Alone on the Ice: A Story of Survival at Nat Geo Live!

By Punch Correspondent Karen Garnick

National Geographic Live! kicked off its Quest for Adventure series this past Wednesday evening with Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration. The story was told by award-winning writer and adventurer David Roberts, and his in depth knowledge alongside photos captured by Frank Hurley brought the tale of explorer Douglas Mawson to life.

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Mawson's ship Aurora, original photo by Frank Hurley

Douglas Mawson is little known outside of Australia, yet his compelling story is one of the greatest I have heard. I was unfamiliar with the name, and didnt know what to expect leading up to this event. What I discovered was this: In 1911, Mawson and a crew of 31 explorers set out on a 2 1/2 year expedition to bring back science from unexplored areas of Antarctica. These men faced everything from constant winds that averaged at 60mph to the fear of falling in deadly crevasses, and had no communication with the outside world.

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Mawson's explorers chipping ice for drinking water in the strong winds, original photo by Frank Hurley

The big story however, was the survival of Mawson. After the other 2 members of his 3 person team lost their lives, he was faced with a 95 mile trek back to base camp in the worst of conditions, with only 1 1/2 weeks left of food (the trip took 32 days), and all his remaining supplies manhauled on his sledge. He was so malnourished and beaten up, at one point the skin of his soles literally separated from the rest of his feet. He lost chunks of hair, fell down a crevasse and had to pull himself up 14 feet of rope (twice), and resorted to eating his sled dogs. What kept him going as he faced death was the quote, “Just have one more try, its easy to die, its the keeping on living thats hard.” He did survive, and returned to base camp 100 years ago today (he actually missed the rescue ship by 5 hours, leaving him stranded for another winter on the deadly continent). The nitty-gritty details can be found in the January 2013 edition of National Geographic, as well as Robert’s book, Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration.

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David Roberts signs books at National Geographic headquarters

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The next two events this this series are Adventures in Polar Exploration on February 28, 2013, and Buzz Aldrin: Mission to Mars on May 9, 2013. Both events are at 7:30pm and single tickets are $22.

See a schedule of all National Geographic Live! events here.

About Karen Garnick:
Correspondent Karen Garnick is a California native trying to get accustomed to the East Coast lifestyle (and weather!). By day, she works as an event planner for a think tank, and by night you can find her out on the town. She is a world traveler, loves baby animals, and enjoys curling up to a good book and glass of wine. Contact her at kgarnick@gmail.com.
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