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Mawson's Will: The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written Paperback – February 4, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth; Subsequent edition (February 4, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586420003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586420000
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Named One of the Ten Best Books of Twentieth-Century Exploration by The Explorer's Club

"The most outstanding solo journey ever recorded in Antarctic history." -- Sir Edmund Hillary

"A riveting account . . . makes Mawson's achievement a symbol of the desire to live." -- The New York Times Book Review

"A powerful reading experience." -- Publishers Weekly

"Both grim and inspiring reading." -- The Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Australian author Lennard Bickel reconstructed Mawson's journey from the diaries of Mawson and other members of his expedition. He is the author of seven books, including Shackleton's Forgotten Men.

Customer Reviews

You cant go to sleep in a nice warm bed with a guy hanging in an ice crevasse on a gracier!
Mark Loughridge
The book is wonderfully writen, a quick read and it will stimulate your interest in all polar explorations.
Marc Ranger
This story will shows the amazing courage and determination of any survival story I ever read.
Theresa Woolston

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Rodney Meek VINE VOICE on November 20, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This slim volume details the plight of the Antarctic expedition of the Australian explorer Douglas Mawson in 1911. Seemingly few people are aware of this particular foray into the polar south, as the Scott tragedy looms largest in the public consciousness and there is a new vogue for the remarkable exploits of Ernest Shackleton in this same time frame. However, this is a story worth telling.
For those who are not obsessively interested in accounts of polar exploration, this books serves as a good introduction to the genre. It's almost novelistic in its easy yet vivid narrative flow, and unlike more encylopedic works, it avoids getting bogged down in excessive side treks about rival explorers or earlier achievements in the mapping and scouting of the continent.
Even so, it has a glaring weakness in its lack of footnotes or a bibliography. Bickel recounts entire conversations verbatim and even details the thoughts of several individuals, all without documenting the sources for such material. Since some of the quoted individuals died on the journey, one can only assume that the author is drawing from their expedition journals, and yet there is only a vague allusion to this in the afterword. More annoyingly, Bickel describes the immediate events preceding the death of one of the men from the point of view of the soon-to-be-deceased explorer, even though his two surviving comrades weren't even eyewitnesses to the moment of the tragedy. This gives rise to the suspicion that poetic license may have been somewhat abused in the composition of this book.
There are a number of photos of expedition members, their ship, and their camp. Sadly, no map is provided, making it difficult for the reader to follow Mawson's progress.
Bickel certainly does good work in shedding some light on this little known expedition, especially on the causes of the death of the second explorer. But the lack of notation of sources is a serious drawback.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Harvey M. Solomon on April 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book when it was first published and was captivated by the heroic nature of Mawson's journey druing which both of his companions died.It is a remarkable tribute to a man of very unusual abilities. Unlike the Scott expeditions, which were of no significant scientific importance, Mawson was a trained geologist with an interest in locating the South Magnetic Pole and extablishing its geographic variation. He was also the first to establish communication by radio to Australia from Antarcticia via a relay station on Mcquery Island. Read this book to appreciate how a man driven to the extreme manages to survive under conditions which are almost impossible to believe. Ponder on his accomplishments compared to those of Scott and marvel at how the British managed to make a hero out of Scott, a villain of Amundsen and a foot note in polar history of Mawson. Amundsen is reported to have described Scott as one of the better sled dogs the British brought to Antarcticia. This was in part a response to the way his success was received by them. For those interested in the details of Mawson's Austrialian- New Zealand expedition, a reprint of his own book is now available. It makes interesting reading as well
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jimmy Neon on May 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
I first 'heard' Mawson's Will as it was read, unabridged, on PBS in 1979. I soon found the book and have read it repeatedly over the years. Mawson's Will, along with Niven's Known Space series of Sci.Fi. adventures might be all a soul would need if sealed up with only a few books to choose from.
The description of the soles of Mawson's feel as they separted from his body and had to be tied on with leather strips is something you'll never forget, remembering he was hundreds of miles from safety. He ate what he could find without knowing he was slowly poisoning himself with excess vitimin A with every bite. The author writes in a way that makes the story seem immediate and real.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By calmly on October 15, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rarely has fiction served the truth so well. Rarely has the truth served fiction so well.

Mawson's own account of his ordeal, in "The Home of The Blizzard", seems relatively matter of fact. We may not have marvelled at Mawson's accomplishment in surviving if we relied only on his way of telling it. Although a good writer, his specialities were geography and exploration.

Bickel's presentation here in "Mawson's Will" makes Mawson's accomplishment more touching than Mawson's own presentation. But it took an extraordinary writing accomplishment by Bickel to convey Mawson's accomplishment. Poetic license? To fail to understand how much faithful art it took to go from Mawson's diaries and book to Bickel's account would be to not appreciate how much effort and skill it took for Bickel to bring Mawson's tale so fully alive. If Bickel hadn't taken poetic license, this tale may have been of more interest to the most purist historian but it would have been of far less human interest. Sensitive to our lack of understanding of the Antartic experience, Bickel put us there in a way we never could have gotten from Mawson's own account. The last one hundred pages of "Mawson's Will" are as riveting as anything I've read in years.

Bickel's faithfulness to Mawson has made this a special work of art. Because of Bickel, we can be amazed at how Mawson survived and understand something profound about the human will.

P.S. I wake up the next day to find the story is still strong on my mind. Mawson returned to Australia to find his beloved waiting, married her, in time actually returned to the Antartic for exploration, and lived til 73.
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