The Prairie Woodcarvers of Alexandria hosted a visit from two long-time friends of the club’s activities director, Sonya Anderson, earlier this month.
The visitors, Timothy Pederson of Forest Lake, and his sister, Cathy Pederson of Princeton, are the children of Walt Pederson. They struck up a friendship with Anderson over wood carving years ago.
Walt holds a distinction that many may not know: He was part of the Ralph Plaisted Polar Expedition, which was the first team to reach the North Pole over the ice, back in 1968.
Now some may believe that an expedition led by explorer Robert Peary was the first to reach the pole back in 1909 but Peary’s claims have come under dispute in recent years. Some scholars believe he came about 60 miles short.
The first team to really accomplish the feat, many are convinced, was Plaisted’s expedition. He and three others from the team, that included Walt Pederson, are regarded by most polar authorities to be the first to succeed in a surface traverse across the ice to the North Pole. And they did it with a snowmobile.
Timothy Pederson said his father owned a snowmobile business in St. Cloud. After hearing about Plaisted’s plan to go to the North Pole by snowmobile, Walt called him up and asked if he could go along and Plaisted agreed. The rest was history.
A book was published in 2011 about the expedition, “First to the Pole,” by CJ Ramstad and Keith Pickering. It contained a subheading, “The amazing true story of a salesman from Minnesota and his friends who became the first to reach the North Pole over the ice.”
A documentary, “First to the Top of the World,” is now available for streaming on the Discovery-Plus channel. Promotional materials say the film chronicles a team of “average Joes” from Minnesota as they attempt a first-of-its-kind snowmobile expedition to the North Pole. Along the way, the film producers say, these unlikely heroes unearth a cover-up – Peary’s claim that he reached the top.
Walt Pederson, who published a diary privately in 1988 about his adventure on the ice, passed away about five years ago.