An Arctic Journey and Photographic Legacy

Jonathan Wright was a photographer who accompanied archaeologist and ethnologist John Bockstoce on a 1,600 mile journey across the Arctic in a walrus-skin boat.

If you are like so many other museum goers of a certain age, you have a stash of National Geographic magazines tucked away in a closet, basement or attic. If such is the case, dig through that pile and find the July, 1983 issue. In it you will find an article by former New Bedford Whaling Museum curator (and former Mystic Seaport trustee), John Bockstoce. The article, entitled “Arctic Odyssey”, documents a journey by Bockstoce and associates in a walrus-hide covered umiak across the Canadian Arctic in the late 1970’s. A record of this 1,600 mile journey was also caught with camera lens by photographer Jonathan Wright.

This umiak is now on exhibit at Mystic Seaport.

The current exhibit in the new Thompson Exhibition Building at Mystic Seaport has as one of its “tent pole” objects that very umiak, hanging from the rafters for all to see. Its story is shown in text, stills and taped interviews. A handful of the images that Jonathan Wright took as part of the expedition accompany the exhibit. The beauty of the images taken in such a stark setting speaks to his artist’s eye.

His family was kind enough to loan us the images for the exhibit. Jonathan unfortunately met a tragic end in 1980 on another adventure. A mountaineering accident in an an avalanche in the Tibetan Himalayas cut his time short. He did a number of projects for National Geographic and we are glad that he was one of the crew along for the ride in this umiak.