Published Jan 2010
Racing with Death tells the breathtaking story of Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expeditions, in which he more than once narrowly escaped with his life. His solitary struggle against the odds on his Australasian Antarctic Expedition was described by Sir Edmund Hillary as ‘the greatest survival story in the history of exploration’. Mawson had been a key member of Shackleton’s 1907-09 Nimrod expedition, when he was nearly lost down a crevasse. In 1911 his own Australasian Antarctic Expedition set off for the great white south, establishing base at Cape Denison, which proved to be the windiest place on Earth. Mawson sent out numerous sledging parties to explore different areas. But when first one and then the other of the two members of Mawson’s party died, he was left to struggle the hundreds of miles back to base on his own. Despite incredible hardships he made it, only to find that the rescue ship had sailed away, leaving him to face another year in the Antarctic. Mawson later led a two-year expedition that explored hundreds of miles of unknown coastline. Scientifically and geographically speaking, Mawson’s expeditions were truly groundbreaking, and established Australia as a key player in the Antarctic. Mawson himself, who had complex relationships with both Scott and Shackleton, was changed by his struggles in that harshest of environments and his story, brilliantly told by Beau Riffenburgh, is a fascinating insight into the human psyche under extreme duress.