Talk:John Rae (explorer)

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New file File:John Rae by Stephen Pearce.jpg[edit]

John Rae by Stephen Pearce.jpg

Recently the file File:John Rae by Stephen Pearce.jpg (right) was uploaded and it appears to be relevant to this article and not currently used by it. If you're interested and think it would be a useful addition, please feel free to include it. Dcoetzee 22:36, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

Northwest Passage[edit]

We need to be careful in this entry not to take sides on the current controversy over the precise role of Rae in the discovery of the Northwest Passage. While Canadian author Kenn McGoogan has made a lively case for Rae, and his argument has been supported by documentary filmmakers and the current MP for Orkney, there are many scholars [who?] of this period who disagree with McGoogan's view. Ideally, we should give McGoogan's argument, and responses to it from reliable sources, in such a manner that WP readers can understand the disagreement, locate the sources, and make up their minds for themselves -- this would follow the stated of Wikipedia in terms of NPOV.

The key points are these:

  • The "Northwest Passage" refers to a route by water, navigable by ships, from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Arctic Archipelago. The British themselves, and scholars since, differ on whether the entire passage had to be sailed through in order for it to be "discovered." (see below)
  • There is more than one "Northwest Passage" -- the one which Franklin sought to follow along the Western coast of King William Island led to the ice-clogged Victoria Straits, in which his ships were trapped. It was a Passage, but one not navigable by ships of his day. Rae's survey of the Rae Strait traced another possible passage to the East of King William Island; this would have been far too shallow for Franklin's ships to manage. However, it was via this strait that Roald Amundsen actually did become the first to navigate a Northwest Passage by ship in 1903-04, aboard his tiny ship the Gjøa.
  • During his lifetime, Rae did not claim that he had "discovered" a Passage. See this [1] and this [2]. He only said that he had discovered the fate of Franklin; the UK Parliament agreed, and the reward was paid to him.
  • Although Franklin personally failed to get through the Passage, at least some of his men reached Simpson's Cairn at Cape Herschel in 1848, which was the Easternmost point of the longest Western survey of the day. Thus they linked the two mapped areas, which is why the memorial in Waterloo Place London states that they "forged the last link with their lives." However, since they all died and were not able to report this achievement, it is dubious that one could claim that they discovered it.
  • Robert McClure, aboard HMS Investigator, sailed from the Pacific, but his ship was trapped and crushed in the ice only partway through. He travelled on foot to another vessel, which then sailed out of the inland Arctic into the Atlantic. He was officially recognized by the UK Parliament as the person to discover the Northwest Passage. See [3]
  • No one sailed a Passage from end to end before Amundsen.
  • Since Amundsen, a number of other vessels have sailed a passage, some by different routes than his, or Franklin's (these were of course mainly modern icebreaking vessels with steel hulls).

McGoogan's view, though based on his interpretation of earlier events, is a new one. Most published histories of the NW Passage credit MNcClure. Some doubt McClure, but they don't generally credit Rae. Some insist Franklin really has priority. All agree Amundsen is the first to have sailed the Passage. All of this -- with citations from reliable published sources -- needs somehow to be worked into the main article.Clevelander96 (talk) 00:13, 6 December 2009 (UTC)

No it doesn't. It reads more like you have read a lot of books by Franklin supporters and want to take that side. Very disingenuous. BTW just because Rae didn't claim to have found the NW passage doesn't mean he shouldn't be given the credit of finding the missing sections. His surveys of the Boothia peninsular filled in the gaps that helped Amundsen sail the passage 40 years later. Fleming wasn't looking for penicillin but he is credited for finding it by accident. So what's the difference?
I'm actually a great admirer of Rae and have in fact done a great deal to support the proposal to add a plaque in his honor to Wesminster Abbey. I've read every modern published book about Rae, and every one about Franklin. But my point is, my personal views (or yours) shouldn't influence the article; we have to reflect the consensus of reliable sources and the collective of editors will still have to navigate (if you will) these questions. Rae discovered and mapped the Rae Strait, yes. But although that's the way Amundsen went, it's not the only possible navigable passage (even the Canadian government refers to "Northwest Passages." Editors could decide to say Rae discovered one possible passage, I think that's an NPOV statement and readily source-able. I'm not sure a larger claim (that he discovered "the" Passage) could be. If we can say that there is a controversy, then WP rules call for us to represent both or all sides of it. Clevelander96 (talk) 23:11, 12 October 2013 (UTC)