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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.