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John Rae: Forgotten Hero of Arctic Exploration by Ken McGoogan

Born in Orkney in 1813, John Rae grew up hunting and fishing. He trained in Edinburgh as a doctor, sailed with the Hudson’s Bay Company, and became an outstanding Arctic traveller. In 1854, Rae was mapping the Arctic coastline, slogging overland through snow and ice, when he discovered a strait that proved to be the final link in the Northwest Passage. Returning to camp, he encountered Inuit hunters who informed him that the long-lost, two-ship expedition of Sir John Franklin had ended in disaster and cannibalism.

Rae acquired relics. He brought the tragic news to London, where his report scandalized Victorian England and prompted Charles Dickens to join Lady Franklin in a ferocious campaign to discredit him. Rae fought back, but historians and map-makers ignored his achievements, and he remained the only major explorer never to receive a knighthood.

Ken McGoogan biography


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