January 6, 1913: Hard times getting harder for Mawson and Mertz

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard“–

“January 6 was a great improvement on its predecessors, but the sky still remained overcast. Mertz agreed to try another stage. The grade was slightly downhill and the wind well behind, but these advantages were offset by an extremely slippery surface and awkward sastrugi ridges. Falls were frequent and they soon told severely upon my companion in his weak condition. At last, after consistently demurring, he consented to ride on the sledge. . . .After we had covered two and a half miles, Mertz became so chilled through inaction in the wind that, although otherwise all was going smoothly, there was nothing to do but pitch the tent.

“Mertz was depressed and, after a little refreshment sank back into his bag without saying much. He was troubled from time to time with recurrences of dysentry and had no power to hold in his stomach the broth which he was prevailed upon to swallow at intervals.

“Starvation combined with superficial frost-bite, alternating with the damp comdition in the sleeping-bags, had by this time resulted in a wholesale peeling of the skin all over our bodies; in its place only a very poor unnourished substitute appeared which readily rubbed raw in many places. . . .As we never took off our clothes, the peeling of hair and skin from our bodies worked down into our undertrousers and socks, and regular clearances were made from the latter.”

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