Australian Polar Collections

Douglas Mawson

Douglas Mawson. Portrait taken at around the time of the Australian Antarctic Expedition (1911–1914).

An Intimate Look at a Celebrated Explorer

Was Sir Douglas Mawson the man we all think he is? Senior Collection Manager in Australian Polar Collections Mark Pharaoh is researching the man behind the balaclava – not the explorer, but the man himself.

Mark is researching this intimate look at Mawson’s life based on copies of letters from Iris de Rego to her family in the 1930s. The letters bring into question Mawson’s fidelity to his wife Paquita, while he was in England promoting his film, Siege of the South.

This scholarly research is not grant funded; it is a personal interest pursuit for Mark, which he works on when time and other pressures allow.

Other areas of research include: sub-Antarctic sealing history, particularly on Macquarie Island until WWI; polar newspapers, including the Adelie Blizzard in 1912–13; restoring the first successful colour photographs taken in the Antarctic; the distribution of Wilkins specimens in natural history museums, as well as artefacts relating to his ventures; Rymill’s polar legacy; and the context of South Australia’s polar monopoly (all expeditions to polar regions until government-led ventures in the late 1950s were commanded by born or bred South Australians).