Thursday, 14 October 2010

On this day: Douglas Mawson dies, October 14 1958

Douglas Mawson, the Antarctic explorer died 52 years ago at age of 76 in Adelaide. Although born in Yorkshire, he grew up in Sydney. In 1907, the Australian joined Ernest Shackleton's 'Farthest South' Nimrod expedition as a scientist and was part of the team that climbed Mount Erebus as well as reaching the Magnetic South Pole.

It was an expedition that set out in November 1912 to map part of the Antarctic coastline though, for which Mawson will probably be best remembered. After Lieutenant Ninnis, one of the three-man team, disappeared into a massive crevasse, along with six dogs and most of the supplies, the remaining two turned back. All they had to eat was stewed sledge dog but Dr Xavier Mertz then fell ill and died, probably due to poisonous levels of vitamin A from consuming dog liver. Mawson, while also in a dreadful state, eventually managed to make it back to base - only to see the ship that should have carried him to safety already out to sea. He finally managed to leave Antarctica and Those Who Dared includes an interview with the explorer when he visited London in May 1914.

In 1911-14 and 1929-31 Mawson led explorations which enabled Australia to claim much of the continent, something discussed in the following Manchester Guardian leading article from October 15 1958.

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