Mawson’s Will – The Greatest Survival Story Ever Written
by Lennard Bickel
Genre – Nonfiction, Exploration, Survival
Series – Standalone
Rating – PG-13 for survival related violence
Dr. Douglas Mawson had been to Antarctica once before on the 1908 expedition to Mt. Erebus. This light a fire in Mawson who yearns to return to the inhospitable continent. He seeks the help of Shackleton, but Shackleton has no interest in exploring west of Cape Adare. So, Mawson assembles his own team which became known as the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. By December of 1911, Mawson emerged at the coast of Antarctica. He divided his crew into 2 groups, one captained by Frank wild who would endeavor to reach the magnetic south pole, the other by Mawson that would explore West. What ensues is an epic story of survival and exploration of Antarctica.
My Thoughts –
Survival stories fascinate me! Being lone in a wilderness and coping with whatever weather is thrown your way is an accomplishment in itself. Let alone going to the coldest continent. Mawson shows the meaning of courage, bravery, & resilience! Before reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Antarctica. So I loved learning about its climate and changes in weather. The one thing I wish the book had was a map of Mawson’s travels. Thankfully, there is one on the internet that proved helpful and I referred to quite a bit.
Personally I don’t think I would have what it takes to live there for over 2 years. Some of the wind gusts were over 90 mph! In Antarctica’s winter it could get down to 60 degrees below freezing. Which first off, I didn’t know Antarctica could have a winter, figured it was winter year round, which isn’t far from true. It’s winter is the stormy/wind season. Gets the most snowfall.
Anyways, the story really picks up once Mawson sets out on his march across Antarctica. Before that, there’s lots of going over who’s who in the world of exploration. They spent almost 11 months in their hut before being able to travel. I loved how inventive Mawson and his men were. If they didn’t have something, they’d try to make it. Or if a tent piece broke they’d find a way to fix it. They brought everything they needed from the boat and made do.
I was surprised at how often Mawson mentions his faith or at least his belief in Providence. He has a hymnbook he reads from on several occasions as well as prayers he says for their journey/funerals. As well as quoting scripture on occasion. He questions why God would take away one of his companions.
Now was it the greatest survival story as the name implies? I’m not so sure. I’ve read a variety of survival stories from Unbroken to We Die Alone. They each have their own incredible tale. Was Mawson’s survival surprising? Yes! I mean after eating such a high level of vitamin A, he should be dead. The whole overdosing on Vitamin A was really interesting. And truly made me feel sorry for Mertz! Only by the hand of the Almighty did Mawson live to tell his story.
Language – None, at least none that I remember
Violence – Okay, so here is where it can get a little grisly. * Spoilers ahead * So Ninnis dies by falling into a crevasse taking most of the food stores with him. This causes Mawson and Mertz to rely on the huskies livers. Now they only killed them when the dog was on it’s last legs. But yeah, they talk about shooting or killing them. Mawson then would chop the carcass up and turn it into jelly. Now Mawson did treat these animals with the greatest respect. Also, we see the affects caused by high levels of vitamin A. Mawson’s soles fall off, his fingers nails nails are in bad shape and mentions of sores all across his body. So not for the faint of heart.
Innuendo – None
Mawson’s lone trek to civilization is incredible. Just goes to show that our human body is amazingly designed! It made me appreciate living on a continent that has people. Reading this book, made me want to see Antarctica. It’s not the best book ever written, but I enjoyed it!
Up Next – I’m working on another survival story set in the Peruvian Andes called Touching the Void by Joe Simpson.
Do you enjoy a good survival tale? Have any favorites?