Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 15
- Grade: 10
Scottish doctor and explorer John Rae is a controversial figure in the history of the Arctic. He began his career with the Hudson's Bay Company as a surgeon in Moose Factory, Ontario, where he learned to survey, live off the land, and travel great distances on snowshoes. These skills served him well when, in 1846, he was charged with completing the geography of the northern shore of North America and set out on his first expedition. Some years later, while exploring the Boothia Peninsula in 1854, Rae obtained information about the rather shocking fate of the Franklin expedition, which had been missing since 1845. Upon his return to England, however, Rae was discredited by Charles Dickens and shunned by the British establishment, never receiving proper recognition for his roles in finding the Northwest Passage and discovering the fate of Franklin and his crew.
The Arctic Journals of John Rae is the definitive collection of John Rae's writings, from his only published work, Narrative of an Expedition to the Shores of the Arctic Sea in 1846 and 1847, to obscure notes and journals and reports of his controversial findings in 1854. An accomplished explorer who had great respect for the customs and skills of the peoples native to the Arctic, John Rae is a fascinating figure and an important part of the history of the North.
About the authors
John Rae was a Scottish doctor and explorer born on September 30, 1813, in Orkney. As a child, he enjoyed sailing, climbing, hunting, and fishing—skills that would serve him well in his future exploits. In 1833, shortly after graduating from medical school, Rae was appointed surgeon of the Prince of Wales, a Hudson's Bay Company ship bound for Moose Factory, Ontario, where he remained for the next ten years. He had great respect for the peoples native to northern Canada and adopted many of their survival skills. He learned to hunt caribou, store meat, construct shelter, and walk using snowshoes. He was particularly known for this last skill, once walking 1,200 miles in snowshoes through winter forest in order to learn how to survey, earning him the Inuit nickname Aglooka, "he who takes long strides."
Rae embarked on his first expedition in 1846. Over the next decade, he explored much of northern Canada's coastline and, in fact, discovered the final link in the Northwest Passage. However, his achievements have gone largely unrecognized due to the discovery he made in 1854. While exploring the Boothia Peninsula, Rae obtained the first information about the fate of the Franklin expedition, which had been missing since 1845. He met a group Inuit who claimed to have seen the missing men four years earlier. Through their reports, Rae concluded that the last survivors of the Franklin expedition had resorted to cannibalism, before perishing in 1850. Upon his return to England, he was heavily criticized by Franklin's wife, Lady Jane, and the author Charles Dickens, and shunned by the British establishment.
John Rae retired from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1856 but retained his love of exploration. In 1860, he was hired to explore Iceland and Greenland in an effort to establish a telegraph line to America. And in 1884, at the age of seventy-one, he was hired by the HBC to survey another telegraph route, in the west of Canada, from Red River to Victoria.
John Rae died in London on July 22, 1893. He was the only major explorer of his time not to receive a knighthood.
KEN MCGOOGAN is the best-selling author of a dozen books, among them 50 Canadians Who Changed The World, How The Scots Invented Canada, Fatal Passage and Lady Franklin’s Revenge. He has won the Pierre Berton Award for History, the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography, the Canadian Authors’ Association History Award, the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize and an American Christopher Award for “a work of artistic excellence that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” Before turning mainly to books, Ken worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, and in faraway places as different as Edinburgh, Sydney, Stromness, and Hobart. www.kenmcgoogan.com
The Arctic Journals of John RaeThis is the personal narrative of the explorer who discovered the fate of Sir John Franklin and revealed evidence that some of the Franklin expedition resorted to cannibalism. The book contains Rae’s account of his 1846-47 Arctic expedition. It also offers first-hand source material relating to the Inuit way of life at the time. Rae’s initial report on Franklin’s fate is followed by Charles Dickens’ attacks on the credibility of his witnesses, Rae’s rejoinder and the full text of Rae’s official report. Rae respected Inuit customs, traditions and skills; he adopted, learned and described the ways of indigenous Inuit peoples, becoming the leading exponent of cold-climate survival and travel. Rae describes extended boat and sledge journeys, storms and frostbite, and offers the first complete report, based on Inuit evidence, as to Franklin’s fate.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2013-2014.
Other titles by John Rae
Other titles by Ken McGoogan
Flight of the Highlanders
The Making of Canada
The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage
How The Scots And The Irish Created A Canadian
50 Canadians Who Changed The World
John Rae's Arctic Correspondence, 1844-1855
Lady Franklin's Revenge
A True Story of Ambition, Obsession and the Remaking of Artic History
How The Scots Invented Canada
Race To The Polar Sea
The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent Kane
The Untold Story of John Rae, the Artic Explorer Who Discovered the Fate of Franklin
The Amazing Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor Who Walked to the Arctic Ocean