Mad men and husky dogs


Husky_edited-1 with colour more colourJuly 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 island that Douglas Mawson found in 1930. Dark omens snapped at their heels as they set out. They found the islands and turned for home. Camped at the top of the cliff, with the dogs below them, they heard the sea ice break. After trialling a new technique of getting the dogs to the top of the cliff, they eventually returned to their tent on the cliff face while the dogs ate beside them. …

At midday the sun appeared, but the barometer plunged dramatically. A four-inch swell rocked the ice, and the tide crack grew wider.

Syd was confident that the full moon’s light was sufficient for navigation, and so they lowered the dogs down, one by one, and staked them on the shifting ice shoulder.

It was not easy to build an ice bridge across the six-feet-wide gap, but it was an even greater challenge to convince the huskies that this wasn’t another example of human treachery. Eventually, at three in the afternoon,  the three men and six dogs crossed the ice bridge and left the island.

They  “made good time for the first seventy minutes (six miles) but were then slowed by an increase in the wind.” There was still some light from the moon, and after two hours they had made ten miles.

They stopped for a block of chocolate and to rest the dogs. Nils was stiff; his feet were sore; and his face was frostbitten. He rode in the sledge for the next four and a half miles as they pressed onwards towards Welch Island in a steady fifty-knot wind directly into their faces. They arrived at Welch an hour later.

Calculating that they could cover the remaining six miles in the three hours it would have taken to pitch camp, they decided to push onwards to Mawson. “Fate had one more nudge in the ribs for us. About a mile past Welch we ran into heavy sastrugi.”

There were no records of high, ramped-up rolls of hard snow on sea ice, and yet they were confronted with: “stumbling, tumbling backside over breakfast sastrugi.” The dogs could hardly see over the high piles, and the exhausted men could barely keep on their feet, but they pushed themselves through hours of horrible effort to be rewarded the next day as they stumbled into Mawson, in serious need of reassurance of their sanity.


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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