The Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by Australian geologist Sir Douglas Mawson, is known for being one of the most treacherous expeditions known to man. There’s even a book entitled Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival in the History of Exploration by David Roberts who tells the brutal yet fascinating story of the leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition: Douglas Mawson.
In 1911 Douglas Mawson and a three-man sledding team set out to investigate the unknown Antarctic coast. As you’d imagine, the mission was extremely brutal as the men were subject to exhaustion, starvation, unforgiving terrain, and sub-zero temperatures. In fact, the journey was so merciless, two of his men — Xavier Metz and Belgrave Ninnis — perished. Ninnis slipped down a massive crevasse while carrying most of the group’s supplies and Metz died of exhaustion and possible toxicity from eating dog livers.
Ninnis took with him the six best dogs, rations, their tent, and various essential supplies. It was reported that Mertz and Mawson witnessed one injured dog and one dead dog on a ledge approximately 165 ft below them, but Ninnis was never seen again.
It’s said that the two turned back almost immediately with only one week’s worth of supplies, plenty of fuel, and no dog food. Both men suffered from dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain and more as both of their conditions continued to deteriorate for the sake of exploration, knowledge, and understanding of the region.
Thankfully, death and suffering weren’t in vain.
The men spent three patient-years on that expedition (1911-1914) to gain knowledge of the East Antarctic coastline which resulted in major advancements in academia and knowledge of the region.
Many species were described for the first time that was previously unknown to man and Mawson became a pioneer in his field for his bravery, determination, and contributions to the knowledge of Antarctica’s geology, biology, and meteorology.
Thankfully, photographer Frank Hurley was one of the crew members who managed to snap several fascinating photos of Mawson’s groundbreaking expedition.
Huskies Pulling Sledge
Blizzard, The Pup In Antarctica
Ice Cased Adelie Penguins After A Blizzard At Cape Denison
Mushroom Ice Formation
Skeleton Of Sea-Elephant & Harold Hamilton
King Penguins, Antarctica
Basilisk & Ginger At Main Base
C.t. Madigan With An Ice Mask
Cavern Carved By The Sea In An Ice Wall Near Commonwealth Bay
Wreck Of The ‘Gratitude’ In Macquarie Island
Photo Of The Crew Members
A Radiant Turret Lit By The Midsummer Midnight Sun
Frozen Adelie Penguin, Antarctica
F. Bickerton Looking Out Over Seas Near Commonwealth Bay
Hamilton Hand-Netting For Macro-Plankton From Aurora
Weddell Seal In Shackleton Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Shags Defending Nest, Macquarie Island
Mertz Leaving The Hut By The Trapdoor On The Verandah Roof
Arthur Sawyer & Sea Elephant Pup
Members In The Kitchen
Wild & Watson In Sleeping Bag Tent On Sledge Journey
Frank Hurley Washing Cinematograph Film On The “Aurora”
Female Sea-Elephant, Macquarie Island
Winter Quarters, Queen Mary Land Winter
Mawson Rests At The Side Of Sledge, Outward Bound On First Sledge Journey In Adelie Land
Start Of The First Depot Journey; “The Grottoes”
In Full Sledging Gear On The Plateau
Aurora Traversing Loose Pack Ice Entering The Durville Sea
Bob Bage And J. Hunter At 65 Miles South
Bage In The Entrance To The Astronomic Observatory
Young Sea-Elephants On The Beach, Macquarie Island
Madigan At The Rail & Mawson Stepping From The Rail Of The Aurora
Unloading Supplies At Cape Denison
This incredible photo series was released by the State Library of New South Wales on their Flickr page.
Photos via State Library of New South Wales