Donald MacMillan in fur suit at the wheel of the Bowdoin in 1922. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

March 14, 1909: Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan (1874-1970) drops out of Robert Peary’s trek to the North Pole at 84 degrees, 29 minutes north latitude, turning southward because of frozen heels.

MacMillan, a Freeport High School and Bowdoin College graduate, goes on to becomes a teacher, lecturer, researcher, sailor and philanthropist. He eventually makes more than 30 expeditions to the Arctic, including one at the age of 79.

After his marriage in 1935, his wife, Miriam, accompanies him on many of the trips. He compiles a dictionary of Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people. He also establishes a summer camp for boys to teach seamanship and navigation.

Many of MacMillan’s exploration and research accomplishments are on display at The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum in Brunswick.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at:

A studio portrait of Arctic explorer and scientist Donald Baxter MacMillan taken between 1920 and 1915. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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