NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Orkney explorer Dr John Rae to be honoured at Westminster Abbey

Dr John Rae Image copyright Not specified
Image caption Dr John Rae was born in 1813

A plaque honouring one of Scotland's great forgotten explorers is to be unveiled at Westminster Abbey.

Orkney's Dr John Rae is credited with finding the final part of the north west passage, around the top of North America.

Born in 1813, he ended up being shunned by much of Victorian society - due to claims he reported about cannibalism.

The plaque commemorating his achievements will be unveiled within the Chapel of St John the Evangelist.

Dr Rae had signed up with the Hudson's Bay Company, when the fur trade in Canada was at its peak and charted vast areas of unmapped territory.

Never recovered

It was in his search for traces of Capt Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition of 1845 - when he and his entire crew died - that Dr Rae found himself condemned to obscurity.

In 1854, he had recorded accounts from local Inuits, who said that some of Franklin's crew had resorted to cannibalism in a last desperate effort to stay alive.

He reported his findings in confidence to the British admiralty - but they appeared in a newspaper. Franklin's widow - and much of Victorian society - was horrified at some of Dr Rae's findings.

His reputation never recovered. He died in 1893.

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