Bartlett Robert

(15.08.1875 - 28.04.1946)

Outstanding Canadian Arctic captain.

Born in Brigus, Newfoundland, into a family of brave Newfoundland sailors who have long been associated with work in the North. Bartlett was the eldest of ten children born to William James Bartlett and Mary J. Lemon. His great-uncle, Captain John R. Bartlett, accompanied American doctor Isaac of Israel Hays to the Devil's Finger in Melville Bay, Greenland. Captain John's namesake and nephew, John R. Bartlett, uncle of Bob, acted as a conductor on Robert Peary’s ship before passing the baton to other R. Bartlett. Another uncle of Robert Bartlett, Samuel R. Bartlett, was from a family of famous sailing masters of Newfoundland.

Bartlett spent his childhood and youth in the cottage community of Hawthorne in Brigus.

At the age of 17, Bartlett became the captain of his first ship, and from that moment began his Arctic activities, which lasted all his life. He has conducted over 40 expeditions to the Arctic, more than anyone before or after.

In 1898, Bartlett joined R. Peary, whose life goal was to reach the North Pole. Working with Piri in the years 1898-1902, he declared to his family that he intended to link his further career with Piri’s plans.

The expedition of 1898-1902 showed the impossibility of using whaling ships or converted yachts in the new plans of Peary. He needed a special vessel, able to serve as a reliable and convenient wintering base and at the same time ensure passage to high latitudes and a successful return. The commander of this, not yet built ship was previously determined by Robert Bartlett.

The laying of the keel of the new vessel took place on October 15, 1904, and on March 23, 1905 a launch was made. The baptism ceremony was led by Josephine Peary , the ship with the permission of the president, was named Roosevelt.

Piri’s last trip to the pole took place in 1909. His circumstances are highlighted in the memoirs of Bartlett.

For the "great pole game" Peary picked up a strong team. Bartlett did not attach much importance to the condition that was announced to the participants of the march: until the decisive stages, no one will know how far everyone will go to the pole. Peary himself will determine the most worthy, who showed themselves along the way. So everyone has a reason to work hard.

Laying the way began Bartlett. Polynyas smoke steam. Frost and wind are in the same harness. It is necessary to break through the path, at the end of the route to build an igloo - a snow hut. Peary walked along the paved road. He sent out one by one the satellites who made their turn in the game. It took four, one - forever: died on the way back. After this, Bartlett and Negro Matthew Henson, Peary's servant, a constant participant in his expeditions, succeeded one another in laying trails in the hummocks.

At the last stage, Bartlett is full of energy, he is elated, he is ready for a decisive throw.

Peary hesitates. Then he says, looking away from the "Captain Bob":

- I am infinitely sorry ... You, Henson, come with me. And you, Ukea.

How?! Bartlett seems like he misheard. Ukea, a young, frivolous Eskimo, will go, and he should return?

“I am infinitely sorry ...” Peary repeats.

Walking along the path to the south, the “captain Bob” understood: Peary did not want to share his fame with another white man. He does not need authoritative witnesses of victory ... or defeat. How can verify the correctness of the definition of the cherished point of Henson or almost illiterate Ukea?

Upon his return, Bartlett was awarded the Hubbard Medal of the National Geographic Society for punching the trail through the frozen Arctic Sea within 150 miles of the pole.

As you know, soon there were reports that before the Peary at the pole had to visit another American, Dr. Frederick Cook. An obscene scuffle began, resembling a quarrel of grumpy cookers in the kitchen. Neither one nor the other could not bring irrefutable evidence of their stay at the pole.

Robert Bartlett stayed away from the swara. He did not change the Arctic. In America, "captain" is often called people who have never entered the bridge of the vessel. However, Bartlett was really a captain, and quite experienced.

In 1913, polar explorer Stefanson equipped an expedition under the flag of Canada to explore the Polar Basin. Bartlett led the "Karluk" schooner, which befell the fate of many ships. She stuck among the hummocks. Bartlett ordered some of the food to be dumped on the ice and to build snow huts in case the ship was crushed under compression.

When the new year of 1914 was celebrated on the drifting “Karluk”, a blue cloud appeared far on the horizon. It could be the island of Wrangell or the island of Herald.

The recordings of Captain Bartlett tell about the death of "Karluk". The floe proportional to the side of the ship, it began to sink, the water ran across the deck and gushed into the hatches. Only then the captain climbed onto the rail and jumped onto the ice. It happened in January 1914.

Bartlett has already experienced shipwreck twice. The man who had almost reached the pole, of course, was able to safely bring the entire team to the nearby island.

His record after the death of "Karluk" is optimistic. It says that people have a comfortable dwelling on an ice floe, there is enough food and fuel, only perseverance and courage are needed. But not all people from "Karluk" were on top in a moral sense. Misfortune did not unite them. Four members of the expedition left the camp, so that, without worrying about others, to get to Wrangel Island faster. Four left and died ...

The corpses of the other four, which followed the first, were found ten years later on Herald Island.

The Wrangel Islands successfully reached only those who led himself Bartlett. Quickly built three huts. Food remained at least until mid-summer. The captain went through the Strait of Long to the mainland to get from there to Alaska and from the nearest point by telegraph call the ship to Wrangel Island to help the shipwrecked. On the seventeenth day of a hike in the ice, Bartlett entered the coast of Siberia and almost immediately saw the trail of a sled.


Bartlett Monument in Brigus on the Atlantic Ocean


In the diary of Bartlett's journey along the coast, the recordings of the cordiality and responsiveness of the Siberians, with whom fate brought him, are striking. “I have never come across such noble hospitality, and I have never felt more gratitude for the cordiality of the reception. This was, as I later learned, a typical example of the genuine humanity of these simple, good people”.  

In Emma Bay (Providence Bay in the Bering Sea) on May 21, 1914, Bartlett took the Herman ship aboard to deliver to Alaska faster. At the end of May 1914, the captain entered the American land. It was necessary to quickly send a telegram to Ottawa, the Canadian Maritime Administration about those waiting on the island, but at the United States military station the sergeant refused to send the dispatch without immediate payment, and Bartlett did not have enough money. “I traveled hundreds of miles to get to the telegraph and now I faced such an obstacle!” The captain wrote down bitterly.

When news of the plight of people from "Karluk" still reached Ottawa, the Canadian government asked Russia for help. The Vaigach icebreaker steamer went to Wrangel Island, tried to break through the ice, but squeezed the hull badly and broke the screw.

Later, the situation changed. The schooner King and Wings, under the command of Hibbard, the companion Olaf Swenson (Hibbard and Swenson) managed to remove Canadians from the island. Bartlett summed up the sad result: "Nine out of twenty came back ...".

He received the highest award of the Royal Geographical Society for outstanding heroism.
In 1917, Bartlett rescued the members of the ill-fated Crocker earth expedition, Donald Baxter Macmillan, who spent four years on the ice.

From 1925 to 1945, commanding his schooner, Effie M. Morrissey, Bartlett led a number of important scientific expeditions to the Arctic, sponsored by American museums, the Explorers Club and the National Geographic Society. He also helped the United States government research in the Arctic during World War II.


Bartlett Cemetery in Brigus


Bartlett died in pneumonia in a New York hospital and was buried in his hometown of Brigus in Bartlett Cemetery - a private cemetery for the graves of members of the Bartlett and Limon families.

Cape on the island of Tyrtov in the Nordensheld archipelago in the Kara Sea. Named in 1939 by A.I. Kosoy.


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