Mawson: a Life.

A balanced biography of Mawson, emphasizing his achievements but not ignoring his sometimes depressive personality and temper.

p. 52: The AAE’s [Australian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-14] library was almost equally provided by Campbell Mackellar and Mawson himself. The books from Mackellar included literature of Arctic and Antarctic travel, scientific textbooks and general literature. Mawson’s contributions included, besides popular volumes of Antarctic literature like Shackleton’s Heart of the Antarctic and H. R. Mill’s Siege of the South Pole, volumes of scientific results from Scott’s 1900-4 Discovery expedition, W. S. Bruce’s 1902 Scotia expedition, the BAE, Otto Nordenskjöld’s 1901-3 Antarctic expedition, and Jean Charcot’s first, 1903-5, expedition. He also supplied volumes of popular poets like Rudyard Kipling and Robert Service, anthologies, and other items including the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (which reflect Mawson’s austere and stoic credo, above any particular religion). Interestingly, he took German Self-Taught, a recognition of Germany’s superiority in many scientific and technological fields. [footnote 39 to this passage, p. 267: “the AAE’s library is itemized in MAC, 43 AAE,” referring to the Mawson Antarctic Collection, Waite Campus, University of Adelaide.]

p. 66: March 1912: Mawson revealed his inner self to his diary. Reading William S. Bruce’s view, in Robert Brown’s Voyage of the ‘Scotia’ (London, 1906), that ‘Isolation among the fastnesses of nature does not bring loneliness’, only ‘the busy haunts of men’, Mawson observed that he had been ‘Most humanly lonely in London’, but added, ‘Lonely with nature on plateau (21 March 1912). The howling blizzards outside the warmth of the hut were not chaos: ‘The Voice of the Great Creator, etc. Sacred Anthem’ (26 March). Down here sweet philosophies rang hollow: ‘Where Nature is sterner and elements fewer one sees that [Omar] Khayyam’s similes are not accurate (p. 59). “I came like water like wind I go, Into this universe and why not knowing, Nor when like water willy nilly flowing—etc.”. Water is flowing to a definite goal—so are we’, Mawson wrote (28 March). ‘Outside one is in touch with the sternest of Nature—one might be a lone soul standing in Precambrian times or on Mars—all is desolation and hard in the durest [sic]. Life opens up to one as it must to the savage. Inside the Hut all is 20th Century civilization. What a contrast’ (9 April). He read, in F. A. Cook’s Through the First Antarctic Night (London, 1900), of the madness and dissidence on the Belgica, beset by the pack-ice through the black winter of 1898: ‘am shocked by his account’ (15 April). Within a year he too would face the madness.” [quotation marks etc. as in original].

p. 77: He [Mawson] later told his friend Richard E. Byrd, the great American explorer of western Antarctica, and others then present, that he carried a small Bible on this journey and occasionally, in camp, read comforting passages from it. [footnote 28: A. Leigh Hunt, Confessions of a Leigh Hunt, p. 127]

p. 93—on a December sledging journey on Mertz Glacier: On this trip Mawson carried a copy of Hamlet, and as he lay in the tent he jotted down in his diary lines he found profound or memorable:
When sorrows come they come not single spies,
But in battalions (IV.v.74)
There is a divinity that shapes our ends /
Rough-hew them how we will (V.ii.10)
The undiscovered country, from whose bourne /
No traveler returns (III.i.79)
What a noble mind is here o’erthrown (III.i.149)