Penguins on horseback

Douglas Mawson’s iron gut

Wandering through the Mawson collection at the South Australian Museum one winter afternoon, I stare through the glass at the reconstruction of my great-grandfather, Douglas Mawson’s room in the hut, the sound of a moaning blizzard in my ears. The eerie sound of the wind coming through the installation, so familiar to Mawson and his men, is strangely alluring. There is something calming, almost hypnotic in its rhythm and repetition, as if I am literally being drawn into their world and their time. Yet I am also aware of its destructive force. John King Davis, who was captain of the Aurora on Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE), 1911–14, likened it to ‘the shriek of a thousand angry witches’, its constancy keeping them ‘for a seeming eternity the pitiful, worn out impotent prisoners of hope’. Some entries in Mawson’s diary comprise only one written word, ‘blizzard’, followed by successive days of ‘ditto’.

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Published in June 2013, no. 352
Emma McEwin

Emma McEwin

Emma McEwin is a great-granddaughter of Douglas Mawson and the author of An Antarctic Affair (2008). She is currently undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing at The University of Adelaide, where she also works as a tutor. 
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