In the 19th and early 20th centuries, polar exploration fever gripped several nations. Numerous expeditions searched for the Northwest Passage and aimed to plant the national flags at the poles. The voyages produced spectacular adventure narratives that captivated audiences of its time. These misery-filled stories often express heroic overtones and have drawn the attention of historians, who seek to understand the meaning behind the public's fascination and admiration, and thereby the societies within which these events occurred. However, literature has often ignored the role of human cognition factors in heroic perception formation, leaving heroism in the abstract or as a manifestation of a specific paradigm. This paper uses social psychology insights into heroism to highlight the perception formation dimension and examines five different expeditions. Briefly investigating the relevant contexts within which the expeditions occurred, the paper focuses on the role of the immediately available expedition narratives and individual explorer characteristics that influenced initial public perceptions.