An Open Letter to Explorer John Rae

Dear Dr. Rae: You have been gone from us since July 22, 1893 – precisely one hundred and twenty-nine years. I write from the future to mark the day of your passing. What to report from 2022? Six years ago, I relayed the news that searchers have found the two long-lost ships of Sir John…

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Celebrating an early champion of the Inuit

Arctic history buffs around the world are today celebrating what would have been John Rae’s 208th birthday. Born at the Hall of Clestrain in Orkney on September 30, 1813, Rae became a doctor in Edinburgh and then entered the fur trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company. After learning from First Nations and Inuit hunters, he…

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Yo, Orkney! Skara Brae to Clestrain

People were living at Skara Brae before Egyptians built the pyramids. By the time other neolitithic folk started work on Stonehenge in England, they had resided here, facing out over the salt water, for three to four hundred years – and even had time to abandon the site. To stand here today, in the 21st…

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Arctic adventurers recreate trek to Rae Strait

The Arctic Return Expedition is all systems go. A reconfigured four-man team will set out March 25, 2019 to recreate the most successful Arctic overland expedition of the 19th century. On his 1854 surveying adventure, accompanied by an Inuk and an Ojibway, Orcadian explorer John Rae discovered both the terrible fate of the lost Franklin…

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The Canadian Invasion of Scotland

Canadian invasion forces have swept through the Dunfermline area north of Edinburgh, claiming Broomhall House.  This impressive mansion, located on a splendiferous, well-kept estate has been in the family of Robert the Bruce for more than 300 years. The Canadian connection comes via James Bruce, the eighth Earl of Elgin, who had his home here. In…

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Louie Kamookak discovers John Rae’s cairn

The late Louie Kamookak has rightly been celebrated as a searcher for John Franklin. But more significantly, in my view, Louie was the man who discovered the cairn that explorer John Rae built in 1854, marking the final link in what would prove to be the first navigable Northwest Passage. I touched on that in…

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Bringing John Rae to Robert Burns Country

Next week will find me giving talks in Robert Burns Country. I mentioned previously that, thanks to a new “friendship bridge” extending between the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, I have fallen heir to a whirlwind, four-day speaking tour. Now, in response to popular demand, I can provide details. My illustrated…

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