Dr John Rae (1813-1893) was born in Orkney. His father was the Orkney agent for the Hudson Bay Company, and after qualifying as a doctor in 1833, Rae became ship's surgeon on a Hudson Bay Company ship on a journey to Canada. He fell in love with the icy wilderness and remained there for the next ten years, learning vital skills for surviving the harsh conditions from the Cree Indians and the Inuit. He was considered the greatest snowshoe walker of his time and was commissioned to chart unknown areas.

When the Franklin Expedition to discover the North West Passage disappeared, Rae led two missions to try to discover the ships. In 1854, he discovered the fate of the crew from some Inuit, who told him how they had seen about 40 men attempting to make their way back overland. They had later found their graves and bodies, some of which had been cannibalised. When Rae brought the news back to England, he was vilified for suggesting that British Naval heroes would resort to cannibalism.


  • Title: John Rae
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: circa
  • Provenance: Gell family of Hopton Hall (D8760/F/GHW/1/4/6/6)
  • Subject Keywords: Franklin Expedition, Arctic, Polar Exploration

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