Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Explorer John Rae lives! Still going strong at age 202. . .

In Stromness, Orkney, the John Rae Society will unveil a plaque this afternoon (Sept. 30) at the Hall of Clestrain on the occasion of Rae's 202nd birthday. Born in 1813, yes! the explorer lives on. Awarded by Historic Scotland, the National Commemorative Plaque recognizes Rae for having solved the two great mysteries of 19th-century Arctic exploration.  He discovered both the fate of the Franklin expedition and the long-sought final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. The nay-sayers are with us still, of course. But I told the story in Fatal Passage (2001), and that work has confounded its critics and Rae's detractors. In the photo above, we find antiquarian Cameron Treleaven, Inuk historian Louie Kamookak, and Our Hero in 1999, placing a plaque beside the cairn that Rae built in 1854 to mark his discovery of Rae Strait. To the right, we see the Hall of Clestrain (Rae's birthplace) as it appeared in 1998, when I saw it first.  Some basic preservation has been done, but the Society is striving to raise funds to restore the Hall to its original splendor:  www.johnraesociety.com.  Meanwhile, if you happen to be in London on Sunday Oct. 4, an evening service will be dedicated to Rae at Westminster Abbey, starting at 6:30 p.m. John Rae lives!

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