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MacMillan, Donald B.

Donald Baxter MacMillan (1872-1970), though born in Provincetown, Massachusetts, lived in Freeport as a boy, and graduated from Freeport High School and Bowdoin College in Brunswick.  He later taught at schools in Maine and Massachusetts.

After joining Admiral Robert E. Peary’s successful expedition to the North Pole in 1908, MacMillan began to explore, eventually accompanied by his wife Miriam, the northern climates of Labrador and Greenland, before being interrupted by World War I.

Model of the Schooner Bowdoin at Bowdoin College (2013)

Citation: “Schooner Bowdoin, Refuge Harbor, North Greenland, 1950″

After the war, he arranged for the construction of the schooner Bowdoin, launched from East Boothbay in 1921.  The Bowdoin is a National Historic Landmark, based at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. A model is on display near the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum on the Bowdoin College campus.

See a brief amateur film clip of the Bowdoin‘s visit at Bar Harbor in 1933, from the Northeast Historic Film archives. Film maker incorrectly referred to it as “Adm. Perry North Pole Ship.”

He resumed his visits to the Arctic until another World War intruded, following which he continued his visits and explorations, making his final voyage in 1954.  Using motion picture films, photographs, and his personal experiences, he brought his lectures to public schools in the 1950s.  One presentation was held at the Skowhegan Municipal Building, with its opera house style auditorium filled with sometimes unruly students, who unfortunately did not understand the significance of MacMillan’s great accomplishments.

He died on September 7, 1970 and is buried in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

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Schooner Bowdoin in Castine (2014)

Schooner Bowdoin in Castine (2014)

Additional resources

Allen, Everett S. Arctic Odyssey: the life of Rear Admiral Donald B. MacMillan. New York. Dodd, Mead. 1962.

Bowdoin College. Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. “Donald Baxter MacMillan.” http://www.bowdoin.edu/arctic-museum/biographies/macmillan.shtml (accessed February 27, 2013)

Cowan, Mary Morton. Captain Mac: the Life of Donald Baxter MacMillan, Arctic Explorer. Honesdale, PA. Calkins Creek. c2010. (juvenile biography)

Horr, Alfred Reuel. The Log of the Schooner Bowdoin. Cleveland: World Publishing Co. 1947.

MacMillan, Donald Baxter. Etah and Beyond: Or, Life Within Twelve Degrees of the Pole. Boston, New York. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1927.

MacMillan, Donald Baxter. How Peary Reached the Pole: the personal story of his assistant. Montréal. McGill-Queen’s University Press. c2008 c2008.

MacMillan, Miriam Look. Green Seas and White Ice. New York. Dodd, Mead. c1948.

“Schooner Bowdoin.” Maine Maritime Academy. http://mainemaritime.edu/waterfront/schooner-bowdoin/ (accessed January 6, 2015)

Thorndike, Virginia. The Arctic Schooner Bowdoin, A Biography.  Unity, Maine: North Country Press.  1995.

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