At the dawn of the twentieth century, explorers had vanquished all the dragons from the map, leaving only the Poles as blanks to be filled. The Arctic, nearer to the majority of humanity than its antipode, had long been the subject of imaginative filling, playing host to paradisiacal lands of legend and rumor.
Mercator's map of the North Pole (1595)
The idea of an undiscovered Arctic continent is an old one. The ancient Greeks believed in Hyperborea, an idyllic land of eternal sunlight beyond the North Wind, populated by long-lived Hyperboreans. William Fairfield Warren in his book Paradise Found: The Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole (1885) placed Hyperborea -- and Atlantis, Eden, Mount Meru, Yggdrasil, and Avalon -- in the Arctic.
Up to the 1890s, Greenland was widely thought to be the peninsula of a much larger land that covered the Pole. On the periphery, phantom islands like Sannikov Land and Frisland dotted the Arctic of the mind. For centuries, cartographers, most notably Mercator, filled the otherwise empty tops of their maps with various places drawn from mythology and tales of sailors seeking the Northern Passages.
It's no surprise then modern explorers, emboldened by scientific and technological advances, took up the search for lands hidden in the northern ice -- and some claimed to have found them.