Friday, May 22, 2015

Explorer John Rae turns up in latest Ripcord Adventure Journal



 A lovely bit of mix-and-match turns up in the latest Ripcord Adventure Journal. The illustration above, found as a double-truck on pages 21 and 22, combines the new Stromness statue of John Rae with the Hall of Clestrain in which the explorer grew up. Based in Ireland, backed by the World Explorers Bureau, Ripcord is "a new 'old school' bi-monthly Journal dedicated to adventurous travel from around the world." You can find out more at http://www.ripcordadventurejournal.com. Our Hero is thrilled to have a piece about Rae in the latest issue. This profile, like another recent yarn, begins in the heart of London, but veers off in a different direction. You can read the whole thing at the link above. Meanwhile, we begin as follows:
On September 30, 2014, about sixty people crowded into a chapel in Westminster Abbey to witness the unveiling of a modest ledger stone that reads: “John Rae / 1813-1893/ Arctic Explorer.”  Installed directly beneath an ornate bust of Sir John Franklin in the chapel of St. John the Evangelist, the red sandstone ledger represents a completion. 
At the ceremonial unveiling, I was invited to say a few words, mainly because I had written a book about Rae (Fatal Passage). I spoke of how the Orkney-born Scot  had finished the work that engaged Franklin. In 1854, eight years after Franklin and his two ships got trapped in the Arctic ice, John Rae solved the two great mysteries of 19th-century Arctic exploration.
While surveying Canada’s northern coastline for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), Rae discovered both the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage and the tragic fate of the Franklin expedition, whose final survivors had resorted to cannibalism. By reporting this melancholy truth and defending the integrity of the Inuit who revealed it to him, Rae became one of the most controversial figures in the history of northern exploration.
On returning to Victorian England, he faced a campaign of denunciation and vilification led by Jane, Lady Franklin, the widow of Sir John, and Charles Dickens, the country’s most influential writer. The Orcadian Rae, the greatest rough-country traveller of the age, saw his geographical achievements credited to others. He became the only major Arctic explorer never to receive a knighthood. And even today, after a years-long campaign culminated in the installation of that memorial ledger stone, many who should know better still deny him his rightful recognition.

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