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Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-1914

Postcard - SY Aurora, Arch Hoadley, Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-14

Image: Postcard - SY Aurora, Arch Hoadley, Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-14

Source: Museum Victoria

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-1914 was organised by South Australian scientist Douglas Mawson. Mawson had participated in Shackleton's earlier British Antarctic Expedition, and had been invited to join Scott's ill-fated expedition but chose to organise his own Australian-based one.

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition consisted of eighteen men at the Main Base at Cape Dension, eight men at the Western Base on the Shackleton Ice Shelf and five men on Macquarie Island, along with the crew of their ship Aurora. Most of the expeditioners were Australians, with five New Zealanders and a number of experienced explorers from Britain and Switzerland.

The most famous incident of the expedition was when Belgrave Ninnis, on a sledging expedition with Xavier Mertz and Mawson, fell into a crevasse and died. Deprived of supplies, Mertz and Mawson were forced to eat their remaining sledging dogs on the return journey and Mertz died, possibly of Vitamin A poisoning from the dogs' livers. Mawson's skin started peeling from his feet and he just barely returned alive, with the soles of his feet strapped on. However he had just missed the departure of their ship and was forced to remain for another year along with five men who had stayed to wait for him.

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition was distinguished from other expeditions of its era by its major focus on scientific research, particularly in Mawson's field of geology. Amongst the other notable achievements of the expedition was the first radio transmission from Antarctica.

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