Frozen Future: The Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Survival of the Planet

By Daniel Snowman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
History on Ice

Douglas Mawson, born in Yorkshire and brought up in Australia, first went to Antarctica on Shackleton's 1907 expedition. He showed himself to be a first-class surveyor and geologist and also a young man blessed with tremendous mental and physical stamina. Both qualities -- the professional and the personal -- were put to the test. Together with two companions Mawson not only reached and identified the position of the South Magnetic Pole but also scaled the mighty Antarctic volcano Mount Erebus and gazed down, fascinated, into the jaws of hell. The Shackleton expedition reached the furthest south any man had ever been at the time and Mawson returned to Australia a seasoned and celebrated Antarctic scientist and explorer at the age of twenty-seven.

In 1911, having turned down an offer to join Scott's expedition to the South Pole, Mawson led his own party south to survey parts of Adélie Land and report on the topography and possible mineral wealth of a vast uncharted region.

They sailed due south in December 1911, the month Amundsen was to reach the South Pole. Mawson's ship the Aurora, captained by a tall, gaunt Irishman named John King Davis, reached Antarctica shortly before the new year and Davis navigated carefully along the ice-bound coast as Mawson sought a spot to build a base camp. This they eventually found in early January 1912 in an area Mawson was to name Commonwealth Bay. They brought their stores ashore and bade farewell to the Aurora which was to return and pick them up a year later, mid-January 1913.

The main hut was erected in the teeth of sub-zero temperatures exacerbated by fierce katabatic winds shrieking down off the ice plateau, and the team settled in for the winter, and to make their plans for what was to come. Once the winter was over the principal reconnaissance journey was to be

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Frozen Future: The Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Survival of the Planet
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Photographic Credits 10
  • Foreword 11
  • Chapter One - Introduction 14
  • Chapter Two - Getting There 27
  • Chapter Three - Polar People 46
  • Chapter Four - Boom and Bust on the Last Frontier 69
  • Chapter Five - History on Ice 89
  • Chapter Six - Ice, Climate and Scientific Serendipity 104
  • Chapter Seven - Circumpolar Politics 141
  • Appendix: the Antarctic Treaty 185
  • Index - Illustrations Are Indicated in Bold Type 186
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