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5. Mawson braves the extreme cold

<p>A glimpse from within the cavern of the Mertz Glacier, Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911–1914</p>

National Library of Australia obj. 141793011

<p>A glimpse from within the cavern of the Mertz Glacier, Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911–1914</p>

You head down to the docks where a large sea vessel has docked. The jetty is swarming with people waiting to see the explorer, Mr Mawson. You know one of his crew members and are lucky enough to get a private audience with him that evening over dinner. You conduct a lengthy interview with him and this is what you find out...

Douglas Mawson is a national hero. He was a remarkable explorer and the expeditions he led helped claim 42 per cent of Antarctica for Australia. He is also famous for one of the most extraordinary feats of endurance in the history of Antarctic exploration.

But Mawson was first and foremost a scientist. Whereas other explorers were driven by a nationalistic urge to claim territory or beat rivals, Mawson’s expeditions were primarily scientific. Their achievements in geology, cartography, meteorology, geomagnetism and marine biology were groundbreaking.

Expedition legacy

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition was the first major scientific expedition by Australians beyond their shores. It explored some 6347 kilometres of mainland Antarctica as well as Macquarie Island. The analysis and report of the scientific data collected during the expedition was so extensive that it filled 22 volumes when it was published in 1947.

Your task

Mr Callister has asked you to report on the story, while developing your skills in asking questions. He wants you to come up with a series of questions that a historian might ask about this story.

Historians ask specific types of questions. Good historians ask questions about:

  • causes and effects
  • things that have changed from the past to now and things that have stayed the same
  • what it felt like for people at the time
  • how people’s perspectives about what happened in the past can be different from one another
  • how we can know things about the past
  • what is important from the past.

Complete this grid, asking questions about Mawson’s adventure. A few have been done to get you started...

Event Situation Person Reason Means

You complete the question grid and get it back to your boss, Mr Callister, along with your report.

‘Great work youngster! Now, I’ve got a couple of stories lined up here for you, take your pick’.

Which story do you want to work on next?

  • If you want to do a story about some new military hardware the Australian government has had built, go to 8.
  • If you are more interested in the affairs of Aboriginal people, go to 9.
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