An in­ter­view with Cap­tain Bob Bartlett


The fol­low­ing in­ter­view with Cap­tain Robert A.(Bob) Bartlett (1875-1946), which ap­peared in the Novem­ber 10, 1929 is­sue of the Bos­ton Sun­day Post, is be­ing reprinted here cour­tesy of Dart­mouth Col­lege Li­brary (STEFMSS [193]:I-12).

Women are about the same — the Eskimo lass of the Arc­tic and the Ju­nior League girl of Bos­ton.

Rest­less, some­times, crav­ing new lib­er­ties; op­pressed with the lim­i­ta­tions of laws and so­ci­ety.

Good old-fash­ioned wives [GOFW], again. Up in the Eskimo coun­try, the GOFW prides her­self on keep­ing the lamp of whale oil brightly burn­ing, or turn­ing out for her hus­band a smart pair of seal­skin breeches, made by her own sturdy hands, even as, in Bos­ton, the good old-fash­ioned wife still prides her­self on the brown­ness of her beans of a Satur­day night.

Women are the same, in Baf­fin Land and Bos­ton. The same — and some of them are flap­pers, rest­less flap­pers. Want­ing what they have not got, roug­ing, bob­bing their hair; rais­ing what­ever kind of devil par­tic­u­larly goes with their ge­og­ra­phy.

But if it’s hap­pi­ness you’re looking for, choose the old-fash­ioned woman in Bos­ton or Baf­fin Land. It’s the old fash­ioned gal, all over the earth, that has solved the se­cret of con­tent.

So says a roar­ing, up­stand­ing, blue-eyed, hand­some devil of a sea dog, who knew his ge­og­ra­phy and his Arc­tic and his men — and women.

With Peary to the pole

This hand­some 102 per cent male crea­ture is Cap­tain “Bob” Bartlett, one of Bos­ton’s most fa­mous ex­plor­ers. Now Cap­tain Bob — no need to say — was the skip­per who stood at Peary’s right hand and com­manded the ship when the Amer­i­can flag was placed at the North Pole.

Cap­tain Bob has fought his way over a hun­dred miles of weary snow and ice, help­ing to save his party, though he headed them with scant ra­tions and noth­ing but the clothes he stood in. And in cold, hard, dark hours he has stud­ied his hu­man na­ture.

He tells you he can say what a man will be like in dread peril, in the first five min­utes he sees him. Al­most, he can tell how that man will meet death. As for women — he tells you he’s a rock­ribbed bach­e­lor — and re­gret­ful that he is — but he has learned about women up in the Arc­tic, too. And if you give him his choice be­tween the ed­u­cated, well dressed, bobbed and mod­ern Eskimo flap­per, and her mother, the good old-fash­ioned Eskimo house­wife, he’ll take her mother ev­ery time and thank you kindly.

Chewed his boots

“Why, Cap­tain Bartlett?” “Well, partly be­cause of Inaloo. Inaloo was the seam­stress on the Kar­luk, when she was jammed in an ice pack and we all had to pre­serve our lives as best we could there in the dark­ness with the tem­per­a­ture 50 be­low zero, just af­ter the ship had gone down.

“‘Where the devil are my boots?’ I yelled in the con­fu­sion which fol­lowed. In a mo­ment, I felt Inaloo’s hands on mine. I heard her voice, calm, steady, help­ful in that ter­ri­ble hour. ‘I save cap­tain’s boots,’ she told me. I looked at her and I could dimly see that her lips were bleed­ing. I asked her how she had been hurt, and soon I knew. That faith­ful, old style Eskimo woman had cut her lips in 20 places chew­ing my frozen boots. It is Eskimo custom to chew boots to soften their leather when frozen, so they may be fit to wear again. I won­der how many flap­pers would show up so stur­dily in such a cri­sis.”

But Amer­i­can women learn lessons of sim­plic­ity from their Eskimo sis­ters. And if we could make mod­ern mar­riage as “for granted” an in­sti­tu­tion as that of the Eski­mos, we would save many a heartache. Let the cap­tain ex­plain.

“Up there in Eskimo land, a boy and a girl marry at the proper time. When is that? When he can build a good stone igloo, kill the seal and bear and wal­rus, do all the things a man should do, out­side his home, to bring back sup­port and food and com­fort to his wife and ba­bies there. The girl-? That’s also sim­ple, in Eskimo land. She mar­ries when she knows how to keep the oil lamp brightly burn­ing, so that it both il­lu­mines and heats her stone or skin or ice igloo. She mar­ries when she can make her hus­band and chil­dren good fur clothes from head to foot; when she can keep the igloo comfortable and cook the meat her hus­band kills.

“There’s less di­vorce and sep­a­ra­tion up there in Eskimo land than at home, for the Eski­mos man­age those things bet­ter. If An­gloo — the hus­band — sees an­other woman he prefers to his own, he sen­si­bly sug­gests to her hus­band that a change would be good for them both. And the wives, as well. If the other man agrees, Merko’s wife goes over to the other man’s igloo, and the other woman goes to Merko’s, and they all live hap­pily as de­cent neigh­bours.

“ But if the other hus­band ob­jects, they may set­tle it with a wrestling match. The man who wins gets the wife he wants. Again, all is set­tled and things peace­ful. Once I knew an Eskimo about to set out on a long snowy hunt­ing trip. It wouldn’t be safe for him to take his wife, as she was about to have a lit­tle one. So the hus­band, who greatly pined for fem­i­nine com­pan­ion­ship on his hunt­ing, came to an agree­ment with a neigh­bour. The neigh­bour’s wife went away hunt­ing with him; his wife went house­keep­ing with the neigh­bour. All were happy.” ...To be con­cluded. Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached by email at bur­

BARTLETT’S MOTHER — Cap­tain Bob Bartlett was de­voted to his mother Mary (nee Lea­mon).

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