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4.8 out of 5 stars
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 4 May 2013
This book's subtitle - "The greatest survival story in the history of exploration" - is Sir Edmund Hillary's assessment of Sir Douglas Mawson's achievement, and Hillary of course knew a thing or two himself. Mawson is, or was, a household name in his native Australia, and used to adorn a banknote there, but few non-specialists outside the continent today will know who he was or what he accomplished. Mawson's Antarctic exploits have got lost somewhere between those of Scott and Shackleton. David Roberts, recognising a looming centenary when he sees one, has made it his task to remedy matters.

Douglas Mawson was a young geologist who would enjoy a lifelong association with Adelaide University. As an Antarctic explorer he earned his spurs on Shackleton's 1908 expedition aimed at reaching the South Pole, but as a scientist Mawson was interested in other things. Mawson's team on that trip was charged with getting as close as possible to the South Magnetic Pole which, unlike the fixed `true' pole, wanders considerably.

In 1912 Mawson returned with is own expedition at around the time Scott and Amundsen were racing each other to the South Pole. Mawson's aims were again scientific and geological, but he was also seeking to map as much as possible of the area of Antarctica closest to Australia. Sending part of his party to a separate departure point far to the west, he divided the main party into teams of three and, having overwintered, each set off to explore in different directions. Mawson's own team found itself in desperate trouble, the tale that is at the heart of `Alone on the Ice'. Even having survived appalling conditions in a crevasses-riddled landscape, with limited gear and dwindling rations, the endlessly determined and self-reliant Mawson found on his return to base new adversities waiting for him.

Mawson had with him in 1912-13 two men who played an important part in the golden age of Anatarctic exploration. One was Frank Wild, an Englishman who had been with Scott's 'Discovery' expedition and with Shackelton and Mawson in 1908. Put in charge of Mawson's western party, Wild would become even more famous as part of Shackleton's marathon trials of 1914-17. The other man was a young Australian photographer, Frank Hurley, whose photographs are well reproduced in this book and whose record of Shackleton's later expedition would set the seal on its fame.

The book cries out for a proper map of Antarctica, but in telling this thrilling tale for a new generation of readers, and putting it into context, the author has done the memory of Douglas Mawson a great service.
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on 8 July 2013
This boook tells the tale of the most extensive and successful, in terms of scientific achievement, polar expedition of that age. The expedition is most remembered for the tragic deaths of Ninnis and Mertz on the Eastern sledging party led by Mawson, who had to endure extraordinary feats of super-human endurance to survive the ordeal and make it back to the hut. This must sit alongside the survival of the 'Endurance' expedition led by Shackleton in terms of polar extremes. However, the tale is not as famous or renown as one might expect it should be. This is owing to the death of Scott and his south polar party as well as the outbreak of the first world war.

David Roberts has done a wonderful job of bringing to life an important story in polar history and placing Mawson into the pantheon of polar greats. The book is well constructed and an enjoyable read. I would thoroughly recommmend it.
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on 13 July 2015
Good but not...That Good...Really the title deceives...The 'Alone on the Ice' is but one section...I was looking for a book ALL about that.But it is a window into much of what happened in those early Pre-modern days of Exploration...Yep, it is very much worth it's shelf space.And if I hadn't already read fairly exstensively about such matters I would be Jolly Pleased with it.
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on 17 July 2015
I had never heard of this expedition and found it absolutely fascinating. It is a very atmospheric and unforgettable story. No detail is left out and it makes you feel like you are in Antarctica with the explorers, mapping a mysterious continent for the first time. Not to mention the incredible survival of an amazing hero. Really got me hooked on polar exploration books.
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on 7 May 2014
My husband is a nut about arctic and Antarctic stories. He found this a terrific read, made him unsociable for a couple of days! Well worth it to those who have the interest.
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on 11 January 2015
I love great adventure books and this is top notch! Like a thriller to read and good historical investigation. Up there with the Shackleton stories and Papillon. Have a good time, and prepare to be unsociable for a couple of days.
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on 21 January 2015
This really was "the greatest survival story ever." Very well researched and written. I was totally captivated. Only criticism is the lack of adequate maps of Antarctica generally showing geographic features mentioned in text and routes of various expeditions; and detailed maps of the journeys made by Mawson and his teams.
Jevan
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on 30 March 2014
A fascinating read. How on earth can a human being show such resilience and endurance in such a hostile world.
Very well written and gripping from beginning to end.
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on 17 August 2016
I couldn't put the book down from the first chapter to the last. A worthwhile read for anyone who romanticises themselves as a bit of an adventurer!
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on 1 April 2014
A brilliant read for anyone interested in polar explorers. You really get to feel you know the men involved and share their experiences and pain.
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