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Exhibits
Chief Engineer George A. Wardwell: A Bucksport Man in the Far North
December 1, 2008 - March 1, 2009
Arctic Museum main galleries
George A. Wardwell of Bucksport, Maine was chief engineer of the SS Roosevelt on Robert E. Peary’s 1905-06 and 1908-09 North Pole expeditions. These expeditions are well known as Peary, and many of the men who accompanied him on his long sledging journeys, published accounts of their experiences. Much less is known of the experiences of men like Wardwell, who spent the winter aboard the Roosevelt as it sat frozen in place for the winter, serving as a base camp. Wardwell, however, kept journals of his time aboard the Roosevelt. The journals, along with his photographs, have recently been made available by his family, allowing us to gain a new perspective on these historic expeditions.

You can learn more about Wardwell, and see his 1908-09 journal, in the museum galleries.

This exhibit is made possible through the support of the Friends of Bowdoin College, George A. Wardwell, and the Castine Historical Society.


Pictured above: Women and dogs aboard the SS Roosevelt. Donald B. MacMillan, northern Greenland, 1908. Inkjet print. Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan.
<p><b>A Talented and Resourceful Man</b> </p>     Robert E. Peary described George Wardwell in his 1906 book 'Nearest the Pole:' George A. Wardwell, chief engineer, was a native of Bucksport, Maine, 44 years of age, 5 feet 11 inches tall, and weighed 240 pounds. Acting as engineer in the shipyard in which the<em> Roosevelt</em> was built and intimately employed in her construction, he was deeply interested in her proposed work and anxious to join the expedition. His phlegmatic temperament, and evident capacity for work, combined with non-use of liquor and tobacco, were all strong points in his favour.    <br> <br>   George Wardwell. Unknown photographer, unidentified location, ca. 1910. Inkjet print. Courtesy of the Castine Historical Society.
<p><b>A Talented and Resourceful Man</b> </p>     Robert E. Peary described George Wardwell in his 1906 book 'Nearest the Pole:' George A. Wardwell, chief engineer, was a native of Bucksport, Maine, 44 years of age, 5 feet 11 inches tall, and weighed 240 pounds. Acting as engineer in the shipyard in which the <em>Roosevelt</em> was built and intimately employed in her construction, he was deeply interested in her proposed work and anxious to join the expedition. His phlegmatic temperament, and evident capacity for work, combined with non-use of liquor and tobacco, were all strong points in his favour.   <br> <br>  Launch of the <em> Roosevelt</em>. Unidentified photographer, Verona, Maine, March 23, 1905. Inkjet print. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

<p><b>Departure Day</b> </p>     The <em>Roosevelt</em> left New York on July 16, 1905 on her maiden voyage to Greenland. Here Wardwell, on the far left, poses for a photograph with other members of the expedition (l-r): Dr. Louie Wolf, expedition surgeon, Charles Percy, steward, Capt. Houghton, who sailed the<em> Roosevelt</em> from New York to Sydney, where he was replaced by Captain Bartlett, Matthew Henson, assistant to Peary, and Robert E. Peary. Missing is Peary's chief assistant, Ross Marvin, who probably took this photograph.  <br> <br>  The Scientific Staff. Photograph possibly by Ross Marvin, aboard the<em> Roosevelt</em>, July 16, 1905. Inkjet print. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
<p><b>A Troubled Voyage</b> </p>     Thick smoke from the coal-fired engine streams behind the<em> Roosevelt</em> as she steams northward. Wardwell struggled throughout the 1905-06 expedition to keep the engine, and especially the boilers, in working order. His work was made more difficult first by rough seas, and then by the list of the vessel as the ice moved it when it was frozen in at Cape Sheridan, on the northwest coast of Ellesmere Island. You can learn more about the trials of this voyage in the museum galleries.  <br> <br>  View of the deck of the <em>Roosevelt.</em> Unidentified photographer, possibly off the coast of New York, 1908. Inkjet print. Courtesy of George A. Wardwell.

<p><b>A Troubled Voyage</b> </p>     Thick smoke from the coal-fired engine streams behind the<em> Roosevelt</em> as she steams northward. Wardwell struggled throughout the 1905-06 expedition to keep the engine, and especially the boilers, in working order. His work was made more difficult first by rough seas, and then by the list of the vessel as the ice moved it when it was frozen in at Cape Sheridan, on the northwest coast of Ellesmere Island. You can learn more about the trials of this voyage in the museum galleries.  <br> <br>  The<em> Roosevelt</em> at Cape Sheridan. George Wardwell, Cape Sheridan, 1906. Inkjet print. Courtesy of George A. Wardwell.
<p><b>Supporting Players</b> </p>     The crew of the<em> Roosevelt</em> included sailors and 'firemen' who worked to keep the coal-fired engine stoked. These men had to be ready to perform their duties at any time of the day or night. Wardwell was unhappy with some of the men working for him in 1905-06, but the situation improved in 1908-09, when Captain Bartlett hired crew members from among the experienced sailors of his home town, Brigus, Newfoundland.   <br> <br>  Crew of the<em> Roosevelt. </em> Donald B. MacMillan, aboard the<em> Roosevelt </em>, 1908-09. Inkjet print. Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan.</em>

<p><b>Supporting Players</b> </p>     The crew of the<em> Roosevelt</em> included sailors and 'firemen' who worked to keep the coal-fired engine stoked. These men had to be ready to perform their duties at any time of the day or night. Wardwell was unhappy with some of the men working for him in 1905-06, but the situation improved in 1908-09, when Captain Bartlett hired crew members from among the experienced sailors of his home town, Brigus, Newfoundland.   <br> <br>  Firemen of the<em> Roosevelt. </em> George Wardwell, aboard the<em> Roosevelt </em>, 1908-09. Inkjet print. Courtesy of George A. Wardwell.
<p><b>Pandemonium</b> </p>     On August 8, 1905 Wardwell described the scene aboard the<em> Roosevelt</em> as Inughuit men, women and children, along with many dogs, came on board ship to join the expedition. He wrote about this in his journal, noting: <br> …there is not much sleep to be had now a regular pandemonium. There are about a dozen kids onboard and they are running around decks looking at everything. The Commander seems delighted to get back up here, tickled as a kid with a new pair of copper tipped boots.  <br> <br>  Women and dogs aboard the SS<em> Roosevelt. </em> Donald B. MacMillan, northern Greenland, 1908. Inkjet print. Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan.

