Author(s): Peter FitzSimons
Douglas Mawson, born in 1882 and knighted in 1914, was Australia's greatest Antarctic explorer. On 2 December, 1911, he led an expedition from Hobart to explore the virgin frozen coastline below, 2000 miles of which had never felt the tread of a human foot. After setting up Main Base at Cape Denision and Western Base on Queen Mary Land, he headed east on an extraordinary sledging trek with his companions, Belgrave Ninnis and Dr Xavier Mertz. After five weeks, tragedy struck. Ninnis was swallowed whole by a snow-covered crevasse, and Mawson and Mertz realised it was too dangerous to go on. With the scant food and provisions they had left, turning back was almost equally perilous. Their dwindling supplies forced them to kill their dogs to feed the other dogs, at first, and then themselves. Hunger, sickness and despair eventually got the better of Mertz, and he succumbed to madness and then to death. Mawson found himself all alone, 160 miles from safety, with next to no food. Peter FitzSimons tells the staggering tale of Mawson's survival, despite all the odds, arriving back just in time to see his rescue ship disappearing over the horizon. He also masterfully interweaves the stories of the other giants from the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration - Scott of the Antarctic, Sir Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen - to bring the jaw-dropping events of this bygone era dazzlingly back to life.
Peter FitzSimons is the author of over 20 books - including Tobruk, Kokoda and biographies of Nancy Wake' Kim Beazley' Nene King' Nick Farr-Jones' Les Darcy, Steve Waugh and John Eales - and was Australia's bestselling non-fiction writer in 2001, 2004 and 2006.