Robert Abram Bartlett (b. August 15, 1875, Brigus, Newfoundland-d. April 28, 1946, New York City), ship captain and Arctic explorer, piloted numerous expeditions to Greenland and locations in the Arctic Circle. He piloted Admiral Peary's vessel Roosevelt during the 1906 attempt to reach the North Pole. Later he was master of schooner Effie M. Morrissey.
Beginning in the mid-1920's, he collected zoological specimens for the United States National Museum (USNM) on his many expeditions to the Arctic.
Expeditions by Bartlett include the Bartlett Northeast Greenland Expedition, the Bartlett Northwest Greenland Expedition, and the Expedition to Greenland and Ellesmere Land. Working for George Palmer Putnam, he piloted the schooner Effie M. Morrissey from Rye, New York, to Baffin Island in 1927.
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.
From the guide to the Robert Bartlett collection, 1930-1937, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)