- John Rae (explorer)
Early Life and career
Rae was born at the
Hall of Clestrainin the parish of Orphirin the Orkney Islands. After studying medicine at Edinburghhe went to work for the Hudson's Bay Companyas a doctor, accepting a post as surgeon at Moose Factory, Ontario, where he remained for ten years. Rae became known for his prodigious stamina and skilled use of snow shoes. He also learned to live off the land like the Inuit. This allowed him to travel great distances with little equipment and few followers, unlike many other explorers of the Victorian Age.
Over two months in 1844-45 he walked 1,200 miles, 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
earch for Franklin's expedition
By 1849 Rae was in charge of the
Mackenzie Riverdistrict at Fort Simpson. He was soon called upon to head north again, this time in search of two missing ships from the Franklin Expedition. While exploring King William Islandin 1853 Rae made contact with local Inuit, from whom he obtained much information about the fate of the lost naval expedition. [cite journal|last=Rae|first=John|authorlink=John Rae (explorer)|date= 1854-12-30|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=DOQRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA433&dq=%22Charles+Dickens%22+esquimaux&ei=zKtvSP_4H6HQjgGJvPDbAQ&client=firefox-a#PPA458,M1|title=Dr Rae's report|journal=Household Words: A Weekly Journal|publisher= Charles Dickens|location=London|volume=10|issue=249|pages=pp 457-458|accessdate=2008-08-16] His report to the British Admiraltycarried shocking and unwelcome evidence that cannibalismhad been a last resort for some of the survivors. Franklin's widow Lady Jane Franklinwas outraged and recruited many important supporters, among them Charles Dickenswho wrote several pamphlets condemning Rae for daring to suggest the men of the doomed Franklin expedition would have resorted to cannibalism.
Later career and death
In 1860 Rae worked on the telegraph line to America, visiting
Icelandand 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 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 in London on 22 July, 1893. A week later his body arrived in the Orkneys. He was buried in kirkyard of
St Magnus' Cathedral, Kirkwall. A memorial to him is inside the cathedral.
Rae Strait(between King William Islandand the Boothia Peninsula), Rae Isthmus, Rae River, Fort Rae and the village of Rae-Edzo (now Behchoko), Northwest Territorieswere all named for him. [cite web |url=http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/pageant/04/rae_j.shtml |title=Dr. John Rae |accessdate=2008-08-25 |last= |first= |coauthors= |date= |work=Manitoba Pageant, September 1958, Volume 4, Number 1 |publisher=mhs.mb.ca]
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 PassageRae was never awarded a Knighthood, nor was he remembered at the time of his death, dying quietly in London. However, 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 McGooganhave noted Rae was willing to adopt and learn the ways of indiginous 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.
* [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=6386 Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/historicalfigures/johnrae/ Orkneyjar.com Heritage page on Rae, with pictures]
* [http://heritage.scotsman.com/people.cfm?id=1051142006&format=print Scotsman article on Rae, 21/07/2006]
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