Monday, July 21, 2014

John Rae

I am ending my posts on Orkney with a visit to one of my heroes.

In the 1990s and 2000s, I worked with a brilliant engineer named Hans Muller, who has since passed away.  Hans spent a lot of time hiking in the Canadian North, and he told me about one of his heroes, the Scotsman John Rae. Hans loaned me a wonderful book about Rae called Fatal Passage (by Ken McGoogan).  After I read it Rae became one of my heroes, too.

Rae, born in Orkney in 1813, was one of the most successful of the Arctic explorers and, among many accomplishments, found the final link in the Northwest Passage. Much of his success was due to his use of the clothing and diet of the native people. Rae died in 1893, and is buried in the cemetery of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. Inside the church there is a large memorial to Rae (photo below) that shows him taking a snooze during one of his expeditions, rifle at his side. And so when I was in Kirkwall the first thing I did was go to the cathedral to pay my respects.

For a synopsis of Rae's amazing life see this Orkneyjar link.

And so ends my Orkney journey for 2014. In two weeks I managed to set foot on eight of the islands. It was only a small 'taste of Orkney', as there are about 25 islands in the group that I want to see. So I plan to return.

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