Douglas Mawson


Once more the cruel Antarctic calls me back
To set my foot where no man yet did go
O memories of nineteen eight of taking chances tempting fate
And the happy days we spent in McMurdo

So we dropped our anchor off Adélie Land
And we built a hut to stand the winter gale
And when the sun returned again the air rang out with sounds of men
And Greenland huskies eager for the trail

From Aladdin’s cave we started on our way
Our friends they bid goodbye and turned for home
Xavier Mertz was there with me and Cherub Ninnis just we three
Were left to carry on our fate unknown

The black crevasse claimed Ninnis and his dogs
It claimed our food our fuel it claimed our tent
I never heard one single sound, just by chance I turned around
As Ninnis to his death in silence went

Defeat and death now stared us in the face
We had one lightweight tent and that was all
Just to stay alive we knew we’d have to kill the dogs for food
How were we to know that they’d be our downfall

A leaden glare now spread across the land
And neither shape nor feature reached our eyes
And nothing left to eat only deadly poison meat
For my brave friend death has no disguise

He wears the mask of illness on his face
He wears the cloak of silence at the trace
One night he bit his finger through and spat it out in the snow
His cries of madness caused my blood to freeze

When I awoke next morning he was dead
The wreckage of his body stiff and cold
I have to try and reach firm ground at least my diary must be found
That someday this sad story may be told

The soles of my feet became detached
Teeth, nails, muscles all are gone
Down icy pits I fell through space till brought up by my harness trace
Give up give up there’s no point in going on

Three weeks I staggered on across the ice
Then a cairn of snow by sheer chance I struck
A letter there told the tale of searching men that very day
Even now I can’t believe my luck

My pulse was racing as I saw the men
My journey at an end no more to do
My skeleton was easily raised and gently on the sledge was laid
My God they cried which one of them are you?

And later tears were wet upon their cheeks
And my own eyes fill with the telling of the tale
And on that bleak and distant shore the blizzard blows for evermore
For those in icy tombs out on the trail

By Andy Irvine – IMRO/MCPS

Irvine’s self-penned song, “Douglas Mawson”, about the epic and tragic Antarctic expedition of 1911.


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