves two of the club’s early presidents: Polar explorers Frederick A. Cook and Robert E. Peary famously came to blows during board meetings. There have been tales of many such matchups over the years, and while they don’t always conform to the official versions, they’re fascinating evidence of some truly passionate characters.

Mary and Louis Leakey vs. Donald Johanson

The Beef
Who found the oldest human ancestor? The Leakeys, in the early ’60s, with the 1.5-to-2-million-year-old Homo habilis, or Johanson with Lucy, a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton, in 1974?

The Verdict
The Leakeys claimed Lucy wasn’t a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens—though she was classified in the genus Australopithecus, not Homo, the issue is still very much debated.

Les Stroud vs. Bear Grylls

The Beef
Both Stroud and Grylls host wilderness-survival TV shows; Stroud’s fans say he’s the real deal and that Grylls is a pampered fake.

The Verdict
Though onscreen he appears to be braving the wilds, Grylls has stayed in hotels with his team during filming. He is, however, considered the more handsome of the two.