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Author Archive: "David Roberts"

Two Years with Mawson

I feel as though, in a certain sense, I've spent the last two years in Antarctica with Douglas Mawson while researching and writing Alone on the Ice, my book about Australia's greatest explorer. Exactly one century ago, in January 1913, Mawson pulled off the feat that Sir Edmund Hillary later called "the greatest survival story in the history of exploration." After his two companions had died — one from falling into a crevasse, the other of exhaustion and hypothermia — Mawson hauled his cut-down sledge 100 miles across the polar plateau to the Main Base hut on Cape Denison. Virtually out of food, with his skin peeling off, his hair falling out, and the blistered soles of his feet detached from the flesh beneath, he made the solo journey in 32 days , during which he was knocked off his feet repeatedly by the winds, fell into several crevasses from which he barely escaped, and at times resorted to crawling on all fours.

We tend facilely to think that the history of exploration, as of athletic feats, follows a steady vector of progress and improvement. The toughest mountaineering routes ...

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