This sledge is one of three in the Museum's collection from Mawson's 1911-1914 expedition. As a group they are typical of the three sledges used by Mawson on his epic journey with Mertz and Ninnis. They are a tangible and historic reminder of Australia's pioneering years in Antarctic exploration and research.
This sledge is one of the twenty Norwegian-made sledges used on the expedition. The wooden sledges, hauled by dogs or men, were used to carry camping supplies, food and scientific equipment on sledging journeys of many weeks over the snow and ice. This sledge has Mawson's name stencilled on it. It is fitted with two plywood boxes. One box was used to carry the kerosene-powered "primus" heater and the Nansen sledge cooker for the preparation of meals and melting snow for tea and cocoa. Daily rations included pemmican (powdered dried beef) for making a thick soup (hoosh) as the main meal, as well as chocolate, biscuits and butter. The other box carried valuable scientific equipment.
On 10 November 1913 Mawson, accompanied by Dr Xavier Mertz and Lieutenant B. (Belgrave) E.S. Ninnis, left the base at Cape Denison, taking three sledges and sixteen dogs. After thirty-four days of hard travelling they reached a point 315 miles (507 km) inland from the base before heading back. Tragically Ninnis died when he and his sledge, which was carrying most of the food, fell into a deep crevasse. On the long journey back the two men ate the dogs and Mertz died from cold and exhaustion. Mawson struggled on alone, persistently taking his meteorological readings and cutting his sledge in half to reduce its weight. He arrived back at the hut only hours after his ship the "Aurora" had left to return to Australia. Mawson remained in Antarctica with the wintering party and returned home in 1914. The AAE expedition is now remembered more for this trek, in which Mawson made a remarkable and unsurpassed solo sledging journey of about 100 miles (161 km), than for its scientific achievements.
"Antarctica: Discovery and Exploration, 1587-1922", Exhibition Catalogue, State Library of New South Wales, 1983.
Ayres, Philip, "Mawson A Life", Melbourne University Press, Carlton, VIC, 2003.
Correspondence from Australian Museum archives.
Correspondence from Powerhouse Museum Archives.
Laseron, Charles Francis, "South With Mawson", Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1957.
Mawson, Sir Douglas, "The Home of the Blizzard : The Story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914", fac. edn. Wakefield Press, Kent Town, SA, 1996.
Wheeler, Barbara & Linda Young, 'Antarctica in museum: the Mawson collections in Australia' in "Polar Record 36 (198): 193-200 (2000).
Assistant Curator, Science & Industry