John Henry Collison Close, Antarctic Expeditioner (1878-1949)

Photograph - Frank Hurley, Portrait of J.H. Close, 1911-1914

Image: Photograph - Frank Hurley, Portrait of J.H. Close, 1911-1914

Source: Museum Victoria

John Henry Collison Close, was born in Sydney in 1871. At the age of twenty, with the outbreak of the South African War, he enlisted in the armed forces and saw active service in Rhodesia. When he was selected to join the Australian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) he was teaching physical culture in Sydney.

An Antarctic expeditioner with Sir Douglas Mawson from 1912-1914, Close was a member of the Main Base Party (Adelie Land) and several sledging parties. He spent two summers and one winter in the Antarctic.

On one of the sledging journeys, Close was instrumental in saving his own life and that of his two companions, Frank Stillwell and Charles Laseron. The group were about to enjoy a hot breakfast at 'Aladdin's Cave' - a shelter dug out of the snow on the plateau above Cape Denison - when Stillwell and Laseron suddenly collapsed unconscious. Realising that accumulating carbon monoxide was threatening their lives, Close thrust an ice axe through the snow blocking the cave's entrance before blacking out himself. The deadly gas escaped through the small hole, allowing the three men to regain consciousness and make a slow recovery.

References
Sir Douglas Mawson (1996). The home of the blizzard: the story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914. Wakefield Press, South Australia
Australian Antarctic Division. 'Home of the Blizzard'. http://www.mawsonshuts.aq/cape-denison/people/john-henry-collision-close.htm accessed 9/3/2010

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