Sir Douglas Mawson, the unsung hero of Antarctica, gets his due at last | World news | The Guardian
A biography of Sir Douglas Mawson tells how he survived perils worthy of a for the expedition's ship to meet them at Commonwealth Bay loomed. and Mawson sent a radio message to his long-suffering fiancée, Paquita. Most widely held works about Douglas Mawson silence: the love letters of Paquita Delprat and Douglas Mawson, by Paquita Delprat(Book). Awards presented to Sir Douglas Mawson in recognition of his contribution to the General Manager of B.H.P., whose daughter Paquita he would marry in In November Mawson met Ernest Shackleton in Adelaide with a view to.
Sir Douglas Mawson () — Australian Antarctic Division
Disaster turned the return journey into one of the most stunning — yet little known — stories of survival in all Antarctic exploration. As they traversed snowy ice fields with sledges pulled by dogs, Ninnis and his sledge plunged into a crevasse. Not only was he dead, but his sledge carried the team's tent and most of their food. Mawson and Mertz faced a desperate rush back to base without a proper tent, in the face of howling gales and with only tiny amounts of food.
It was an appalling journey, with the huskies becoming a source of food as well as a way to pull the sleds — a tactic that had diminishing returns as each dog was devoured.
Desperately weak and suffering from ailments that included skin peeling off, hair loss and frostbite, Mawson and Mertz were delayed by the weather which forced them to spend days in a makeshift shelter.
Mertz became weak and delirious, forcing them to halt as a deadline for the expedition's ship to meet them at Commonwealth Bay loomed. But as Mertz lay dying, Mawson refused to leave him, risking his own survival.
- A synopsis of Mawson's life
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- The Sydney Morning Herald
He stays with him to the very end," Roberts said. But Metz's death, as Mawson continued his mission alone in the huge emptiness of Antarctica, was not the lowest point of the trek. Mawson plunged through the snow over a crevasse and ended up hanging by a rope after his sledge became wedged in the snow. Starving by this point, his diary revealed that his main emotion was not fear of imminent death, but anger that he would die without gorging himself on the food remaining on his sledge.
He hauled himself back up twice after the snow edge collapsed under his weight. For Roberts, Mawson's mental fortitude was more remarkable than his physical strength.
Mawson made it back to the camp hours after the expedition boat had departed. He had to endure another Antarctic winter with the men the ship left behind before it could return. Having suffered unimaginable loneliness and physical deprivation and the loss of two friends, the message began with an understatement worthy of any imperial hero: For in the letter Mawson also asked that the wedding take place on his return from his next big expeditionary journey to Antarctica, the first official Australian Antarctic Expedition, which he was to lead and for which plans were well under way for a departure in the early summer of the next year, He would spend a year there, mapping its coastline and conducting surveys of its geological topology, to return to Australia in the late Antarctic summer ofbefore the next winter set in.
Meet Douglas Mawson by Mike Dumbleton - Penguin Books Australia
He was asking much of this young, naive now year-old girl, her loyalty, her ability to endure his absence for such a long time and her understanding of his need to undertake such an expedition. For it meant it would be at least two years before they could, in fact, marry, let alone woo or get to know each other more fully - hardly an erotic, let alone companionable, beginning to what they presumed would be a lifelong partnership. Many have written the tale of Mawson, hero: More potently, there is Mawson's account of the catastrophe, too, that overtook his section of the expedition, jotted down methodically and in scientific fashion each day in his notebooks even in the midst of his extremity and anguish: The notebooks chart the two months of unrelieved nightmare.
With his skin peeling from his body leaving his flesh raw and open to the Furies, his eyes aching with the pain of snow blindness, the soles of his feet blobs of bloody flesh, he journeys alone over rivers of ice, glaciers, crevasses and through snowdrifts.
He does eventually find his way back to main base - only to see the Aurora, the ship that was to take him back to Australia, disappear over the horizon, leaving him to last out another winter in the place he called the "accursed place", the "home of the blizzard". Many have asked questions of Mawson's survival and Ninnis's and Mertz's deaths. In the case of Ninnis, the situation was relatively clear: An account of Mertz's death was a little more problematic.
Meet... Douglas Mawson
There was very little food left after Ninnis's accident and Mawson and Mertz were forced to eat the remaining dogs, one by one, as they trekked back towards base. The most likely cause of Mertz's death in most accounts is thought to be the accumulated effects of starvation and poisoning from eating the dogs' livers, which it was thought held toxic levels of vitamin A.
Yet Mawson did so also; why did he survive, and Mertz not?
And did he resort to cannibalism on Mertz's death, given the food he had left by then amounted to the equivalent of half a can of baked beans? There were still kilometres to go before base would be reached. Emma McEwin is Mawson's great-granddaughter. She is also a writer.
And she has always felt there was something missing in the Mawson story, particularly some dimension in the telling of it.
Over time she began "to wonder beyond the straightforward explanations" about how Mertz and Ninnis died and to consider why it was that Mawson survived. There were many reasons that had much to do with his character, she understood that. He was a rational man, methodical, temperate.
But being rational, he was also willing to take huge risks, if he felt confident his reasoning was sound. These traits, she felt sure, were definitely what saw him through much of the ordeal he endured.
If he had needed to eat Mertz, he would have, she says. He would have known that it wasn't beneficial to eat Mertz, given that he didn't know what he had died of - I mean, he had boils all over him, he was in a terrible state - given all that, he probably weighed up all those pros and cons, and would have come down on the side of sense.