Racing With Death: Douglas Mawson - Antarctic Explorer by Beau Riffenburgh. Hardcover book published by Bloomsbury 2008.
One hundred years ago this bloke Douglas Mawson (possibly known as Doug to his friends) was a “key expedition leader during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”* and most importantly for us here in Australia, he was an Australian. Australia is a country that is still a relatively new entrant on the world stage (excluding our geology, natural history and our indigenous population) and Douglas was and still is considered an important person in our history and as part of Australia’s positioning within world history. Doug and his fellow expeditioners were expeditioning in the Antarctic long before GPS, daily updated blogs or really warm underwear. If you look at the picture on the dust jacket, you’ll see what I mean. That is a woolen balaclava and scarf, which are very stylish and very suitable for Australia… and probably less suitable for Antarctica. Still, they do look nice and his mum probably made a big effort in knitting them.
On a slightly more serious note, the title refers to the death of two fellow expedition members who died whilst exploring with Mawson (1912). Death in these harsh conditions was not uncommon at the time. What is uncommon is that after losing his companions, Mawson somehow managed to travel the couple of hundred miles back to his base camp alone. Incredible by any standards and pretty much a guaranteed hero status back here in Australia… so much so that he appeared on our older $100 notes… not that I’ve ever seen one, but according to Wikipedia he was the guy** (by the way our current $100 bills have a picture of John Monash on it… of whom I also have a biography of for sale). Which all goes to show you how important the guy is. It’s not everyone who gets to be on the money… except for the Queen (of whom I don’t have any biographies of).
So this book, which is always of interest due to it’s subject matter, is of special interest now due to the centenary of Mawson’s epic expedition and tragic journey. Fortunately for any buyer out there, it won’t cost a Mawson (or Monash) to purchase it.
* Thanks Wikipedia
** Thanks Wikipedia