Robert Bartlett collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Bartlett regarding his Arctic expeditions with particular mention of Peary.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert [Bob] Abram Bartlett was born on 15 August 1875 into a seafaring family at Brigus, Newfoundland in Canada. He took command of his first vessel at the age of seventeen, serving primarily in sealing and trading ships before obtaining his master's certificate in 1898. Bartlett first encountered the American explorer Robert Edwin Peary in 1898 when he joined the United States North Polar expedition, 1898-1902 (leader Robert Peary), serving as mate in Windward between 1898 and 1899, and again in 1902. Returning north with Peary, he commanded Roosevelt in the United States North Polar Expedition, 1905-1906 (leader Robert Edwin Peary), in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole by way of Smith Sound.

In 1908, Bartlett accompanied Peary in his final bid to reach the North Pole, commanding Roosevelt on the United States Polar expedition, 1908-1909 (leader Robert Edwin Peary). The ship sailed from New York in July 1908, reaching its winter quarters at Cape Sheridan, north-east Ellesmere Island on 5 September. Setting out from Cape Columbia in February 1909, Bartlett led the first advance party, reaching latitude 87° 47 minutes North before being sent back on 1 April 1909. In 1910 Bartlett returned to the Arctic as captain of Beothic on the United States Sport-hunting Expedition, which brought back live specimens of Arctic animals for the Bronx Zoo, New York.

In 1913 Barlett joined the Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1913-1918 (leader Vilhjalmur Stefansson), as captain of Karluk . The ship was originally attached to the Northern Division of this expedition, and assigned the role of establishing a base for Stefansson and the scientists on the north-western fringe of the Canadian Arctic archipelago. However, after transporting Stefansson to Alaska, she became beset in the ice and sank on 11 January 1914. After establishing a camp on the ice at the site of the wreck, Bartlett led the remaining crew members to Ostrov Vrangelya (Wrangell Island) in February 1914. Setting out on an epic journey to seek help, he and an Eskimo companion reached the Siberian coast in April before proceeding to the Bering Strait and thence over to Alaska where he organized the rescue of the Karluk survivors.

During the First World War, Bartlett served in the United States Army Transport Command and in the U.S. Navy. In 1917, he returned to the Arctic as captain of Neptune, the relief ship for the United States Crocker Land Expedition, 1913-1917 (leader Donald MacMillan).

After his plan for a drift voyage from Alaska over the Pole to Greenland foundered due to lack of funding, he acquired the schooner Effie M. Morrissey in 1925, commanding her for twenty years in voyages exploring both Northeast and Northwest Greenland and parts of the Canadian Arctic. He died on 28 April 1946 in New York City.

Published work Sails over ice by Captain Bob Bartlett, with a foreword by Lawrence Perry, Charles Scibner's Sons New York (1934) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Bartlett, R.A.] The log of Bob Bartlett the true story of forty years of seafaring and exploration by Robert Abram Bartlett, G.P. Putnam's Sons New York (1928) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Bartlett, R.A.]


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 'Robert Bartlett (1875-1946)' by Hugh Stewart in Arctic volume 39 number 2 June 1986 and Arctic exploration and development c.500 BC to 1915 an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing Inc. New York (1994) and 'Bob Bartlett, master of the Arctic Seas' by Harold Harwood in Canadian Geographical Journal volume 98 number 2 (1979)

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.