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Local People

It is my intention to regularly feature short biographies of some of the local identities past and present (with permission of course). After 2-3 months, the biographies will be archived on a separate page.

Sir Douglas Mawson 1882-1958

Famed Antarctic Explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson, was born on May 5, 1882 in Shipley, Yorkshire and arrived in Australia with his parents two years later. He grew up in Sydney and attended the University of Sydney, where he majored in Engineering and Science. As a young  man, he came to Adelaide when he secured a position at the University of Adelaide, lecturing in both Geology and Petrology - the study of origin and structure of rocks.

At the age of 26, he joined the party of British explorer Ernest Shackleton, with whom he climbed Mount Erebus, the only active volcano on the Antarctic continent, and reached the South Pole. The frozen wasteland had him spellbound, and in 1911 Mawson led the first Australasian Expedition to Antarctica, the aim of which was to map the coast line closest to Australia.

The Mawson expedition has become somewhat of an historical event. Only Sir Douglas himself survived the expeditions. Both of his companions died on the polar ice. Five weeks into their journey, Lieutenant Belgrave Ninnis fell down a deep crevasse with a dog team and most of their food. Mawson and his remaining companion, Doctor Xavier Mertz, had to turn back. With little food left, they shot the remaining dogs and ate their livers, not knowing that the high levels of Vitamin A contained therein would kill Mertz and make Mawson very sick. Alone and unaided, Mawson made the 160km trek back to the expedition headquarters.

After his return from this expedition, he married Paquita Belprat in 1914 and lived in the seaside suburb of Brighton, where his two daughters grew up. He became Sir Douglas Mawson when he was knighted for his work in Antarctica the same year that he married. There were several more voyages of discovery ahead of Sir Douglas - he went to the Antarctic Region again in 1929 and 1936, and during the war years, he served as a Major in the British Ministry of Munitions.

But he had more ties to South Australia than just working at the University and living at Brighton. In 1920 he founded South Australian Hardwoods Ltd. and set up a mill adjacent to Kuitpo Forest. He also owned a 1200 acre property known as Harewood which became his retreat from city life. He spent a good deal of time recovering from his Antarctic exploits there. The property is between Meadows and the Kuitpo Forest, not far from where he set up the Mill. The main street of Meadows is named in his honour.