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DAVID Day (‘‘Flaws in the Ice’’, De­cem­ber 1-2) writes that tragedy be­fell Xavier Mertz and Bel­grave Nin­nis be­cause of Dou­glas Maw­son’s in­ex­pe­ri­ence and am­bi­tion. The facts do not sup­port this con­clu­sion.

On the Bri­tish Na­tional Antarc­tic (Dis­cov­ery) Ex­pe­di­tion (1901-04), Robert Fal­con Scott, Ed­ward Wil­son and Ernest Shack­le­ton at­tempted to reach the South Pole. The party trav­elled 960 miles (1545km) in 93 days. On the same ex­pe­di­tion, Scott and two com­pan­ions at­tempted to reach the South Mag­netic Pole. The party trav­elled 700 miles (1126km) in 59 days.

On the Bri­tish Antarc­tic (Nim­rod) Ex­pe­di­tion (1907-09), Shack­le­ton and two com­pan­ions reached a point 97 miles (156km) from the pole. In all, the party cov­ered 1700 miles (2736km).

Mean­while, ex­pe­di­tion mem­bers Maw­son and two com­pan­ions reached the South Mag­netic Pole. The re­turn jour­ney to­talled 1260 miles (2028km). Roald Amund­sen and three com­pan­ions reached the South Pole in De­cem­ber 1911 and re­turned safely.

Scott and his com­pan­ions reached the South Pole in Jan­uary 1912 and died on the re­turn jour­ney. Nin­nis and Mertz died in late 1912. By then Maw­son was a sea­soned Antarc­tic trav­eller. Only Shack­le­ton and his com­pan­ions, and those who reached the pole, were more ex­pe­ri­enced.

Scott had in­vited Maw­son to join the Bri­tish Antarc­tic (Terra Nova) Ex­pe­di­tion (1910-12), but Maw­son de­clined. He was not in­ter­ested in reach­ing the ge­o­graphic pole be­cause, un­like the mag­netic pole, its at­tain­ment was of no sci­en­tific value. If Maw­son were am­bi­tious, it was for knowl­edge, not for fame. Phil Vardy Wooloowin, Queens­land LUKE Slat­tery’s ele­gant col­umn on Epi­cure­anism (Fo­rum, De­cem­ber 89), wit­tingly con­densed by Jon Kudelka’s ac­com­pa­ny­ing car­toon, ex­horts us to read Daniel Klein’s

Trav­els with Epi­cu­rus, de­liv­ered from the Greek is­land of Hy­dra. As Slat­tery points out, this was ‘‘where Aus­tralian writ­ers Ge­orge John­ston and Charmian Clift lived and worked in the 1950s’’. It was also where a young Cana­dian poet and singer, Leonard Co­hen, ar­rived in 1960, bought a house and cul­ti­vated a friend­ship with the two. And it was on Hy­dra that he penned the out­line of his sub­lime Bird on a Wire. Epi­cu­rus would have ap­proved. Michael Jones Ar­tar­mon, NSW

ED­WARD Luce’s ex­po­si­tion Time to Start Think­ing: Amer­ica and the Spec­tre of De­cline, as re­viewed by Paul Monk (Re­view, De­cem­ber 1-2), ac­knowl­edges the US is in se­ri­ous trou­ble. How­ever, be­fore the cure, de­fined by Luce as pro­found struc­tural changes, can be un­der­taken, Amer­i­cans have to cleanse their minds of the semibib­li­cal be­lief that the Almighty has spe­cially en­dowed their coun­try. The corol­lary of that ex­cuses them from en­dur­ing any pain to help solve their prob­lems. Con­trary to what many Amer­i­cans be­lieve, their po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is not per­fect. The needed struc­tural changes that Luce talks about will be use­less un­less ac­com­pa­nied by a rev­o­lu­tion­ary ap­proach and an un­der­stand­ing of how the rest of the world at­tempts to solve its prob­lems. Nor does the rest of the world want to be like Amer­ica. James Prior Syl­va­nia Wa­ters, 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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