"The man himself might have appeared on Wheetabix boxes but he is hard to get to know. He carefully managed his image."
Legendary ship Captain Bob Bartlett had a lifelong love affair with the Arctic; Dr. Maura Hanrahan's lifelong fascination with Bartlett began when, as a child, she spent two weeks in his home town of Brigus, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Throughout her career, Dr. Hanrahan has written numerous articles on Bartlett.
"In doing research on him, I could not help but notice that Bartlett was largely depicted as a one-dimensional figure, a kind of Boys" Own hero," she said. "This couldn't possibly reflect the person he was so there was clearly a gap in the Bartlett literature."
Dr. Hanrahan hopes to fill that gap and shed light upon the life and character of a glorified, but not well understood, figure in Newfoundland and polar history. "The man himself might have appeared on Wheetabix boxes but he is hard to get to know. He carefully managed his image," said Hanrahan.
She has been researching Captain Bartlett for almost a decade and the project has become an important part of her work at Grenfell Campus. In that time, her archival study has taken her to the Explorers Club in New York and to Bowdoin College in Maine, the institution to which Bartlett chose to donate his papers. She has searched archives in England at Greenwich and Cambridge Universities, and The Rooms, the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Sites Association have all shared their Bartlett documents with her. Captain Bartlett was famous in his day so there is a wealth of newspaper articles accessible from the New York Times and news publications from other countries, as well as a rich photographic record.
She has also interviewed many people, including a man in Brigus who worked under Captain Bartlett on the Effie Morrissey, a schooner skippered by the captain that made many important scientific expeditions to the Arctic. For Dr. Hanrahan, this personal account of Captain Bartlett was a highlight of her research.
With an abundance of archival material gathered, now it's time to pull it all together. Dr. Hanrahan is writing a book that will be informed by academic research and theory, which she hopes will also appeal to an educated public readership. The book will be published by McGill-Queens University Press.