Douglas Mawson


Douglas Mawson : biography

5 May 1882 – 14 October 1958

The expedition was the subject of David Roberts’s book Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013)

Nimrod Expedition

Mawson joined Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition (1907-09), originally intending to stay for the duration of the ship’s presence in the first summer. Instead both he and his mentor, Edgeworth David stayed an extra year. In doing so they became, in the company of Alistair Mackay, the first to climb the summit of Mount Erebus and to trek to the South Magnetic Pole, which at that time was over land.

Early work

David Low.]]

He was appointed geologist to an expedition to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in 1903; his report The Geology of the New Hebrides, was one of the first major geological works of Melanesia. Also that year he published a geological paper on Mittagong, New South Wales. His major influences in his geological career were Professor Edgeworth David and Professor Archibald Liversidge. He then became a lecturer in petrology and mineralogy at the University of Adelaide in 1905. He identified and first described the mineral Davidite,

Later life

North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia in front of the University of Adelaide.]]

Mawson married Francisca Adriana (Paquita) Delprat (daughter of G. D. Delprat) on 31 March 1914 at Holy Trinity Church of England, Balaclava, Victoria. They had two daughters, Patricia and Jessica. Also in 1914, he was knighted, and was completely taken up with the Scott disaster and the outbreak of World War I. Mawson served in the war as a Major in the British Ministry of Munitions. Returning to Adelaide, South Australia he pursued his academic studies, taking further expeditions abroad, including a joint British, Australian and New Zealand expedition to the Antarctic in 1929–31. The work done by the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition led to the formation of the Australian Antarctic Territory in 1936. He also spent much of his time researching the geology of the northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Upon his retirement from teaching in 1952 he was made Emeritus Professor of the University of Adelaide. He died at his Brighton home on 14 October 1958 from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 76 years old. At the time of his death he had still not completed editorial work on all the papers resulting from his expedition, and this was completed by his eldest daughter, Patricia, only in 1975.

His image appeared from 1984 to 1996 on the Australian paper one hundred dollar note and in 2012 on a $1 coin issued within the Inspirational Australians series. Mawson Peak (Heard Island), Mount Mawson (Tasmania), Mawson Station (Antarctica), Dorsa Mawson (Mare Fecunditatis), the geology building on the main University of Adelaide campus, suburbs in Canberra and Adelaide, a University of South Australian campus and the main street of Meadows, South Australia are named after him. Oxley College in Burradoo, New South Wales, a sports house is called Mawson, as is at Clarence High School in Hobart, Tasmania, Forest Lodge Public School, Sydney and Fort Street High School, where he was educated. The Mawson Collection of Antarctic exploration artefacts is on permanent display at the South Australian Museum, including a screening of a recreated version of his journey that was shown on ABC Television on 12 May 2008.

In 2011, Ranulph Fiennes included Mawson in his book My Heroes: Extraordinary Courage, Exceptional People.