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Video clip synopsis – This clip explains the breadth and scope of Mawson’s expedition. It also explains the reasoning behind such an ambitious plan.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 2min 30sec
Tags - Antarctica, discovery, exploration, explorers, Mawson, Mertz, see all tags


Mawson's Other Purpose

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About the Video Clip


Mawson’s Other Purpose is an excerpt from the documentary Mawson – Life and Death in Antarctica produced in 2007.

Mawson – Life and Death in Antarctica
The Douglas Mawson Antarctic Expedition of 1912 is one of the most amazing feats of endurance of all time. Although his two companions perished, Douglas Mawson survived, but how? In a bold historical experiment, adventurer Tim Jarvis retraces the gruelling experience, with similar meagre rations, primitive clothing and equipment to uncover what happened to Mawson physically—and mentally—as a man hanging on the precipice of life and death.

A Film Australia Making History Production in association with Orana Films. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Channel 4.

Special thanks to the National Film and Sound Archive (of Australia).
Images in the clip courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Curriculum Focus


How has a significant person, group or event helped to shape the modern world?

Background Information


The Douglas Mawson Antarctic Expedition of 1912 is one of the most amazing feats of physical and mental endurance of all time. After a horrific journey across hundreds of kilometres of frozen wasteland, during which his two companions perished, the world was amazed to hear that Douglas Mawson had survived. Some questioned how it was possible, and the media of the day reported that he’d considered eating the body of his dead comrade, Xavier Mertz.

Mawson was later knighted and became a hero, but the question of how he lived when others died has tantalised scientists, historians and explorers ever since.

Now, Australian adventurer Tim Jarvis retraces Mawson’s gruelling experience to find an answer. Having been almost killed during his own solo trek to the South Pole in 1999, he confronts the deadly ice again—as Mawson did, with similar meagre rations and primitive clothing and equipment.

It’s a bold and unprecedented historical experiment that will provide clues to what happened to Mawson physically— and mentally—as a man hanging on the precipice of life and death. Combining the drama of Jarvis’s contemporary adventure with chilling dramatic reconstructions, expert commentary and stunning footage from the original expedition photographed by Frank Hurley, this is an extraordinary story of human survival.

Classroom Activities

  1. The clip opens with a montage of images of Paquita Delprat, Mawson’s fiancée. Write a short biographical profile of her and in it try to explain why this was a significant union in Australian History.
  2. Mawson: Life and Death in Antarctica explains the expedition of Mawson. Why, though, do you think the filmmaker has the added the information about his relationship with Paquita Delprat? What sort of effect does it create for the audience watching it?
  3. Why is it important for the audience to know about the dogs accompanying Mawson and his party on their expedition?
  4. Why was it important for Australia, that these expeditions took place in the first instance?
  5. What did Mawson and his party hope to find?
  6. Research the expeditions of 1912. Divide up into 6 groups and investigate the six courses that were set. Find out:
    1. What route they took. (Map this out)
    2. Which personnel went on each expedition.
    3. Outcome of the expeditions.
  7. Designed either for poster or web page display, draw a map (or a collection of interrelated maps) of Antarctica showing how it is separated into international sectors of control and governance. Label each one. In the Australian sector, mark and label the positions of the main bases and settlements, the important geographic features, the routes taken by past expedition teams such as those by Mawson, and any other features of importance.

Further Resources


Australian Dictionary of Biography Online – Mawson, Sir Douglas