Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration 4: Douglas Mawson.

Douglas mawson.

Sir Douglas Mawson, OBE, FAA, FRS, (5 May 1882 – 14 October, 1958) was an Australian Antarctic explorer and geologist. With Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackelton, Mawson was a key expedition leader.

In 1907, Mawson joined the British Antarctic Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton as an expedition geologist. With his mentor and fellow geologist, Edgeworth David, he was on the first ascent of Mount Erebus. Later, he was a member of the first team to reach the South Magnetic Pole, assuming the leadership of the party from David on their perilous return.

Mawson led an expedition, the Australian Antarctic Expedition to King George V Land and Adelie Land, the sector of the Antarctic continent immediately south of Australia, which at the time was almost entirely unexplored. The objectives were to carry out geographical exploration and scientific studies, including visiting the South Magnetic Pole.

Mawson’s exploration program was carried out by five parties from the Main Base and two from the Western Base. Mawson’s team, which was to trek east, consisted of Xavier Mertz, Lieutenant B.E.S Ninnis and himself. Nearing the end of this team’s trek, Ninnis, his dog team and sledge with most of the provisions fell through a crevasse and were lost.

Mawson and Mertz turned back immediately. Mertz died during the return journey and Mawson continued alone. On one occasion during his return trip to the Main Base, he fell through the lid of a crevasse and was saved only by his sledge wedging itself into the ice above him. When he finally made it back to Cape Denison, the ship Aurora had left only a few hours before. Mawson, and six men who had remained behind to look for him, wintered a second year until December 1913. In Mawson’s book, Home of the Blizzard, he describes his experiences. His party, and those at the Western Base, had explored large areas of the Antarctic coast, describing its geology, biology and meteorology, and more closely defining the location of the south magnetic pole.

On his journey back, he married Paquita Delprat and was knighted, but the public took little interest in his achievements, being completely taken up with the Scott disaster and the outbreak of World War 1. Mawson served in the war as a Major in the British Ministry of Munitions. Returning to Adelaide he pursued his academic studies, taking further expeditions abroad, including a joint British, Australian and New Zealand expedition to the Antarctic in 1929–1931. The work done by the expedition led to the formation of the Australian Antarctic Territory in 1936. He also spent much of his time researching the geology of the northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Upon his retirement from teaching in 1952 he was made Emeritus Professor. He died at his Brighton home on 14 October 1958 from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 76 years old.

(Source Wikipedia)


“ENDS OF THE EARTH, from polar bears to penguins”: Here is a link to a fabulous polar resource Pdf.

For all those interested in all thing polar, this excellent Education Guide to the traveling exhibit Ends of the Earth: From Polar Bears to Penguins is a tool for educators and students to explore the many fascinating aspects of the two Polar Regions – the Arctic and the Antarctic. Ends of the Earth explores the key themes of polar geography, polar wildlife and their adaptations, polar exploration, and the impact of climate change on the poles. It is full of links to interesting sites with polar information, maps, historical information and images.


A view of the old, inactive crater (foreground) and main crater of Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano in the world. Mt. Erebus comprises Ross Island, located in the Ross Sea.

Mount Erebus.

Photograph by: Josh Landis, National Science Foundation. Date Taken: December 18, 2000


~ by abstraktbiblos on Friday, 30 May, 2008.

3 Responses to “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration 4: Douglas Mawson.”

  1. hi there good day to u.

  2. For those keen to learn more about the other explorers who accompanied Mawson on his Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14, see: “Born Adventurer: The Life of Frank Bickerton” by Stephen Haddelsey ( http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk ). Bickerton was recruited to maintain the expedition’s aeroplane (the first ever to be taken to Antarctica); he led the Western Sledging Party; discovered the first Antarctic meteorite; and was responsible for the expedition’s pioneering use of wireless. After the AAE, he volunteered for Shackleton’s “Endurance” Expedition and went on to a host of other adventures in war and peace.

  3. Another biography of interest, which had been tough to find, has now been re-issued:
    Frank Wild by Lief Mills
    Publisher: Caedmon of Whitby, reprint
    Publication Date: 2007
    – Wild accompanied Mawson during his 1911-13 Australasian Antarctic Expedition
    (and Scott, “Discovery” AND Shackleton, “Nimrod”, “Endurance” and “Aurora”) and was in command of the “Western Base”.

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