Douglas Mawson

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Sir Douglas Mawson, 1914

Sir Douglas Mawson ( OBE ; born May 5, 1882 in Bradford , Yorkshire , † October 14, 1958 in Brighton , Adelaide , South Australia ) was an Australian polar explorer who led the first Australian Antarctic expedition from 1911 to 1914.

life and work

Douglas Mawson grew up in Australia, where his parents immigrated when he was two years old. He studied at the University of Sydney , became a lecturer in 1904 and a professor at Adelaide University in 1921 . Here he initially carried out coastal research successfully. From 1907 to 1909 he took part as a physicist and geologist in the Nimrod Expedition under the direction of Ernest Shackleton . During this expedition he reached the Antarctic magnetic pole with Edgeworth David and Alistair Mackay (1877-1914) and was part of the group that was the first to climb Mount Erebus .

In addition to his scientific ambitions, Mawson was very open to technical innovations and defined further goals of his Australasian Antarctic expedition : Use of magnetism for navigation, geological and biological studies and the establishment of a weather station with a radio link to the Australian mainland. In addition, he intended to use an airplane in Antarctica in 1911, which, however, already crashed in Adelaide and was then used as a propeller sled on Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica.

After turning down the offer to take part in Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition , Mawson conducted the first Australian Antarctic expedition to Adélieland , King George Island and Queen Mary Land from 1911 to 1914 . During this expedition he discovered the Ninnis Glacier and Mertz Glacier, named after his companions . Legendary is his lonely march hundreds of miles back to base camp after his two companions, Xavier Mertz and Lieutenant Belgrave Ninnis, died during a three-way exploration. First Ninnis fell into a crevasse with his sledge, six sled dogs and almost all food. Mawson later wrote about this moment in his expedition report:

"Half out of my mind, I waved to Mertz to bring my sled ... I leaned forward and called out into the dark depths. No sound came back, only the whimpering of a dog that had got stuck on a randomly visible ledge 45 meters below ... Close by, as it seemed in the dark, were the remains of a tent and a linen sack with food for 14 days for three Man. We broke open the firn bridge completely, leaned in front of us secured by a rope and shouted down into the darkness, in the hope that our comrade would still like to be alive. We called incessantly for three hours, but no answer came back. "

The base of Mawson, the Mawson's Huts in Antarctica (picture taken around 1912)

After losing most of the supplies, the two remaining men were forced to slaughter and eat the Greenland dogs on their way . Mertz died a little later. Mawson himself only barely survived a fall into a crevasse, as his sled got stuck on the edge of the crevice and he managed to climb out of the crevice on the sled rope on the second attempt. By the time he reached the base, the expedition ship, the Aurora, had already set sail again and Mawson was forced to winter in Antarctica until the spring of 1914. He described his experiences in the book The Home of the Blizzard .

Upon his return, he married Paquita Delprat (1891-1974) and was due to its services on 29 June 1914 as a Knight Bachelor for beaten Knight why he henceforth bore the name suffix "Sir". However, under the impression of Scott's tragic death and the outbreak of World War I, the public showed little interest in his achievements. Mawson continued his scientific studies and led other expeditions. As leader of the BANZARE expedition (1929–1931) he explored the still unknown coasts from Enderbyland to the Ross Sea . He also spent much of his life researching the geology of the Flinders Range in South Australia. He died in 1958 at the age of 76.


The Royal Society of New South Wales awarded him the Clarke Medal in 1936 .

In his memory, Mawson's portrait was immortalized on the previous Australian one hundred dollar bill. In addition, the Australian Mawson Station and the base station of his expeditions in Antarctica, the Mawson's Huts , bear his name. The area with the station buildings is registered as a national monument on the Australian National Heritage List .

The asteroid (4456) Mawson bears his name, the Dorsa Mawson on Earth's moon and the only active volcano in Australia, Mawson Peak on the island of Heard , was also named after him. Mawson himself visited the island in 1929 as the leader of a British-Australian-New Zealand Antarctic Expedition ( BANZARE ). The Mawson Glacier in East Antarctica Victoria Land as well as the Mawson Peninsula , the Mawson Escarpment , the Mawson Coast , the Mawson Bank , the Mawson Corridor and Cape Mawson also bear his name. The mineral mawsonite was also named after him.


Web links

Commons : Douglas Mawson  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Mawsons Huts and Mawsons Huts Historic Site, Dumont D'Urville Station, EXT, Australia on the website of the Australian Government's Environmental Protection Agency, accessed October 22, 2011 (English)
  2. ^ Mawson, The Home of the Blizzard , Volume I, pp. 239-242.
  3. Knights and Dames: MA – MIF at Leigh Rayment's Peerage
  4. ^ Lutz D. Schmadel: Dictionary of minor planet names . Vol. 1. Springer, Berlin & New York 2003