John Rae - Encyclopedia

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JOHN RAE (1813-1893), Scottish Arctic explorer, was born on the 30th of September 1813, in the Orkney Islands, which he left at an early age to study medicine at Edinburgh University, qualifying as a surgeon in 1833. He made a voyage in a professional capacity in one of the ships of the Hudson's Bay Company, and entering the service of the company was resident surgeon for ten years at their station at Moose Factory, at the head of James Bay. In 1846 he made a boat-voyage to Repulse Bay, and having wintered there, in the following spring surveyed 700 miles of new coast-line connecting the earlier surveys of Ross and Parry. An account of this expedition, A Narrative of an Expedition to the Shores of the Arctic Sea in 1846 and 1847, was published by him in 1850. During a visit to London in 1848 he joined the expedition which was then preparing to go out under Sir John Richardson in search of Franklin; and in 1851, at the request of the Government and with a very slender outfit, he travelled some 5300 miles, much of it on foot, and explored and mapped 700 miles of new coast on the south side of Wollaston and Victoria Lands. For this achievement he received the Founder's gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. In 1853 he commanded another boat-expedition which was fitted out by the Hudson's Bay Company, which connected the surveys of Ross with that of Deane and Simpson, and proved King William's Land to be an island. It was on this journey that he obtained the first authentic news regarding the fate of Franklin, thereby winning the reward of £10,000 promised by the admiralty. He subsequently travelled across Iceland, and in Greenland and the northern parts of America, surveying routes for telegraph lines. Dr Rae attributed much to his success in Arctic travel to his adoption of the methods of the Eskimo, a people whom he had studied very closely. He was a keen sportsman, an accurate and scientific observer. He died at his house in London and was buried in the Orkney Islands.

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