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Douglas Mawson: Later years

Sir Douglas Mawson made three expeditions to Antarctica including the AAE 1911-14 and BANZARE 1929-31. Explore these through the collections of the State Library of South Australia.

Mawson returned to the University of Adelaide in 1919 following World War I and was appointed Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Adelaide in 1921.  He developed a fine teaching and research unit and insisted on his students undertaking  geological field-work personally leading many of these field expeditions himself. His own research work included work on the the 'Adelaide System' of Precambrian rocks, especially in the Flinders Ranges. He concentrated on Proterozoic stratigraphy and Precambrian glaciation, showing that glacial beds extended for 930 miles (1497 km) and that glacial conditions existed intermittently over much of Proterozoic time. His international reputation was such that he was able to draw upon the assistance of specialists from around the world in describing rocks and fossils collected in Australia and Antarctica.

Besides his university work Mawson now had influence with the Australian government, and with this he began to agitate for Australia to claim the Antarctic quadrant to its south, in part to protect its fauna from unregulated harvesting, in part to be ready to lay claim to any mineral finds. He was instrumental in establishing Macquarie Island as a wildlife sanctuary. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) in 1947. Mawson retired from the Executive Planning Committee of ANARE in 1958.

Apart from geology and Antarctica, Mawson cultivated a broad range of interests including conservation, farming and forestry. He was a founding director of S.A. Hardwoods which had mills near Kuitpo Forest, Wirrabara and Glencoe (South East) as well as in the city. He was a supporter of strict regulation of the whaling industry.

Mawson had married, on 31 March 1914 at Holy Trinity Church, Balaclava, Melbourne, Francisca Adriana (Paquita) Delprat (1891-1974), daughter of Guillaume Delprat. Captain John King Davis was his best man. The couple endured a long separation during his Australiasian Antarctic Expedition and they had both written many letters during this period which were published recently. They had two daughters and lived at Brighton.

Mawson suffered a stroke 12 October 1958 and died 2 days later. A state funeral was held at St Jude's Church at Brighton and he was buried in its graveyard

Mawson Base in the Antarctic is named in his honour.


The unveiling of Antarctica: Presidential address by Douglas Mawson. Twenty-second meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, Melbourne, January 1935. The paper presents an overview of the discovery and exploration of the Antarctic, and then poses the question 'of what use ... what role is it to occupy'. Mawson gives the then current state of territorial claims and suggests prospects for economic development including summer pleasure cruises and fur farming.

Australian Antarctic Division: Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE)

Australian Antarctic Division: Mawson: a brief history On 13 February 1954, a party led by Phillip Law raised the Australian flag on the rocky shore of Horseshoe Harbour, Mac Robertson Land, naming the new station in honour of Australia’s greatest polar explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson.