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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Yourview@ theaus­tralian.com.au

for one per­son, Kirkby ob­jects to my sug­ges­tion that the strict ra­tioning im­posed by Maw­son

‘‘ was starv­ing them to death’’. Yet an ar­ti­cle in The Med­i­cal Jour­nal of Aus­tralia in 2005 con­cluded Mertz died from ex­treme mal­nu­tri­tion.

As to Maw­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence in fall­ing down the crevasse, Kirkby says he has never heard of a

‘‘ sledge pole’’. Yet, as I de­tail in my book, Antarc­tica: A Bi­og­ra­phy, it was Maw­son him­self who wrote in a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle: ‘‘ Sev­eral times I fell into crevasses to the length of my sledge pole and was scarcely able to crawl out.’’

My ar­ti­cle was in­tended to raise ques­tions that have long gone unasked about Maw­son’s ill-fated trek and to an­swer them to the ex­tent that the ev­i­dence makes pos­si­ble. That, af­ter all, is the role of a his­to­rian. David Day Eltham, Vic­to­ria Ed­i­tor’s note: David Day is an award-win­ning his­to­rian. I HAVE just fin­ished read­ing the re­cently pub­lished di­aries of my grand­fa­ther, John Ge­orge Hunter, who went with Dou­glas Maw­son on the Antarc­tic ex­pe­di­tion of 1911-13 ( Rise & Shine: Di­ary of John Ge­orge Hunter, Aus­tralasian Antarc­tic Ex­pe­di­tion 1911-1913, ). It seems ‘‘ the Doc­tor’’ (Maw­son) could be de­mand­ing but, ac­cord­ing to my grand­fa­ther, he was also a hard worker who spent con­sid­er­able time pre­par­ing ev­ery party for their sledg­ing jour­neys. When even­tu­ally told in a very suc­cinct mes­sage from Maw­son that Bel­grave Nin­nis and Xavier Mertz were dead (‘‘two bet­ter men never ex­isted’’, my grand­fa­ther wrote), he con­jec­tured ac­cu­rately that ‘‘ it was ei­ther star­va­tion or a crevasse & the lat­ter I think’’ that killed them. In retelling his jour­ney, Maw­son may have ex­ag­ger­ated his ex­pe­ri­ences, but as my grand­fa­ther noted in his di­ary: ‘‘ No other ex­pe­di­tion that has ever set out in any part of the world has had such con­di­tions to con­tend against (sic) . . . on Shack­le­ton’s ex­pe­di­tion where their bliz­zards only blew 40 miles an hour (64km/ h) for a day or so whereas our av­er­age for 9 months has been over 50 miles per hour (80.5km/ h)’’. It was the ‘‘ God-for­saken coun­try’’ that killed them, not

‘‘ am­bi­tion and rel­a­tive in­ex­pe­ri­ence’’, as David Day sug­gested in his ar­ti­cle. Denise Hunter Ar­tar­mon, NSW To be con­sid­ered for publi­ca­tion, let­ters must con­tain an ad­dress and tele­phone num­ber for ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Let­ters may be edited for length and clar­ity.

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