Thursday 20 June 2024

Mawson in Antarctica: To the Ends of the Earth

Mawson in Antarctica: To the Ends of the Earth by Joanna Grocholwicz (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN9781761180590

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Author Grocholwicz is a polar historian and author who has written at least three narrative non-fiction books like this one that draw on diaries, letters, and expedition narratives from archives and personal collections around the world. She is known for realistic portrayals of historical figures and the interplay of personalities that lend her work a grittiness and authenticity that is not often present in historical writing for children and young adults.

This latest novel is about the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition headed by 29-year-old Douglas Mawson. At the beginning of the book is a list of the eighteen Australians he headed, including people whose jobs were as various as surgeon, storekeeper, radio operator, dog-handler, photographer, taxidermist, and more. Except for two men, the rest were aged 30 years and younger.

Also, before the story begins, there’s a black and white illustration of the members of the party at the main base in Cape Denison, Antarctica, as well as a double page spread of maps showing the journey from Tasmania to the main base in Commonwealth Bay, and the route taken by the Far Eastern party.

This – in 1912 -- is Mawson’s second trip to the southern, frozen continent, the first being Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod adventure. A university employee, he will lead his own expedition to explore the unchartered section of the Antarctic directly south of Australia. Mawson’s tale is legendary, an epic struggle between one man’s self-belief, and the worst conditions the hostile polar environment can throw at him. His journey represents not only a feat of physical endurance but also a triumph of the human spirit’s ability to conjure hope when luck has all but run out.

The epilogue begins with the words: ‘Mawson returned. Ninnis and Mertz dad. Return immediately and pick up all hands.’ The main thrust of the book of course is the men’s adventure and achievements. This book, well-written and totally engrossing, and ought to be enjoyed – as did I -- by history buffs aged from 13+ years.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Buzz Words Books would love to hear what you think.