January 17, 1912: Mawson’s will to survive

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

[Mawson had fallen into a crevasse, with no hope whatever of rescue]

“From those flights of mind I came back to earth, and remembering how Providence had miraculously brought me so far, felt that nothing was impossible and determined to act up to [poet Robert] Service’s lines: ‘Just have one more try–it’s dead easy to die,/ It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.’

“My strength was fast ebbing; in a few minutes it would be too late. It was the occasion for a supreme attempt. Fired by the passion that burns the blood in the act of strife, new power seemed to come as I applied myself to one last tremendous effort. The struggle occupied some time, but I slowly worked up to the surface. This time emreging feet first, still clinging to the rope, I pushed myself out extended at full length on the lid and then shuffled safely on to the solid ground at the side. . . .

“When consciousness returned it was a full hour or two later, for I was partly covered with newly fallen snow and numb with the cold. I took at least three hours to erect the tent, get things snugly inside and clear the snow from my clothes. . . .

“I was confronted with this problem: whether it was better to enjoy life for a few days, sleeping and eating my fill until the provisions gave out, or to ‘plug on’ again in hunger with the prospect of plunging at abny moment into eternity without the supreme satisfaction and pleasure of the food.”

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