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Douglas Mawson

Geologist / Explorer

Born: 5 May 1882
Died: 14 October 1958
Birthplace: Shipley, Yorkshire, England
Best known as: Australian explorer of the Antarctic
Douglas Mawson was a geologist who was among the first scientists to explore the continent of Antarctica. British by birth, Mawson moved to Australia as a young boy and spent his life there. He accompanied Ernest Shackleton on the British Antarctic Expedition (1907-09), then commanded his own expedition, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. In an attempt to chart the coastline directly south of Australia, Mawson and his crew set out in 1911. At one point during the expedition, three of them -- Mawson, Xavier Mertz and Belgrave Ninnis -- were sledding across the snow and ice when Ninnis disappeared down a crevasse. The sled with the most important provisions and their lead dog went down with Ninnis. Mawson and Mertz began to head back to their base camp, braving the cold and surviving by eating dogmeat. Mertz became ill and died, but Mawson managed to survive several days alone before making it back to camp. He returned to Australia in 1914 and was greeted as a national hero and knighted. He made another expedition to Antarctica called the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (abbreviated as BANZARE) in 1929-31, and spent the rest of his career as a professor of geology at the University of Adelaide.

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