Robert Bartlett (explorer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Capt. Robert (Bob) Bartlett
Robert bartlett.jpg
Born 15 August 1875
Brigus, Newfoundland
Died 28 April 1946 (aged 70)
New York City
Nationality Newfoundlander
Naturalized American
Occupation Maritime explorer, navigator
Title Captain
Parent(s) William James Bartlett, Mary J. Leamon
Awards Hubbard Medal (1909)
Charles P. Daly Medal (1925)
Peary Polar Expedition Medal (1944)

Captain Robert "Bob" Abram Bartlett (August 15, 1875 – April 28, 1946) was a Newfoundland-American[1] Arctic explorer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Early life[edit]

Born in Brigus, Newfoundland, Bartlett was the oldest of ten children born to William James Bartlett and Mary J. Leamon, and heir to a family tradition of seafaring. He grew up in Hawthorne Cottage in Brigus. By the age of 17, he mastered his first ship and began a lifelong love affair with the Arctic.


Bartlett spent more than 50 years mapping and exploring the waters of the Far North and led over 40 expeditions to the Arctic, more than anyone before or since.

Bartlett was captain of the Roosevelt and accompanied Commander Robert Peary on his attempts to reach the North Pole.[2] He was awarded the Hubbard Medal of the National Geographic Society for breaking the trail through the frozen Arctic Sea to within 150 miles of the pole,[3] yet was excluded from the final exploring party (possibly due to a rivalry between the two men).[4] Bartlett took a ship and was the first person to sail north of 88° N.

In 1914, Bartlett’s leadership in the doomed Karluk Expedition helped save the lives of most of its stranded participants after leader Vilhjalmur Stefansson abandoned the expedition. After being stranded for several months, Bartlett and Inuit hunter Kataktovik walked 700 miles from Wrangel Island over the ice of the Chukchi Sea and across Siberia and then mounted an expedition from Alaska to rescue his surviving companions on Wrangel Island. He received the highest award from the Royal Geographical Society for his outstanding heroism.

In 1917, Bartlett rescued the members of Donald Baxter MacMillan's ill-fated Crocker Land Expedition, who had been stuck on the ice for four years.[5]

From 1925-1945, at the command of his own schooner, Effie M. Morrissey, Bartlett led many important scientific expeditions to the Arctic sponsored by American museums, the Explorers Club and the National Geographic Society. He also helped to survey the Arctic for the United States Government during World War II.

In 1931, Bartlett starred as Captain Barker in the film The Viking about a sealing ship in Newfoundland. The film was shot on location and during the filming of several action scenes, the ship that filming was taking place on exploded, killing 28 men. Despite this, the film was still released. In it, Bartlett plays the captain of the sealing vessel The Viking who is proud of his reputation for having never lost a man.[6]


Bartlett died when he was 70 in a New York City hospital from pneumonia and was buried in his hometown of Brigus, Newfoundland and Labrador. Hawthorne Cottage, Bartlett's place of residence in Brigus, is a National Historic Site of Canada.

Captain Robert Bartlett
Captain Robert Bartlett and Robert Peary, standing on ship, Battle Harbour, Labrador in 1909

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1909, Bartlett was awarded the Hubbard Medal by the National Geographic Society which is awarded for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. In 1927, the Boy Scouts of America made Bartlett an Honorary Scout, a new category of Scout created that same year. This distinction was given to "American citizens whose achievements in outdoor activity, exploration and worthwhile adventure are of such an exceptional character as to capture the imagination of boys...". Among others who were awarded this distinction were included Richard E. Byrd, Charles Lindbergh, and Orville Wright.[7]

He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the American Geographical Society in 1918, and its Daly Medal in 1925.[8] In 1944, he was awarded the Peary Polar Expedition Medal. The Canadian Coast Guard vessel CCGS Bartlett is named for Bartlett. Canada Post featured Bartlett on a Canadian postage stamp released on July 10, 2009.[9]

In fiction[edit]

Author Eric Walters documented some of the aspects of his journey to find Arctic islands in the historical novels Trapped in Ice and The Pole. Bartlett and Kataktovik's journey through Chukotka, Siberia is recounted as an episode in Chukchi author Yuri Rytkheu's novel A Dream in Polar Fog.[10]

Further reading[edit]

  • Harold Horwood, Bartlett, The Great Explorer, Toronto: Doubleday, 1977.
  • Robert A. Bartlett. The Last Voyage of the Karluk. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1916.
  • Jennifer Niven. The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk and the Miraculous Rescue of her Survivors. New York: Hyperion, 2000.
  • Robert A. Bartlett. The Log of Bob Bartlett. St. John's: Flankers, 2006 (reprint).
  • Maura Hanrahan. Unchained Man: The Arctic Life and Times of Captain Robert Abram Bartlett. Portugal Cove-St. Philip's: Boulder Publications, 2018.


  1. ^ navigator
  2. ^ "Bartlett, Captain Robert Abram National Historic Person". Parks Canada. 2012-03-15. Retrieved October 3, 2013. 
  3. ^ Harold Horwood, Bartlett: The Great Canadian Explorer, 1977, ISBN 0-385-09984-3.
  4. ^ West, James E. (1931). The Boy Scouts Book of True Adventure. New York: Putnam. OCLC 8484128. 
  5. ^ The Province Town Banner (7 Feb 2008)
  6. ^ "The Viking (1931)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 8 April 2018. 
  7. ^ "Around the World". Time. August 29, 1927. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  8. ^ "American Geographical Society Honorary Fellowships" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-07-04. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  9. ^ Canada Post Details, July to September 2009, Volume XVIII, No. 3, p. 16
  10. ^ Rytkheu, Yuri (2005). A Dream in Polar Fog. trans. by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse. Brooklyn, NY: Archipelago Books. ISBN 0-9778576-1-1. 

External links[edit]