Douglas Mawson

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Sir Douglas Mawson, OBE, FRS, FAA (5 May 1882 – 14 October 1958) was an Australian Antarctic explorer and geologist. Along with Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton, Mawson was a key expedition leader during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

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Early work

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.[1] He identified and first described the mineral Davidite, named for Edgeworth David.

Australian Antarctic Expedition

Mawson turned down an invitation to join Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Expedition in 1910; Australian geologist Griffith Taylor went with Scott instead. Mawson chose to lead his own expedition, the Australian Antarctic Expedition, to King George V Land and Adelie Land, the sector of the Antarctic continent immediately south of Australia, which at the time was almost entirely unexplored. The objectives were to carry out geographical exploration and scientific studies, including a visit to the South Magnetic Pole.

The expedition, using the ship SY Aurora commanded by Captain John King Davis, departed Hobart on 2 December 1911, landed at Cape Denison on Commonwealth Bay on 8 January 1912, and established the Main Base. A second camp was located to the west on the ice shelf in Queen Mary Land. Cape Denison proved to be unrelentingly windy; the average wind speed for the entire year was about 50 mph (80 km/h), with some winds approaching 200 mph. They built a hut on the rocky cape and wintered through nearly constant blizzards. Mawson wanted to do aerial exploration and brought the first airplane to Antarctica. The aircraft, a Vickers R.E.P. Type Monoplane,[2] was to be flown by Francis Howard Bickerton. When it was damaged in Australia shortly before the expedition departed, plans were changed so it was to be used only as a tractor on skis. However, the engine did not operate well in the cold, and it was removed and returned to Vickers in England. The aircraft fuselage itself was abandoned. On January 1, 2010, fragments of it were rediscovered by the Mawson's Huts Foundation, which is restoring the original huts.[3]

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