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Dr. John Rae: Arctic "Student" Becomes "Expert"

Dr. John Rae (1813-1893) lacked the arrogance of other explorers and was a willing "student" - Cree Indians taught him how to make snowshoes and hunt caribou, and from the Inuit he learned how to ice the runners of a sled, prevent snow-blindness and construct shelters.

This knowledge allowed him to carry out some of the most fantastic Arctic trips of all time - living off the land, wearing native clothing, and even wintering in igloos. As well as charting over 1,100 miles of coastline, he was able to determine the fate of the lost Franklin Expedition and recover numerous objects they left behind.

But his association with "natives" brought opposition. In a time when ignorance labelled native peoples as "savages" or "Stone-Age children", many considered his habit of dressing like a native a disgrace.

Despite this, Rae eventually became regarded as the foremost authority on Arctic survival and travel, and this led to greater respect for the Inuit. Later explorers (like Roald Amundsen - discoverer of the Northwest Passage), applied that knowledge to help them succeed where others had failed.

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Library: Arctic, Explorers, Exploration
Inuit, Sled Dogs, Franklin Expedition
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