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’.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

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. 
More in this issue Rediscovering Britten »

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.