John Rae (explorer)

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Dr John Rae
MDLLDFRSFRGS

Portrait by Stephen Pearce, 1862
Born(1813-09-30)30 September 1813
Hall of Clestrain, Scotland, UK
Died22 July 1893(1893-07-22) (aged 79)
London, England, UK
Resting placeSt Magnus Cathedral
Kirkwall, Scotland, UK
MonumentsMarble statue and plaque
St. Magnus Cathedral
NationalityScottish
EducationDoctor of Medicine (1833)
Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
OccupationPhysician, explorer
Years active1833–1864
EmployerHudson's Bay Company
Organization

Montreal Natural History Society
Hamilton Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art (1857)
Fellow of the Royal Society (1880)

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society







Known forExplored much of Northern Canada
Reported Fate of Franklin Expedition
Notable work(s)

Narrative of an Expedition to the Shores of the Arctic Sea in 1846 and 1847 (1850 ).
John Rae’s Correspondence with The Hudson’s Bay Company on Arctic Exploration, 1844–1855 (1953 ).

Autobiography of Dr John Rae (1813–1893): A Preliminary Note (unpublished ).
Spouse(s)Catherine Jane Alicia Thompson
ParentsJohn Rae and Margaret Glen Campbell
Awards

Royal Geographical Society Founder's Gold Medal (1852)

£10,000 reward (2012 GBP: £687,744)[1] for solving the Franklin Mystery.
Signature
 
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Dr John Rae
MDLLDFRSFRGS

Portrait by Stephen Pearce, 1862
Born(1813-09-30)30 September 1813
Hall of Clestrain, Scotland, UK
Died22 July 1893(1893-07-22) (aged 79)
London, England, UK
Resting placeSt Magnus Cathedral
Kirkwall, Scotland, UK
MonumentsMarble statue and plaque
St. Magnus Cathedral
NationalityScottish
EducationDoctor of Medicine (1833)
Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
OccupationPhysician, explorer
Years active1833–1864
EmployerHudson's Bay Company
Organization

Montreal Natural History Society
Hamilton Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art (1857)
Fellow of the Royal Society (1880)

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society







Known forExplored much of Northern Canada
Reported Fate of Franklin Expedition
Notable work(s)

Narrative of an Expedition to the Shores of the Arctic Sea in 1846 and 1847 (1850 ).
John Rae’s Correspondence with The Hudson’s Bay Company on Arctic Exploration, 1844–1855 (1953 ).

Autobiography of Dr John Rae (1813–1893): A Preliminary Note (unpublished ).
Spouse(s)Catherine Jane Alicia Thompson
ParentsJohn Rae and Margaret Glen Campbell
Awards

Royal Geographical Society Founder's Gold Medal (1852)

£10,000 reward (2012 GBP: £687,744)[1] for solving the Franklin Mystery.
Signature

John Rae (InuktitutAglookaᐊᒡᓘᑲEnglish: “He who takes long strides”) (30 September 1813 – 22 July 1893) was a Scottish doctor who explored Northern Canada, surveyed parts of the Northwest Passage and reported the fate of the Franklin Expedition.

Contents

Early life and career

Rae was born at the Hall of Clestrain in the parish of Orphir in Orkney. After studying medicine at Edinburgh he went to work for the Hudson's Bay Company as a doctor, accepting a post as surgeon at Moose Factory, Ontario, where he remained for ten years.

Whilst working for the company, treating both European and indigenous employees of the company, Rae became known for his prodigious stamina and skilled use of snow shoes. He learned to live off the land like the Inuit and working with the local craftsmen, designed his own snow shoes. This knowledge allowed him to travel great distances with little equipment and few followers, unlike many other explorers of the Victorian Age.[2]

In 1844–45, wanting to learn how to survey, Rae walked 1200 miles over two months in the winter forest, a feat that earned him the Inuit nickname Aglooka, "he who takes long strides." In 1846 Rae went on his first expedition and in 1848 joined Sir John Richardson in searching for the Northwest Passage.

Search for Franklin's expedition

By 1849 Rae was in charge of the Mackenzie River district at Fort Simpson. He was soon called upon to head north again, this time in search of two missing ships from the Franklin Expedition.[3] While exploring the Boothia Peninsula in 1854 Rae made contact with local Inuit, from whom he obtained much information about the fate of the lost naval expedition.[4][5] His report to the British Admiralty carried shocking and unwelcome evidence that cannibalism had been a last resort for some of the survivors. When it was leaked to the Press, Franklin's widow Lady Jane Franklin was outraged and recruited many important supporters, among them Charles Dickens who wrote several pamphlets condemning Rae for daring to suggest British Naval sailors would have resorted to cannibalism.

