Interpreting Captain Bob Bartlett's AGS Notebook Chronicling Significant Parts of Peary's 1908-09 North Pole Expedition

By Stam, Deirdre C. | The Geographical Review, January 2017 | Go to article overview

Interpreting Captain Bob Bartlett's AGS Notebook Chronicling Significant Parts of Peary's 1908-09 North Pole Expedition


Stam, Deirdre C., The Geographical Review


Admiral Robert Peary's claim that in April of 1909 he was the first person in modern history to "attain" the North Pole was contentious from the start. With national pride, American exceptionalism, and assumptions of racial superiority riding on the question--as well as the promise of personal fame and fortune for Peary himself--the pressures were great to see his claim substantiated (Dick 2013, 6-7). Among these pressures was the expectation of the Peary Arctic Club, a group of wealthy and socially prominent backers of Peary's northern explorations, that he come home from the 1909 trip with the ultimate prize of primacy at the North Pole to justify their investment and to support their nationalistic goals.

Objective, scientifically acceptable evidence to support Peary's claim of success, however, was considered flimsy from the outset, so that "literary techniques of rhetoric and narrative form assumed a particular importance, even in the structuring of the diaries the explorers asserted had been written down in the field" (Dick 2004, 11). Controversy over Peary's claim has flared up again with each new publication, or observation, or document that has been brought to the argument. Captain Bob Bartlett's small-format notebook that recently came to light in the American Geographical Society archives describes significant parts of Peary's 1909 attempt. Even though Bartlett and Peary were apart from March 31 through April 23, including April 6, which was the day of Peary's reputed triumph, the notebook provides some clues to the evolution of Peary's claims for this period. The notebook documents Bartlett's experience from March 30 through August 31, 1909, critical times in the expedition's story. Its role in the evolution of the Peary narrative is, however, not entirely obvious from the document itself, and is especially baffling in its minimal treatment of what were ultimately regarded as key points in the Peary story.

WHERE DOES BARTLETT FIT INTO THE PEARY ACCOUNT?

Captain Robert "Bob" Abram Bartlett (1875-1946), a highly respected ice master born in Newfoundland, knew the elusive Peary better than most (Plate 1). Bartlett commanded Peary's ship, the Roosevelt, on two of Peary's most significant northern expeditions, 1905-06 and 1908-09. On Peary's final attempt to reach the North Pole, 1908-09, Bartlett not only captained the Roosevelt between New York and Cape Sheridan on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island but also took part in Peary's elaborate system of successive support teams travelling to and from Cape Columbia, the land base from which Peary, much diminished by physical ailments, travelled primarily by sledge to and from his polar goal.

On Peary's final attempt at the Pole, Bartlett proved a hardy and able trekker, often doing the arduous work of breaking trail, and was invaluable as one whose outstanding navigational skills could keep the expedition on track. Bartlett was convinced to take on this work, seemingly below his status as captain, by Peary's promise that Bartlett would go all the way with Peary to the Pole, enjoying the benefits thereof, and in following years Bartlett would captain the Roosevelt on a South Pole expedition (Horwood 1977, 87-88).

Neither promise was kept. It is ironic that North Pole enthusiasts might best know Bartlett as the man who was sent back before the final stage of Peary's quest. Bartlett does not mention in his notebook account exactly when he learned about the decision, how Peary explained it to him, or how disappointed he felt. The reader of Bartlett's AGS notebook first learns of this change in plan with Bartlett's opening statement on March 31' "Today is my last march North. I am in great hopes of getting into the 88th parallel" (Plate 2).

As Bartlett expressed it in his Log, drawing from his interview with a New York Herald reporter immediately upon his return, "It was a bitter disappointment. I got up early the next morning [March 31] while the rest were asleep, and started north alone. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Interpreting Captain Bob Bartlett's AGS Notebook Chronicling Significant Parts of Peary's 1908-09 North Pole Expedition
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.