FATAL PASSAGE: The Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero That Time Forgot

Ken McGoogan, Author, Kenneth McGoogan, Author . Carroll & Graf $26 (340p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0993-9

Novelist and journalist McGoogan (Kerouac's Ghosts) combines deft storytelling with 19th-century period detail in this gripping account of "arguably the greatest Arctic explorer of the century." McGoogan shows how Rae became a Scottish hero by solving the two great mysteries of 19th-century Arctic exploration: "he discovered both the fate of the Franklin expedition and the final navigable link in the Northwest Passage, at last connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans across the top of North America." But the bulk of the book details how this accomplishment was unjustifiably turned against Rae. Although Sir John Franklin's earlier, 1845 attempt to find the final Northwest Passage link was "the most expensive naval expedition ever mounted" by England, it ended with the mysterious disappearance of Franklin and his entire crew. During Rae's later, successful expedition, he found proof that Franklin's crew was dead and had cannibalized their dying mates in a failed attempt to survive. When Franklin's wealthy widow, Lady Jane, began a smear campaign against Rae, she enlisted the help of Charles Dickens to write articles arguing that the Inuit "savages" who had helped Rae discover the bodies must have been the cannibals. McGoogan's extensive research reveals compelling evidence that Franklin's crew and not the Inuits were cannibals. Although Rae's accomplishments were not fully appreciated in his time, McGoogan's fascinating account should help to give Rae his rightful place in the history of Arctic explorations. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/01/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-7867-1156-7
Hardcover - 327 pages - 978-0-00-200054-3
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-00-638659-9
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-55468-919-4
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4481-5268-1
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