Douglas Mawson

[Australian Antarctic Division]

Sir Douglas Mawson

set text:

Mawson, Douglas. Mawson’s Antarctic Diaries. Ed. Fred Jacka & Eleanor Jacka. 1988. North Sydney: Susan Haynes / Allen & Unwin, 1991.

[14 December, 1912]:

Up 9 am. Temp + 15°, 10 mph breeze from ESE. (It blew from 2-6 am about 20 mph.) Sky for most part clear - a little altostratus, especially near N horizon. a few rolls of cumulus near N horizon.

Took latitude at noon ¼ m beyond night camp.

[Latitude 68° 53'53", Longitude 151° 39'46" - from computations at end of notehook.]

12 noon: temp + 21°, hypsometer 206.9°.

A terrible catastrophe happened soon after taking latitude. My sledge crossed a crevasse obliquely & I called back to Ninnis, who had rear sledge, to watch it. then went on. not thinking to look back again as it had no specially dangerous features. After ¼ mile I noted Mertz halt ahead and look enquiringly back. I looked behind & saw no sign of Ninnis & his team. I stopped & wondered, then bethought myself of the crevasse and hurried hack to find a great gaping hole in the ground. I called down but could get no answer. I signalled Mertz who was on skis ahead & he brought my team up to the scene. We hung over the edge but could see nothing nor get any answer. It was about 11 ft wide where broken through & straight ice-walled. From the other side, by hanging over on an alpine rope, we caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a food bag and one dog partially alive moaning, and part of another dog & dark object, apparently the tent, caught on a ledge. We sounded to the ledge with furlong line ­ 150 ft sheer, ice ledge. No sign of Ninnis - must have struck it & been killed instantly, then gone on down. Our ropes not long enough to go down, or the sledge to span crevasse. Dog ceased to moan shortly. We called and sounded for three hours, then went on a few miles to a hill and took position observations. Came back, called & sounded for an hour.

Read the Burial Service.

Reviewed our position: practically all the food had gone down - spade, pick, tent, Mertz's burberry trousers & helmet, cups, spoons, mast, sail etc. We had our sleeping bags, a week and a half food, the spare tent without poles, & our private bags & cooker & kerosene. The dogs in my team were very poorly & the worst, & no feed for them ­ the other team comprised the picked dogs, all dog food, & almost all man food. We considered it a possibility to get through to Winter Quarters by eating dogs, so 9 hours after the accident started back, but terribly handicapped.

The accident happened 15 miles to ESE of the spot recorded for 12th December on the chart & about 300 miles from the Winter Quarters -


May God Help us.


9 pm temp + 10°.

We leave Ninnis' grave.

Sky clear except stratocumulus along N horizon from ENE to W up to 12°. Arrived at camp of evening 12th Dec at 2.30 am. Did today 24 miles in all. Got into bags 3.30 am. At 3 am sky clear except for bank stratocumulus along N horizon. Wind 15 mph from SSE.

- Mawson's Antarctic Diaries (1991): 147-48.

Select Bibliography:

expedition journal:

Mawson, Sir Douglas. The Home of the Blizzard: The Story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914. 2 vols. London: William Heinemann, 1915.

Mawson, Douglas. The Home of the Blizzard: The Story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914. 1915. Abridged Popular Edition, 1930. Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1996.

Biography & Secondary Literature:

Bickel, Lennard. Mawson's Will: The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written. Introduction by Sir Edmund Hillary. 1977. Hanover, New Hampshire: Steerforth Press, 2000.

Bredeson, Carmen. After the Last Dog Died : The True-Life, Hair-Raising Adventure of Douglas Mawson's 1912 Antarctic Expedition. Washington, DC: National Geographic Children's Books, 2003.

Flannery, Nancy Robinson, ed. This Everlasting Silence: The Love Letters of Paquita Delprat and Douglas Mawson 1911-1914. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing, 2000.

Hall, Lincoln. Douglas Mawson: The Life of an Explorer. Sydney: Reed Natural History Australia, 2000.

Homepages & Online Information:

Douglas Mawson: The Home of the Blizzard (1915)

In the Footsteps of Sir Douglas Mawson

Wikipedia entry

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