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Mawson's far eastern party speeds east
Title : Mawson's far eastern party speeds east Mawson's far eastern party speeds east
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Creator : Mawson, Douglas, Sir, 1882-1958
Source : The home of the blizzard: being the story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914, vol. 1 opposite p. 224
Place Of Creation : London
Publisher : Heinemann
Date of creation : 1912
Format : Book
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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Description :

The Far Eastern party led by Mawson included Xavier Mertz, and Belgrave Ninnis and used the expedition's dog-teams to pull their sledges. Mertz as an expert skier usually travelled in front of the dogs, giving them an incentive to follow or chase him.

Mawson divided his men up into a number of parties in order to explore more territory. The southern party was led by Bage, with Webb and Hurley. They would endeavour to reach the South Magnetic Pole and would concentrate on magnetic work. They were assisted by a southern support party which would return to base by late November, when some of that team would be deployed to other parties. A western party led by Bickerton would use the air-tractor sledge and explore the coastal ranges in that direction.

There were three eastern parties exploring various sections of the coast and near interior.

Mawson's far eastern party used the two dog teams. In travelling in crevassed country the theory was that the first sledge to cross a crevasse would break through the ice-lid if it was weak. For this reason the second sledge driven by Ninnis was drawn by the expedition's best dogs and included the bulk of theirs and the dogs' food. 311 miles from base and near the limit of their far eastern journey, Mawson riding on his sledge noticed the faint signs of a crevasse beneath him He called out a warning to Ninnis, saw him acknowledge it, and returned to his work calculating their position.

Moments later with only a brief whine from a dog, Ninnis and his sledge disappeared as the ice-lid collapsed. Despite every effort Mertz and Mawson were unable to see Ninnis in the depths below; there was no response to repeated calling. Finally hours later Mawson read the burial service at the edge of the crevasse and they made their plans for an immediate return to base.

Their few supplies were eked out by eating their dogs as they failed. Mertz died on 8 January 1913, and Mawson was alone on the polar plateau. He took another 30 days to reach base. Mertz's death and Mawson's debiliated condition on his arrival were believed to be the result of poisoning by excessive Vitamin A, which is stored in the livers of huskies. More recently this theory has been challenged.

Related names :

Mertz, Xavier Guillaume, 1883-1913

Ninnis, Belgrave, 1887-1912


Coverage year : 1912
Place : Antarctica
Further reading :

Mawson, Douglas, Sir, The home of the blizzard: the story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914 Kent Town, S. Aust.: Wakefield Press, 1996

Mawson, Douglas, Sir, Mawson's Antarctic diaries edited by Fred Jacka & Eleanor Jacka Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1988

Ayres, Philip J Mawson: a life Carlton South, Vic.: Miegunyah Press: Melbourne University Press, 1999

Carrington-Smith, Denise Mawson and Mertz: a re-evaluation of their ill-fated mapping journey during the 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition in Medical journal of Australia vol. 183, number 11/12, 5/19 December 2005.

Jarvis, Tim Mawson: life and death in Antarctica Carlton, Vic.: The Miegunyah Press, 2008

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