Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration
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“An important missing story from the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.”―Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival
On January 17, 1913, alone and near starvation, Douglas Mawson, leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, was hauling a sledge to get back to base camp. The dogs were gone. Now Mawson himself plunged through a snow bridge, dangling over an abyss by the sledge harness. A line of poetry gave him the will to haul himself back to the surface.
Mawson was sometimes reduced to crawling, and one night he discovered that the soles of his feet had completely detached from the flesh beneath. On February 8, when he staggered back to base, his features unrecognizably skeletal, the first teammate to reach him blurted out, “Which one are you?”
This thrilling and almost unbelievable account establishes Mawson in his rightful place as one of the greatest polar explorers and expedition leaders. It is illustrated by a trove of Frank Hurley’s famous Antarctic photographs, many never before published in the United States. 24 pages of illustrations
Thanks to Mawson’s doggedness, by 1947 twenty-two volumes comprising ninety-six separate scientific reports from the AAE had been published. It would take some time for the value of those reports to be appreciated. As Riffenburgh notes, “The scientific goals of early Antarctic expeditions were not to make bold advances in theory, but to establish large databases and build up a corpus of information that would serve as a framework for future knowledge.” In 2003, the scholar Gordon E. Fogg, author
regal bearing. Born in England, she was, at seventeen, already a sophisticated woman and traveler, fluent in Dutch, Spanish, and English. Claiming to base her insight on interviews with family members, Nancy Robinson Flannery, the editor of the letters written during the AAE between Douglas and Paquita, embellishes the love-at-first-sight drama with perhaps a touch of fictional license. At the sporting event, according to Flannery, Paquita whispered to her friend Hester, “Who’s that?” “Oh,
return to the hut with the burberry hoods of their jackets frozen into what the men called an “ice mask.” This adhered firmly to the helmet and to the beard and face; though not particularly comfortable, it was actually a protection against the wind. The mask became so complete that one had continually to break it away in order to breathe and to clear away obstructions from the eyes. . . . An experienced man, once inside the Hut, would first see that the ice was broken away from the helmet;
have more to eat today,” he wrote with grim satisfaction on the 9th, “in hope that it will give me strength for the future.” On the 10th, he cooked the rest of the dog meat. His body was continuing to deteriorate. “One annoying effect of want of food is that wherever the skin breaks it refused to heal,” he noted, “the nose and lips break open also. My scrotum, like Xavier’s, is also getting in a painfully raw condition due to reduced condition, dampness and friction in walking. It is well nigh
been collecting his own urine in jars that he placed on the shelf above his bunk. Jeffryes was not the first Antarctic explorer to be stricken with insanity during an overwintering. As mentioned in chapter four, on the Belgica expedition of 1897–99, the two team leaders, Adrien de Gerlache and Georges Lecointe, gave up on life and took more or less permanently to their beds. But theirs was a passive craziness, threatening the rest of the team only because they abdicated their leadership.