Still No Mawson: Frank Stillwell’s Antarctic Diaries 1911-1913.

Frank Stillwell was geologist on Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14. His diaries present him as a mild-mannered somewhat recessive personality, but they are candid enough to include several critical comments about the leader as moody, irascible, inconsistent, and arbitrary. Most of his comments on reading are confined to the period of the austral night of May to August 1912, and are mostly notes of what other people were reading, including Mawson reading aloud from Aurora Australis and South Polar Times (p. 49), Mawson reading his lectures on Polar exploration (p. 80), Mawson reading Robert Lewis Stevenson (p. 83-84), Madegan reading ‘Lady Betty across the water’ (p. 85), Mawson reading Kipling on the Flag (p. 86), and Mawson reading Robert Service’s The Trail of ‘98 over a few days (p. 89-92). These reading references generally cease with the gradual return of light in August/September.

p. 95: Finished reading Nordenskjöld ’s Antarctica today and contemplating on starting Nansen’s Farthest North.

p. 50 has Hurley and Laseron “masquerading as nigger man and wife. The dress was very clever considering the lack of material” (included oakum, sledging bags, and camera cloth).

p. 55: I was so innocently led by a cookery book which inveigled me into believing it [pie crust] would cook in a quarter of an hour. After three-quarters of an hour when the brute had not yet browned I realized that the cookery book had bluffed me.

p. 100: Following dinner was song and gramophone and a little performance by McLean and Madigan of a Brutus-Cassius scene out of Julius Caesar, Both were rigged in quite passable togas with rugs and butter cloth, and both were clean shaven.

p. 102: We are still reading W.W. Jacobs ‘Many cargoes’ after dinner. Murphy’s doing the reading.

p. 110: After dinner reading is now abolished for awhile: we all got rather tired of W.W. Jacobs ‘Many Cargoes’ and we now rise [from the dinner table] at 7.15 or earlier instead of 8.

p. 151, Sunday, September 29, 1912: Service held at 9 pm and D.M. [Mawson] read Lord Avesbury [Sir John Lubbock] on Pleasures of Life, Religion.

p. 157: Life was brightened by a Grand Opera performance this evening, entitled The Washerwoman’s Secret. Laseron, Hurley and Hunter composed it and acted it with Dad and Correll. Musical accompaniment (orchestra) added by self. [Three more descriptive paragraphs follow.]

p. 160 October 17th: D.I. [dux ipse, the leader himself, D. Mawson] has amused himself distributing the library ooks. Our library contained probably two hundred volumes. He has given me one volume, “Prehistoric Europe”, James Geikie.

p. 199: J. C. [Close] stayed in camp all day, read the ‘Strenuous Life’ [Theodore Roosevelt].

[The remainder of the diaries after December are largely concerned with the spring and summer sledging journeys, worries about Mawson’s sledging with Mertz and Ninnis, anxiety about the return of Aurora and the prospect of spending a further year on the ice, and finally Mawson’s return without his two partners.]