Mawson Primary School is named after Sir Douglas Mawson, Australia's most famous Antarctic explorer. His story reveals a man who gave his energy and almost his life to explore and study the coldest place on earth. Mawson's determination and approach to life taught us something about the strength of the human spirit. Our school motto is Strive to Succeed.
At school, he was a bright student and was only sixteen years old when he started at the University of Sydney. He graduated in Engineering and Science and got a job at the University of Adelaide lecturing in petrology - the study of the origin and structure of rocks. His first chance to visit this cold continent came when he was twenty-six. He joined an expedition headed by British explorer Ernest Shackleton. The team was the first to climb to the top of Mount Erebus, Antarctica's active volcano, and the first to reach the magnetic South Pole.
In 1911, when he was thirty years of age, he returned as leader of the first Australasian Expedition to Antarctica. His aim was to map and explore the coastal area of Antarctica closest to Australia. Mawson selected his team and in the ship 'Aurora' they sailed through one thousand, five hundred kilometres of pack ice to the Antarctic coast. Their first job was to build a hut which they named "Home of the Blizzard" because three hundred kilometre per hour winds blew men off their feet. They were the most fearsome gales on the planet.
From their camp in Spring 1912 several parties of explorers set out on foot. Mawson took with him, Swiss scientist Dr. Xavier Mertz and Lieutenant Belgrave Ninnis and a team of Greenland huskies pulled their sleds. Mawson's party travelled east for over a thousand kilometres mapping the coastline, collecting geological samples and discovering huge glaciers.
But despite their success the journey proved tragic. Fighting appalling weather and poor light, the trio had to drag themselves and their supplies around crevasses and slippery ice covered rock. Just five weeks into the journey Ninnis disappeared down a deep crevasse with a team of dogs and the sled carrying most of the food. Mawson and Mertz had to turn back and in order to survive they were forced to shoot and eat the remaining huskies. Mertz became sick and increasingly weak and he too died.
Mawson was near death - his feet were bloody, his skin was falling away and he had lost a lot of weight. He would never know that what killed Mertz and made him sick was toxic levels of vitamin A from the dogs' livers they had eaten. When he fell into a crevasse, he was saved by a rope. He later wrote in his diary he felt tempted to give up - to cut the rope that held him.
But time and time again Mawson felt the presence of a spirit and found the strength to continue. He sawed his sled in half and dragged his poisoned body over more than one hundred and sixty kilometres of blizzard-swept ice and snow...to finally reach the safety of expedition headquarters. His epic trek was described as the greatest story of lone survival in polar exploration.
Mawson Primary School opened in 1968 and has provided the local community with high quality education from Preschool to Year 6 for 50 years.