Arctic Explorer Gets Belated Recognition

arctic
Wikimedia Commons

When I took my family to the Orkney Islands of Scotland last year I saw this curious memorial in St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall. It’s for an Arctic explorer named John Rae. While the name struck a bell, I knew virtually nothing about him.

Most people don’t, and that’s a shame. Rae grew up in the rugged Orkney Islands in the 19th century. Although he trained as a doctor, the wilderness was his true love. He got work with the Hudson’s Bay Company, which owned large swatches of land in northern Canada and made millions off of the fur trade. Rae set off to Canada to work as a surgeon for the company, spending ten years at the remote outpost of Moose Factory.

Rae soon distinguished himself by spending large amounts of time with the Cree and Inuit, learning their languages and customs and gaining their respect for his ability to endure the tough conditions of the Canadians north.

When the Franklin Expedition, a Royal Navy group that was searching for the Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific, went missing in 1845, Rae was the man that was called upon to find them. He spent several years trying to track them down. In the course of his search he mapped many previously uncharted regions and found the Northwest Passage, the very thing the Franklin Expedition had failed to do.

In 1854 he learned from the Inuit that several years before, the last of the Franklin Expedition had died of starvation. The remaining survivors had resorted to cannibalism before they, too, succumbed. The site of the tragedy was deep in the back country and the Inuit refused to take him there.

When Rae filed his report, he was immediately criticized for not checking on the natives’ story himself and for daring to suggest that members of the Royal Navy would eat each other. His reputation was ruined. Even though another expedition did go to the site and concluded that there was strong evidence that the Franklin Expedition had resorted to cannibalism, the damage had been done. Rae died all but forgotten in 1893. Of all the great explorers from the Victorian era, he is the only one not to have been given a knighthood.

Now the Arctic explorer has been given some belated recognition with a new statue in Stromness, not far from where the local Hudson’s Bay Company office used to be. It was unveiled on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

You can learn more about the adventures of Dr. John Rae in this excellent article.

Cave Divers To Explore Unmapped New Mexico Cavern

cave divers
A crack team of cave divers will explore New Mexico’s famed Blue Hole underwater cave system this weekend.

The Advanced Diver Magazine Exploration Foundation will send a team down Blue Hole cave in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The cave has already been partially mapped down to a depth of 225 feet, but it’s believed to be much more extensive and the team is carrying equipment allowing them to go as deep as 350 feet.

Every member of the team is an expert cave diver with at least 15 years experience. Each brings their own specialty in biology, survey, photography, cinematography, equipment, logistics, multimedia, or other skills in order to fully document the cave and produce material for a proposed documentary. The ADM team holds records for exploring the two deepest and longest underwater caves in North America with depths below 450 feet and linear passages of over seven miles.

Blue Hole is a popular spot for scuba diving but the entrance to the caves has been barred by a grate for decades due to the deaths of two cave divers who were exploring the system.

Cave diving is a dangerous sport that requires extensive technical knowledge and physical endurance. While I enjoy caving and will happily go to Iraq and Somaliland on vacation, you won’t see me cave diving. It’s too hardcore for me. Best of luck to the ADM crew!

Raha Moharrak Becomes First Saudi Woman To Climb Mt. Everest

Raha Moharrak
Raha Moharrak

Raha Moharrak has become the first woman from Saudi Arabia to climb Mt. Everest when she made it to the summit yesterday after a grueling climb.

The 25-year-old climber first had to convince her family to allow her to make the attempt, and then had to undergo rigorous training to climb the world’s tallest peak. She was part of a four-person team called Arabs on Top of the World. The team also includes Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani, the first Qatari, and Raed Zidan, the first Palestinian to make the attempt. Masoud Mohammad, an Iranian, is also on the expedition.

The team is working on a rotation system with other expeditions, so the men are currently trying to make the ascent.

The team isn’t only making history; they’re also making a difference. They’re trying to raise $1 million for educational projects in Nepal. A donate button can be found on their website. This is a cause near and dear to Moharrak’s heart. She’s currently a graduate student in Dubai.

Man Attempting To Dribble Soccer Ball To Brazil Killed In Accident

SoccerIt sounded like one of those crazy ideas that should have led to fun and adventure and ended in triumph. Instead it ended in tragedy.

Richard Swanson, pictured here, of Seattle, decided to raise money for charity by dribbling a soccer ball 10,000 miles to Brazil in time for the 2014 World Cup. Sadly, The Guardian reports that he only made it as far as Oregon. While walking down US Highway 101 near Lincoln City he was hit by a pickup truck on Tuesday and killed. The police have ruled it an accident and the driver has not been charged.

Swanson was only two weeks and about 260 miles into his trip. He had been posting updates about his journey on his Facebook page, including a photo of the last meal he ate, a hearty breakfast in Lincoln City just hours before being killed.

His project, called Breakaway Brazil, was meant to raise money for the One World Futbol Project, which distributes durable soccer balls to needy children in developing areas.

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield Makes First Music Video In Space


It’s official. We Canadians rock. If William Shatner and Bryan Adams aren’t enough for you, there’s Chris Hadfield. He’s an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency and has become hugely popular with his videos about life aboard the International Space Station, answering such profound questions as how to cut your nails in space.

Now Hadfield is coming home. He’s turned over command of the ISS to Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and will be departing on a Soyuz module, which will land in Kazakhstan today at 10:31 p.m. EDT. As a final sendoff, he’s made the first music video in space, a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Hadfield isn’t a bad musician, and the video has beautiful visuals of him on the ISS.

Put it on full screen, sit back and enjoy. It’s a great day to be Canadian.