NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

'Forgotten explorer' Dr John Rae being celebrated in Orkney

Dr John Rae
Dr John Rae charted huge areas of unmapped territory

One of Scotland's great forgotten explorers is to be celebrated in Orkney this weekend.

The islands are marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dr John Rae.

He was born in 1813, and later signed up with the Hudson's Bay Company - with the fur trade in Canada at its peak - and charted huge areas of unmapped territory using his surveying skills.

Capt Sir John Franklin and his entire crew perished in the frozen Arctic

A statue of Dr Rae will be unveiled on the Stromness harbour front.

It was in his search for traces of Capt Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition of 1845 - he and his entire crew perished - that Dr Rae condemned himself to obscurity.

In 1854, he recorded accounts from local Inuits, who said that some of Franklin's crew had resorted to cannibalism in a last desperate effort to stay alive.

He reported his findings in confidence to the British admiralty, but was horrified when they appeared in a newspaper article.

Franklin's widow - and much of Victorian society - was horrified at some of Dr Rae's finding, and his reputation never recovered.

The controversy overshadowed the fact that, during his searches for the Franklin expedition, Dr Rae had mapped out a navigable shipping route linking the north Atlantic to the Pacific.

He died in 1893 in relative obscurity.

Canada's native Cree called him 'Aglooka' - meaning 'he who takes long strides'.

His memorial lies in Orkney's St Magnus Cathedral.

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