Mawson’s Huts 

Reviewed By  Ian Banks       January 15, 2015


Author  David Jensen

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781760112660
Publisher:         Allen & Unwin
Release Date:    


The stark magnificent of Frank Hurley photos taken during the Australian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1914 tells the story of bravery; some may say foolhardiness and above all the pioneering spirit as Mawson’s ground breaking, scientific expedition set out to chart, research and record information on one of the harshest, unforgiving environments on earth, the Antarctic.

Douglas Mawson was the leader of the expedition, a man who was charismatic; a man with  ‘un paralleled ambition’, which when coupled with a desire to explore geological regions such as Broken Hill, where he became entranced with the effects of ancient glaciers on the landscape, laid the groundwork for what was to become a lifetimes fascination with Antarctica.

He met and joined with Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition, leaving New Zealand in December 1908, not returning to Australia until February 1910, after suffering tremendous hardship but learning many valuable lessons.

His desire to further explore these uncharted areas was not thwarted by the deprivation and hardship of Shackleton’s expedition, but encouraged him to mount his own expedition to explore the 300 kilometres of coastland between Cape Adare and Gaussberg.

In 1911 he went to England to raise the money and secure a ship capable of transporting the men and all their stores and equipment, agreeing to purchase the Aurora, despite not having raised sufficient money.

Failing to let this stand in his way, and supremely confident that the money would be forthcoming; he went ahead with his plans and began the search for the right men to make up the expedition team. From his prior experiences he was convinced that ‘tempered youth’ was the key to success.

His expedition finally departed from Hobart in December 1911, with a team of 31 men of an average age of 26 years.

And so history was made at the cost of lives, severe deprivation and the trekking of some 2600 miles of unknown territory, some of which has never been done again. The more than 2500 magnificent still photographs taken of the expedition by Frank Hurley, and the gathering of incredible amounts of scientific information, totalling 22 complex reports all of which helped lay the foundation for Australia’s modern Antarctic program and claim to 42 percent of the frozen continent.

This is a story which is seldom told these days and should be, as this is such as an incredible part of Australian history it should be classed as the stuff legends, true legends and heroes are made off.

Mawson’s Hut’s still stand and are a monument to science and the sacrifices made to explore a foreign and hostile land. The Mawson’s Huts foundation was established in 1996 to fundraise for the conservation of this historic site, still today as it was left more than 100 years ago, socks filling the cracks in the roof, books on the packing crates and goods on the shelves.

This book is a fascinating history of one of the greatest scientific eras of adventure and will remain as a recorded and documented monument to Mawson and his men which is accessible to all who enjoy not just a good year, but one that presents as challenging a frontier today as it did more than 100 years ago.

The modern collection of photographs shows the huts as they are today, sun shining and calmness all about; the black and white images tell it in all the harsh and stark reality, the isolation, the harshness of the conditions and the daily life of a handful of brave men and their desire to learn more.