January 17, 1912: Mawson alone, in the blue depths of the crevasse. . . .

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

“January 17 was another day of overcast sky and steady falling snow. Everything from below one’s feet to the sky above was one uniform ghostly glare. . . .

“I was hauling the sledge through deep snow up a fairly steep slope when my feet broke through into a crevasse. Fortunately as I fell I caught my weight with my arms on the edge and did not plunge further than the thighs. . . I decided to try a crossing about fifty yards further along, hoping that there it would be better bridged. Alas! it took an unexpected turn cathing me unawares. This time I shot through the centre of the bridge in a flash, but the latter part of the fall was decelerated by the friction of the harness ropes which, as the sledge ran up, sawed back into the thick compact snow forming the margin of the lid. . . .So it happened that as I fell through into the crevasse the thought “so this is the end” blazed up in my mind, for it was to be expected that the next moment the sledge would follow through, crash on my head and all go to the unseen bottom. But the unexpected happened. . . .

“Realizing that the sledge was holding I began to look around. The crevasse was somewhat over six feet wide and sheer walled, descending into the blue depths below. . . .Above at the other end of the fourteen-foot rope, was the daylight seen through the hole in the lid. In my weak condition, the prospect of climbing out seemed very poor indeed, but in a few moments the struggle was begun.”

“There, exhausted, wet and chilled, hanging freely in space and slowly turning round as the rope twisted one way and the other, I felt that I had done my utmost and failed, that I had no more strength to try again and that all was over except the passing. . . .I looked forward to the peace of the great release–how almost excited I was at the prospect of the unknown to be unveiled.


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