Celebrating Bob Bartlett

In 2009, Arctic explorer Bob Bartlett was commemorated on a postage stamp issued by Canada Post. The stamp was priced at 54 cents. In a media release from the time, Bartlett was lauded as the greatest ice captain of the 20th century. (Author Jennifer Niven paid a similar tribute when she titled her 2000 book The Ice Master.)


2009 was the 100 year anniversary of Admiral Peary’s claim of the North Pole. Bartlett was Peary’s navigator on that trip and went most of the way to the pole, at one point reaching 87°48′ N latitude—farther north than anyone had reached before him.

The image of Bartlett used on the stamp is also featured on the cover of my  upcoming biography of Bartlett and shows Bartlett using a sextant. According to the 2009 media release, Canada Post chose the photo “because it represents the navigational expertise for which [Bartlett] was renowned.”

Images of Inuit appear on the stamp but they are small and no Inuit were named in Canada Post’s media release, not even the indispensible Claude Kataktovick, who accompanied Bartlett on his remarkable trek from Wrangel Island to Siberia.

This was not the first honor Bartlett received. He was given an honorary degree by Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine in his lifetime. He was also awarded the Hubbard Medal, in such company as Roald Amundsen, who was the first explorer to traverse the Northwest Passage and the first to reach the South Pole. In 1969, 23 years after his death, Bartlett was designated a person of national historic importance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

I’d like to see Claude Kataktovick get similar recognition. Maybe someday!



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