Hanrahan uncovers the persona of famed Arctic explorer in new book

In 1914, Captain Robert Abram Bartlett trekked 700 miles across the frozen Arctic Ocean to save survivors of the sunken Karluk. The episode was one of many that contributed to the Bartlett myth but, beyond his celebrity, Bartlett was a complex man who struggled to find peace. Based on extensive research by the University of Lethbridge's Dr. Maura Hanrahan, her book Unchained Man: The Arctic Life and Times of Captain Robert Abram Bartlett explores Bartlett’s pivotal role in Arctic history.

Dr. Maura Hanrahan's work on the Arctic has been published in encyclopedias and journals such as Polar Geography.

“I grew up in Newfoundland where Bartlett was a hero. He has mythic status elsewhere, particularly in the United States where he spent his adult life, but I wondered about the person he really was,” says Hanrahan. “He had a life filled with adventures but I knew he had to be more than the cardboard cutout figure of so many stories and films. So, I did research in the United Kingdom, the U.S., Canada and Greenland over a decade to discover him, just as he set out to discover so-called “unknown” parts of the Arctic.”

Hanrahan is a Tier II Board of Governors Research Chair in the Department of Geography and has worked on Indigenous land claims and studied water security in Northern Canada. Her work on the Arctic has been published in encyclopedias and in journals such as Polar Geography. She has been an invited speaker on Arctic topics in Norway and Estonia. This is her 12th book.

Hanrahan’s interest in the Arctic grew out of her time in Coastal Labrador.

“I came to see how central the Inuit were in the history of the Arctic exploration. In Unchained Man, I draw from geography, history, gender studies and Indigenous studies to place Bartlett and the Inuit in context. The early 20th century, when Bartlett was active, was a remarkable and dramatic time in the exploration history.”

Hanrahan is launching her book on Saturday, June 23, 2 to 4 p.m. at Chapters Bookstore.