<p><b>A Presidential Send-off </b> </p>     Wardwell recorded his encounter with President Theodore Roosevelt as the expedition headed north on July 7, 1908. He wrote:<br> … the President came onboard at 3.20 shook hands with everyone onboard. Mr. Bridgman and the Commander both introduced me to him as a man from Maine. He said he was very pleased to meet a man from Maine, he said hunting the North Pole was good business said he would like to go along too.<br> In this photograph, Matthew Henson puts his hat back on, as Charlie Percy takes his off to shake hands with President Roosevelt, who has his back to the camera. George Wardwell stands to the right, between an unidentified man, possibly Herbert S. Bridgman, and Peary. Other team members, including Donald MacMillan on the far right, stand behind the President.  <br> <br>  President Roosevelt greeting Charlie Percy. Unidentified photographer, aboard the SS<em> Roosevelt</em> at Oyster Bay, July 7, 1908. Inkjet print. Courtesy of George A. Wardwell.
<p><b>The Ever-present Sea Ice</b> </p>     During the winter, Wardwell was frequently preoccupied with the state of the sea ice, which often threatened to crush the ship. The <em> Roosevelt</em> was frozen into a shallow bay, with little protection from the shifting pack ice. Over the winter the ice piled up around the vessel (above), but it did not prevent the men from coming and going, as the packed and dirty snow and the gangway demonstrate (next).  <br> <br>  The <em>Roosevelt</em> from the sea ice. George Wardwell, Cape Sheridan, 1905-06 or 1908-09. Inkjet print, courtesy of George A. Wardwell.

<p><b>The Ever-present Sea Ice</b> </p>     During the winter, Wardwell was frequently preoccupied with the state of the sea ice, which often threatened to crush the ship. The <em> Roosevelt</em> was frozen into a shallow bay, with little protection from the shifting pack ice. Over the winter the ice piled up around the vessel (previous), but it did not prevent the men from coming and going, as the packed and dirty snow and the gangway demonstrate (above).  <br> <br>  Man crossing from the<em> Roosevelt</em> to the ice. George Wardwell, Cape Sheridan, spring 1909. Inkjet print, courtesy of the Castine Historical Society.
<p><b>Inughuit Women at Cape Sheridan</b> </p>     Many Inughuit families accompanied Peary’s team from Greenland to Ellesmere Island. The women remained at Cape Sheridan, living on shore next to the <em>Roosevelt</em> and working as seamstresses. Most of their husbands spent long months on the sea ice as members of Peary's sledging parties. In his journal Wardwell reports on many of the activities in and around the shore community, from hunting to giving birth.   <br> <br>  Inughuit women. George Wardwell, Cape Sheridan, spring 1906 or 1909. Inkjet print. Courtesy of the Castine Historical Society.

<p><b>The Midday Moon</b> </p>     The darkness of the polar night is relieved by 24 hours of moonlight at the time of the full moon. Reflecting off the snow and ice, moonlight reveals a beautiful, other worldly landscape on the sea ice. Wardwell recorded in his journal attempts to photograph such remarkable scenes on November 15, 1908: Borup left his two camera tripods out on that large berg where he had them for taking moonlight pictures.   <br> <br>  Sea ice by moonlight. Possibly George Borup, Cape Sheridan, 1908. Inkjet print. Courtesy of George A. Wardwell.
<p><b>Fossil Hunter</b> </p>     Like other expedition members Wardwell had Inughuit-made fur clothing so that during the long winters aboard the<em> Roosevelt</em>, he could explore the area around the ship and go on hunting trips and hikes. On June 25, 1906, Wardwell recorded a fossil-hunting outing with Bob Bartlett. Wardwell and Bartlett did find some fossils, which Wardwell delivered to the American Museum of Natural History in New York on his return. Most of them were of known species, but one was a new genus and species. Paleontologist R.P. Whitfield named it Arctitreta pearyi and published an article about it in the museum’s bulletin. All of the fossils were between 250 and 300 million years old.   <br> <br>  George Wardwell in furs with snowshoes. Unknown photographer, aboard the<em> Roosevelt</em>, 1905-1909. Inkjet print. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

<p><b>Fossil Hunter</b> </p>     Like other expedition members Wardwell had Inughuit-made fur clothing so that during the long winters aboard the<em> Roosevelt</em>, he could explore the area around the ship and go on hunting trips and hikes. On June 25, 1906, Wardwell recorded a fossil-hunting outing with Bob Bartlett. Wardwell and Bartlett did find some fossils, which Wardwell delivered to the American Museum of Natural History in New York on his return. Most of them were of known species, but one was a new genus and species. Paleontologist R.P. Whitfield named it Arctitreta pearyi and published an article about it in the museum’s bulletin. All of the fossils were between 250 and 300 million years old.   <br> <br>  Bob Bartlett digs for fossils. George Wardwell, Cape Sheridan, spring 1906. Inkjet print. Courtesy of the Castine Historical Society.