Australia's best-selling nonfiction author of all time. Douglas Mawson, born in 1882 and knighted in 1914, was Australia's greatest Antarctic explorer. On 2 December 1911, he led an expedition from Hobart to explore the virgin frozen coastline below, 2000 miles of which had never felt the tread of a human foot. After setting up Main Base at Cape Denision and Western Base on Queen Mary Land, he headed east on an extraordinary sledging trek with his companions, Belgrave Ninnis and Dr Xavier Mertz. After five weeks, tragedy struck. Ninnis was swallowed whole by a snow-covered crevasse, and Mawson and Mertz realised it was too dangerous to go on. With the scant food and provisions they had left, turning back was almost equally perilous. Their dwindling supplies forced them to kill their dogs to feed the other dogs, at first, and then themselves. Hunger, sickness and despair eventually got the better of Mertz, and he succumbed to madness and then to death. Mawson found himself all alone, 160 miles from safety, with next to no food. Peter FitzSimons tells the staggering tale of Mawson's survival, despite all the odds, arriving back just in time to see his rescue ship disappearing over the horizon. He also masterfully interweaves the stories of the other giants from the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration - Scott of the Antarctic, Sir Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen - to bring the jaw-dropping events of this bygone era dazzlingly back to life.
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A Real Life "Boys Own" Adventure Story
Yes, and intend to do so. It is long and detailed but so fascinating in its account of events in early 20th century Antarctic.
This account is history brought to life through the diaries and logs of each explorer and many of their men who travelled the journey to the Antarctic. It's recounted in the present tense, so you feel that you are there as the story unfolds. Included are so many interesting facts about the region, the equipment and the improvised methods used to overcome extreme difficulties, all extremely compelling listening. Also, there are many moments of both humour and sadness.
I was surprised just how much I enjoyed this book. If you like real-life adventure and modern history told in an accessible and entertaining manner, then this book is for you. I will be on the lookout for other books by Peter FitzSimons. Highly recommended.
- R. Wagner