The legend of Douglas Mawson: Scientific explorer

Radio telegram from Douglas Mawson to Professor Edgeworth David.
SY Aurora phtoographed on the edge of the shackleton ice shelf, NAA: M584,2

Over 100 years ago, Sir Douglas Mawson led the first Australian expedition of scientific exploration to Antarctica. A tragic set of circumstances delayed Mawson getting back to the main base - on the brink of death, he was just hours too late to join the return voyage that departed from Antarctica in early February 1913. This forced Mawson and a rescue party to endure a second winter in the Antarctic. The scientific data the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) gathered on the frozen continent is still valued as it helps Australia to develop models of global climate change.

Get thinking

  • What personal qualities would Mawson have needed to endure the conditions he experienced?
  • In what ways was the work of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition significant for Australia at the time it took place? What evidence did you use to support your response?
  • What do you think is the legacy of Mawson's expeditions to the Antarctic?

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