Arctic explorers right a historic wrong with epic journey
CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV's Parliament Hill Correspondent Kevin Gallagher
Published Wednesday, May 8, 2019 6:11AM EDT
Two explorers have completed an ambitious hike in the Arctic, retracing a route first followed by a historic explorer they say hasn’t been given the credit he deserves.
David Reid and Richard Smith camped out and skied in -50 C temperatures to follow the original 650-kilometre Arctic route Scottish explorer Dr. John Rae took in the 19th century.
"Rae was ripped off by history and we feel he should have more prominence," said Smith in an interview with CTV's Parliament Hill Correspondent Kevin Gallagher.
Rae travelled by snow shoe through the Arctic with Indigenous guides in March 1854, earning him credit for discovering the final link in the Northwest Passage.
But that accomplishment was quickly shadowed by a second discovery.
On the surgeon's journey, he found the wreckage of the doomed Franklin Expedition.
Rae returned to the U.K. to tell of the fate of Sir John Franklin's lost expedition, reporting that the surviving crew had turned to cannibalism -- an unpopular finding for one of Britain's most revered Navy officers.
Reid says Franklin's widow and author Charles Dickens were displeased with this and smeared Rae's reputation.
"They sort of put together this sort of campaign, if you like, to discredit Rae, which to an extent was successful," said Reid.
Smith and Reid, who were strangers before going on this journey, were brought together by their mutual desire to promote Rae's accomplishments.
The pair said Rae's cooperation with the Inuit set him apart from other European explorers, and served as inspiration for their modern day adventures.
"The respect and humility he showed towards Indigenous people; it’s a good story," said Reid.
Both men suffered frostbite on their fingers and toes, while the severe arctic conditions forced two of their team members to end the trip early.
"Having done the journey that [Rae] did, [I have the] upmost respect," said Smith.
Reid and Smith plan to write a book about the journey.