Book Review-‘After the Lost Franklin Expedition: Lady Franklin and John Rae’ by P. Baxter

By Tom Muir, published December 2020


It seems that Dr John Rae is a popular fellow, as on the back of his unfinished autobiography comes this new book by Peter Baxter. To recap the story, it contrasts the adventures of the Orkney-born Arctic explorer, Rae (1813–93), and veteran Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. It was Rae who first discovered the fate of the Franklin Expedition, to find the Northwest Passage, and how the last survivors had perished while dragging a boat on a sledge across King William Island in an attempt to find a river that might take them south to a Hudson’s Bay Company settlement and safety. Tragically, it failed, and the remaining members of the crew of 129 officers and men died. The Royal Navy had invested heavily in this expedition and its loss was a huge blow to their prestige. Rae learned from the Inuit that the last survivors had resorted to cannibalism as a means of prolong life. This was never meant to be made public and Rae composed a letter to The Times that made no mention of it. Unfortunately, the Admiralty released his report unedited to the newspapers, which caused a furious backlash against Rae…

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Filed under: Atlantic | Other (Nineteenth C) | Arctic
Subjects include: Science & Exploration

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