S. Allen Counter, Who Championed an Unsung Black Explorer, Dies at 73

There, an old man emerged from a wooden house and said: “You must be a Henson. You’ve come to find me.” It was Anaukaq, the son of Henson and Akatingwah, his Eskimo companion. Anaukaq was now 80 and the father of five sons, with 22 grandchildren.

“One of the great moments of my life was walking into that village,” Dr. Counter told The Boston Globe in 1986.

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Dr. Counter, in 2005, was a Harvard neurobiologist and explorer who reclaimed the reputation of Matthew A. Henson.

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Rick Friedman/Corbis, via Getty Images

Anaukaq mentioned a childhood friend he called his cousin, who lived 90 miles to the north. Dr. Counter, traveling by helicopter and boat to Qaanaaq, the northernmost nonmilitary settlement in the world, met a white-skinned Eskimo, who also greeted him with the words “You must be a Henson.” This was Kali, the 80-year-old son of Peary and his Eskimo companion, Alakaseena.

“These men said that they had never been to the land of their fathers, and before they died they would like to physically touch a member of their fathers’ families,” Dr. Counter told the journal New Scientist in 2008. He arranged for Anaukaq and Kali, along with several of their sons and grandchildren, to visit the United States in 1987 and meet their American relatives in a get-together he called the North Pole Family Reunion. Anaukaq died later that year.

Dr. Counter, who wrote about his Greenland expeditions in “North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo” (1991), also came up with an answer to the deafness question. By administering hearing tests and accompanying the Inuits on seal hunts, he determined that their hearing loss was not caused by a virus, bacterial infection or diet, but rather by repeated exposure to rifle blasts that destroyed the hair cells of their inner ears.

He recommended common earplugs, but the Inuit hunters needed to hear the sound…

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