Mawson and Mertz: a re-evaluation of their ill-fated mapping journey during the 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Carrington-Smith, Denise (2005) Mawson and Mertz: a re-evaluation of their ill-fated mapping journey during the 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Medical Journal of Australia, 183 (11-12). pp. 638-641.

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Abstract

During the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911–1914, Douglas Mawson and two companions, Belgrave Ninnis and Xavier Mertz, undertook an ill-fated mapping journey. Ninnis died when he fell down a crevasse, together with the sledge carrying most of their food supplies, and later Mertz became ill and died. Only Mawson returned. In 1969, Cleland and Southcott proposed that Mertz died of vitamin A toxicity and Mawson suffered from the effects of hypervitaminosis A because, with little food left, they were forced to eat their surviving dogs, including the liver. This hypothesis was supported by Shearman in 1978. After re-evaluating this hypothesis, I propose that Mawson and Mertz suffered from the effects of severe food deprivation, not from hypervitaminosis A, and that Mertz died as he was unable to tolerate the change from his usual vegetarian diet to a diet of mainly dog meat. I also suggest that Mertz’s condition was aggravated by the psychological stress of being forced to eat the dogs he had cared for for 18 months.

Item ID: 14061
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: Antarctic; Mawson; Mertz
ISSN: 1326-5377
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2010 10:39
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160801 Applied Sociology, Program Evaluation and Social Impact Assessment @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210102 Archaeological Science @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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