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13 of history's greatest polar explorers

Douglas Mawson

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Douglas Mawson

Australian geologist Douglas Mawson turned down an invitation to join Scott’s South Pole expedition and instead chose to chart the 2,000-mile Antarctic coastline south of Australia, a region that was largely unexplored. At one point Mawson was part of a three-man crew that was collecting geological samples and mapping the coast when one of the men, Lt. Belgrave Ninnis, fell to his death, carrying most of the team’s supplies with him. Mawson and his companion, Xavier Mertz, decided to turn back afterward, but the journey was harrowing and resulted in Mertz’s death. Mawson traveled the remaining 100 miles alone, only to find that his ship had departed without him hours before, so he weathered another year on the continent before returning home. However, not all was lost — Mawson's expedition led to a better understanding of the continent’s geology, biology and meteorology, and he was able to more closely define the location of the South Magnetic Pole.