In March 1914, two men began a perilous 700 mile walk across the barren ice fields of the Arctic Ocean to Siberia on a near-impossible rescue mission—to save the stranded crew and passengers of the ship Karluk, which had been crushed and sunk by ice. One of those making this trek was legendary captain Robert Abram Bartlett who, five years earlier, had navigated Robert Peary’s expedition to reach the North Pole. Bartlett’s epic 1914 journey, made with Claude Kataktovik, an Inuit crew member, was an attempt to rescue the Karluk’s survivors stranded on Wrangel Island. The Karluk’s sinking and its aftermath proved to be the most notable of Bartlett’s fifty voyages to the far north, a career made possible by the Inuit who imparted vital survival and navigational skills. Bartlett led the life of a celebrity and earned international fame, awards and accolades; he even appeared on a Wheaties cereal box. But he struggled to find peace. Based on research in four countries, Unchained Man explores the truth behind the myth of Robert Bartlett, while honouring the life of a central figure in international polar exploration and Arctic history.
Maura Hanrahan is a Professor of Humanities at the University of Lethbridge and author of several books, including Tsunami, which tells the story of the 1929 catastrophe that killed numerous people in Newfoundland. The book received the Heritage and History Award and was short-listed for the 2005 Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Non-fiction. Another book, Domino: The Eskimo Coast Disaster, tells the story of a devastating hurricane in Labrador in 1885.