Dr. Counter is a professional explorer, and a member of the Explorers Club of New York. While pursuing a second academic interest in Ethnography, Dr. Counter initiated scientific research and cultural studies among the indigenous people of the Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) South American rain forest. His explorations led to over a decade of major articles on the little known rain forest descendents of 17th and 18th century African slaves, in a variety of international periodicals including Newsweek, Time, New York Times, Boston Globe, Smithsonian, Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), Expressen (Sweden), as well asscientific journals.
In addition, he produced an award-winning documentary on the culture of the Rain Forest African-American people entitled, I Shall Moulder Before I Shall Be Taken, which has been shown on television and screen throughout the world (including the ancestral villages in Africa). His research work with the Rain Forest African-Americans, and his films on their tribal customs and heritage have been the subject of a 90 minute PBS special entitled, I Sought My Brother, an ABC Television show called Rebel Slaves and a later PBS special called Vanishing Tribe. In 1981 Dr. Counter co-authored a book (with David L. Evans) on his experiences with the South American Rain Forest people called I Sought My Brother, published by MIT Press.
In 1993, Dr. Counter initiated research studies in the Ecuadorian interior where he discovered a unique group of African-descended people living high in the Andes mountain range, in the little known village of Chota. Dr. Counter produced a documentary film on these descendants of 18th century slaves entitled, Lost Africans of the Andes. From 1993 to 2015, he has led medical teams into the Ecuadorian Andes mountains to study the health problems of the indigenous children and to provide medical services. He is presently working with Dr. Fernando Ortega, Dr. Leo H. Buchanan, and Dr. Göran Laurell to reduce the severe lead and mercury poisoning found among the children in the ceramics glazing and gold mining areas of Ecuador.
The North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo
In 1986, Dr. Counter traveled to the northernmost settlements in Greenland on a scientific mission and found the eighty year-old Amer-Eskimo sons of North Pole discoverers Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary and Matthew A. Henson (fathered with Polar Eskimo women during the 1906 expedition). After bringing the existence of these men to international attention, Dr. Counter enabled them to fulfill their life-long dream of visiting the birth and resting places of their respective fathers and meeting their American relatives.
Dr. Counter brought Anaukaq Henson and Kali Peary, and twelve members of their families to the United States for their first visit on May 29, 1987. During their two week visit, dubbed the "North Pole Family Reunion," each son laid a wreath at his father's grave site and met his American relatives for the first time. They received numerous tributes, including a personal message from the President of the United States, a proclamation from the Mayor of Washington, D.C., declaring June 3, 1987 Matthew Henson Day, a Service of Welcome at Harvard's Memorial Church and New York City's Abyssinian Baptist Church, and an honorary banquet hosted by the President of Harvard University.
Robert E. Peary was buried with full honors in an impressive monument at Arlington National Cemetery in 1920. In contrast, Matthew A. Henson, master Arctic explorer and most admired by the Eskimos, was buried in 1955 in a simple grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, NYC. In 1986, Dr. Counter petitioned the President of the United States for permission to transfer the remains of Matthew A. Henson from Woodlawn Cemetery to their rightful place among other American heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.
In October of 1987, Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States granted Dr. Counter's request. Dr. Counter organized, planned, and coordiated the reinterment. On April 6, 1988, the 79th Anniversary of the North Pole discovery, Matthew Henson and his wife Lucy Ross Henson were reinterred by Presidential order with full military honors and a fitting new monument next to Robert and Josephine Peary in Arlington National Cemetery. Dr. Counter is the author and producer of a book and films on his work with the Henson-Peary descendants entitled, North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo (Invisible Cities Press, 2001).
For many years, Dr. Counter sought proper recognition from the United States Navy for Matthew Henson's contributions to Arctic and oceanographic exploration. In October 1996, the United States Navy commissioned the U.S.N.S. Henson, a T-AGS 63 class oceanographic explorer ship, in honor of Matthew Henson. Dr. Counter was invited by the United States Navy to participate in the launching ceremony. He escorted Matthew Henson's great-niece, Mrs. Audrey Mebane to the ceremony, where she christened the ship. Dr. Counter was invited by Admirals of the U.S. Navy to sail on the U.S.N.S. Henson during its maiden voyage, in November 1998.
On November 28, 2000, the National Geographic Society awarded the Hubbard Medal, to Matthew A. Henson, posthumously. Dr. Allen S. Counter, who had petitioned the National Geographic Society for many years to present its most prestigious medal to Henson, escorted Mrs. Audrey Mebane, Henson's 74 year-old great-niece to the ceremony to receive the award. The medal was presented at the newly named Matthew A. Henson Earth Conservation Center (MAHECC) in Washington, D.C., and accompanied a scholarship given in Henson's name by NGS. Attending the ceremony were John Fahey, president of NGS, Gilbert Grovesnor, Chairman of NGS, Robert Nixon, director of the MAHECC, Ethel Kennedy, board member of the MAHECC, and mayor Anthony Williams of Washington, D.C.
On April 6th, 2009, Dr. Allen Counter traveled to the top of Greenland with a letter from President Barack Obama to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the North Pole discovery by Robert Peary and Matthew Henson, and celebrated with their Inuit/Eskimo descendants in Qaanaq. Dr. Counter delivered a Centennial Commemorative Case, containing North Pole memorabilia from the 1909 expedition, to the Navy's USS Annapolis submarine, which transported the Case to the precise North Pole on the anniversary date. The USS Annapolis was under the command of Admiral Melvin G. Williams, Jr. and Commander Michael Brunner.
Audrey Mebane, great-niece of Arctic explorer Matthew A. Henson, launches the U.S.N.S. Henson, the Navy's latest T-AGS 63 class oceanographic explorer ship.
©2005-2015 Dr. S. Allen Counter