Later career and death

In 1860 Rae worked on the telegraph line to America, visiting Iceland and Greenland. In 1864 he made a further telegraph survey in the west of Canada. In 1884 at age 71 he was again working for the Hudson's Bay Company, this time as an explorer of the Red River for a proposed telegraph line from the United States to Russia.

John Rae died from an aneurysm in London on 22 July 1893. A week later his body arrived in Orkney. He was buried in the kirkyard of St Magnus' Cathedral, Kirkwall. A memorial to him is inside the cathedral.

Legacy

John Rae (explorer).jpg

Rae Strait (between King William Island and the Boothia Peninsula), Rae Isthmus, Rae River, Mount Rae,[6] Fort Rae and the village of Rae-Edzo (now Behchoko), Northwest Territories were all named for him.[7]

The outcome of Lady Franklin's efforts to glorify the dead of the Franklin expedition meant Rae was shunned somewhat by the British establishment. Although he found the last link in the much-sought-after Northwest Passage Rae was never awarded a Knighthood, nor was he remembered at the time of his death, dying quietly in London. In comparison fellow Scot and contemporary explorer David Livingstone was knighted and buried with full imperial honours in Westminster Abbey.

Historians have since studied Rae's expeditions and his roles in finding the Northwest Passage and learning the fate of Franklin's crews. Authors such as Ken McGoogan have noted Rae was willing to adopt and learn the ways of indigenous Arctic peoples, which made him stand out as the foremost specialist of his time in cold-climate survival and travel. Rae also respected Inuit customs, traditions and skills, which went against the beliefs of many 19th century Europeans that most native peoples were primitive and of little educational value.[8]

In July 2004, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael introduced into the UK Parliament a motion proposing, inter alia, that the House "regrets that Dr Rae was never awarded the public recognition that was his due".[9] In March 2009 he introduced a further motion urging Parliament to formally state it "regrets that memorials to Sir John Franklin outside the Admiralty headquarters and inside Westminster Abbey still inaccurately describe Franklin as the first to discover the [North West] passage, and calls on the Ministry of Defence and the Abbey authorities to take the necessary steps to clarify the true position."[10]

In popular culture

Notes and references

Hall of Clestrain, birthplace of John Rae

Notes

  1. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Lawrence H. Officer (2010) "What Were the UK Earnings and Prices Then?" MeasuringWorth.
  2. ^ Ken McGoogan, Fatal Passage: The Untold Story of John Rae, the Arctic Adventurer Who Discovered the Fate of Franklin Toronto:HarperFlamingo Canada, 2001.
  3. ^ Coleman, Ernest (2006). The Royal Navy in Polar Exploration from Franklin to Scott. Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-3660-0. 
  4. ^ Rae, John (30 December 1854). "Dr Rae's report". Household Words: A Weekly Journal (London: Charles Dickens) 10 (249): 457–458. http://books.google.com/?id=DOQRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA433&dq=%22Charles+Dickens%22+esquimaux. Retrieved 16 August 2008. 
  5. ^ Stamp, Tom; Wilson, Jackie (7 February 1985). "Following in Franklin's footsteps". New Scientist (London) 105 (1422): 37. 
  6. ^ Birrell, Dave (2000) (Google Books search). 50 Roadside Panoramas in the Canadian Rockies. Rocky Mountain Books Ltd. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-921102-65-6. http://books.google.com/?id=OaB-yf_MJXMC&pg=PA122&lpg=PA122#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  7. ^ "Dr. John Rae". Manitoba Pageant, September 1958, Volume 4, Number 1. mhs.mb.ca. http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/pageant/04/rae_j.shtml. Retrieved 25 August 2008. 
  8. ^ Ken McGoogan, Fatal Passage: The Untold Story of John Rae, the Arctic Adventurer Who Discovered the Fate of Franklin Toronto:HarperFlamingo Canada, 2001.
  9. ^ EDM1459 - Dr John Rae And The Restoration Of The Hall Of Clestrain
  10. ^ "CARMICHAEL CAMPAIGNS FOR ORCADIAN JOHN RAE TO RECEIVE CREDIT HE DESERVES". Houses of Parliament. 27 March 2009. http://www.alistaircarmichael.org.uk/newsdetail.asp?ID=648. Retrieved 18 April 2009. [dead link]
  11. ^ Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Retrieved 18 November 2009

References