If a man’s going to die …

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July 1956

Previously on the dark sea ice: Their first expedition in the dark winter was a dangerous journey on the treacherous sea ice high way, to find a group of islands discovered by Douglas Mawson in 1930 but never again seen. Dark omens snapped at their heels as they set out. They found the islands and turned for home. A wild storm blew in and the dogs refused to pull. The men yoked up, crawled on all fours and led the dogs onward.

Now, camped at the top of the cliff, with the dogs below them, they heard the sea ice break ….

 

men crawling 001_edited-1

 

 

 

A horizontal spray blasted, and ice broke into bombarding weapons while they clambered down to the dogs. Staked on the breaking ice, the dogs were wild with fear.

There are rules for taking huskies up cliff faces. Mostly, it is done one dog at a time. It’s unorthodox (to say the least) to pull seven dogs, still on their mooring line, up a cliff.

They all knew it was a bad idea, made worse by the fact that Denny, the one bitch in the team, was in season. Of course, there was the blizzard to make the climb up the cliff a bit more exciting. Just the same, they decided that that was the plan they’d put in place.

Peter was on the front of the trace; Nils was in the middle; and Syd was on the tail end, going diagonally up the steep cliff. Halfway up, Peter slipped and let the dog line slacken.

In the midst of a life-threatening manoeuvre, in a blizzard, the dogs used the slack to investigate whether this allowed them to get to Denny. She stepped backwards into space and fell over the cliff, hanging on her collar, taking two dogs with her.

Now the three men had 120 kilograms of tethered, struggling husky, hanging off a trace in space. Have I mentioned that huskies are directly descended from wolves? They are enormous and they can be a bit moody!

Peter eventually secured a hold of his end of the trace while Streaky, whose nose was simply too close to Denny’s tantalising hindquarters, came up with a new plan of his own. “Ah, well,” Streaky reasoned as he hung in space by his neck. “If a man’s going to die, he might as well die happy.” Swinging in the wild wind, he attempted to mount Denny as they hung in space.

Three expeditioners dragged seven enraged huskies up a sheer wall of exposed rock and tethered them carefully. Around the tent the animals ate, while the men wondered at their own foolhardiness.dogg

 

 

 

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About lynettefinch

Dr Lynette Finch. Once I was a poster designer and illustrator. I ran a small poster business called Mantis Prints, specializing in political posters during the odd days of the Bjelke-Petersen Government in Queensland. I’m told my posters hung on the walls of Rizhsky railway station in Moscow, although I’m not sure about that. They are in the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery, on several on-line websites, and in the following book: Lynne Seear and Julie Ewington, eds. Light II, Contemporary Australian Art 1966-2006, Queensland Art Gallery Publishing, 2007, pp. 110-117. In my next incarnation I was a senior lecturer in history. I published books and articles on urban health and feeding people in modern industrial cities, on the Queensland home front in the second world war and the role and history of war propaganda. Sometimes I wrote about Marxism and its impact around the world as well as intimate oral histories of communists in Australia, their experiences in conservative society, their role as social and political radicals in small towns and cities. Once I went through a death phase and wrote about the role of the Coroners Court in colonial society, about abortion and infanticide in nineteenth century cities, and about the role of gossip in policing. My research took a decidedly happier direction when I was granted an Arts Fellowship to Antarctica in the 2007/08 season, as research for a biography about Antarctic surveyor and explorer Syd Kirkby. I bunkered down in a blizzard in Brooke's hut near Davis station and imagined what it was like for Syd, caught for twelve days in a 150-knot blizzard, high in the plateau beyond Mawson in 1960. Some of my books: Australia’s Frontline: Remembering the 1939-45 War. With the rapid escalation of the Pacific War in 1942, Queenslanders suddenly found themselves perilously close to the frontline, especially those in the far north. The book is based on interviews of men and women who worked their farms in the north, some of them Italians and Germans who were interned as enemy aliens. Nevertheless, the book is essentially a story of courage, of community spirit and neighbourliness, and of the public and private war effort of a community facing crisis and loss. Dark Angel: Propaganda in Modern Warfare. This book traces the origins and development of propaganda and media manipulation from the 1800s to today’s ‘spin’ and ‘false news’. Why have governments at war allocated resources to propaganda leaflets, broadcasts, movies and art during major military conflicts? Read the book. You’ll find the answer. The Classing Gaze: Sexuality, Class and Surveillance. Concepts like sexuality and class share the same moment of birth during the nineteenth century as social inquiry turned to analysis of the workings, population growth, thought patterns, economic systems and internal bodily workings of humans (or Man, to be historically accurate). How did these ideological concepts impact in the real world? A great deal, is the short answer, outlined in this book. Young in a Warm Climate: a history of childhood in Queensland is an edited volume about childhood on the Queensland frontiers, at school, at home, in hospitals and other institutions. Fixing Antarctica: Mapping the Frozen South. In 1956, in the height of the cold war, the biggest wintering expedition that Australia had ever sent to Antarctica set out to map the great frozen landmass of Antarctica, driven by official fears that the Soviet Union meant to take the continent for themselves. The fourteen scientists were chosen from a field of hundreds of applicants. The surveyor, the central character in Fixing Antarctica, was Sydney Kirkby. Over the next twenty years, Syd Kirkby explored and map more unknown regions in the world than any other person in history. Earth, Wind and Fire is essentially twelve generations of my father’s mother’s family but it’s much more than that. It’s kind of Game of Thrones without the dragons. It starts with a kidnapped girl in Shelford, Nottinghamshire in the east midlands of England in 1618 and follows an unbroken chain of recorded births, deaths and marriages which spans four centuries until, six generations later, her descendants flee their farms in Ireland and join the diaspora to Australia. Using family stories, family photographs, published diaries and official documents, it’s the interwoven stories of five families struggling to survive amidst the most tumultuous times in European history. What’s next? I’m wandering into the boggy territory of creative fiction, writing a series of crime stories set on King Island, a beautiful windy island in the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania. I’ve finished the first draft of Book One, The Rock. There will be seven, I think. I’m also writing a stand along novel, called The Key Collector. It’s about a World traveller, Angela who settles in a Tasmanian village near her daughter and grandson where she witnesses a car crash that kills three women. Convinced the collision was an act of murder, she digs into the tragic lives of the victims and is mired in a mystery stretching across three continents and reaching into the second world war.

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