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Mawson's Will: The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  851 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
Mawson's Will is the dramatic story of what Sir Edmund Hillary calls "the most outstanding solo journey ever recorded in Antarctic history." For weeks in Antarctica, Douglas Mawson faced some of the most daunting conditions ever known to man: blistering wind, snow, and cold; loss of his companion, his dogs and supplies, the skin on his hands and the soles of his feet; thir ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 4th 2000 by Steerforth (first published 1977)
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Ed Smiley
May 16, 2012 Ed Smiley rated it it was amazing
The "Greatest" in the subtitle seems to be no exaggeration. I give a summary in the spoiler section of what Mawson survived, in case you think I'm kidding. But I think it's best you skip it, and just get the book.

It is an amazing story, and it is one of the best in the genre. I am more or less OK with the fact that the author has detailed what Mawson "thought" and "saw", as Mawson kept fairly meticulous records (except towards the end, in a state of extreme exhaustion), and carefully measured di
Randolph Carter
Not nearly as literary as Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World but still page turning exciting and awe inspiring. Bickel doesn't mention many sources but we have to assume he had Douglas Mawson's own The Home of the Blizzard Being the Story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914 to go by and presumably his diaries. Up to a certain point he has Xavier Mertz's diary as well but I'm still not sure how Bickel fills in all the blanks so definitively particularly after M ...more
Natasha Johnson
Feb 04, 2013 Natasha Johnson rated it really liked it
This book has a lot if sentimental value to me. I remember my mom reading this book to me when I was a child living in Alaska and showing me the mechanics of ice bridges by laying a graham cracker across two books. It kindled my spirit of adventure and discovery!
Jun 14, 2008 Thorn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who found 'into thin air', and/or 'the endurance' by a. lansing difficult to put down
Recommended to Thorn by: a colleague told me it was his wife's favorite book, and it was
OH. MY. GOD. !!!!!!

i'm drawn to this kind of thing, apparently.
May 23, 2015 Tamhack rated it liked it
I have read many books of the explorations of the Antarctica and Arctic but had not heard of this. I think it was downplayed because of the stories of Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton. This story is equally as gripping and amazing. How do people survive such hardships? How after going through such hardships do they keep going back? What is the draw? For example Frank Wild went back 5 times despite extreme hardships.

What did Mawson achieve? Because his exploration was not goal of arriving at the S
Oct 06, 2016 Rich rated it it was ok
Unfortunately, I read this immediately after being entranced by Hampton Sides' tale of George De Long's misadventures in the Arctic Circle. In other words, I'd enjoyed a book that didn't endlessly pontificate on the harsh beauty of the freezing polar wilderness. Here's a short version of what is described for the majority of this book:

It was freezing. There was lots of ice. Ridiculous winds. Staggering feats of endurance. More wind. Snow-blindness. It's really bloody cold. Mawson is a badass. Va
Jun 06, 2011 Diane rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2010 WH rated it it was amazing
An engaging story set in the early 1900’s during the height of artic and polar exploration.

Rated as one of the 10 best books of 20th century exploration by The Explorer’s Club, Lennard Bickel chronicles the incredible story of Australian Douglas Mawson’s 1911-1913 Antarctic Expedition. Less renown than several of his counterparts including Amundsen, Shackleton, and Scott, he did, however, lead one of the greatest scientific and discovery expeditions of his day.

This relatively short read is less
Feb 09, 2016 Antares rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tammy Elliott
Oct 11, 2012 Tammy Elliott rated it it was amazing
I probably would have never read this particular book without the recommendation of my brother, Rick Seley. He felt it was the most remarkable true account of the power of human will and survival he'd ever read.
I found this book to be unique to others, genuine in its quest to document the heart and pure strength of the artic explorors of the time. It was so raw and honest at times, I apparently literally squirmed and grimmaced in my chair (according to family members) and it made my heart ache
Sep 06, 2012 Anna rated it liked it
Shelves: gifts, cold-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carol Smith
I will never complain about a trifling heel blister on a day hike again. Squirmed and groaned my way through the last half of this tragic story that never quite made the headlines in the heyday of Scott, Amundsen, and Shackleton. Not for the squeamish.

Rates up there with Touching the Void as an all-time favorite survival tale. Taut writing with sharp imagery - I definitely will be reading more of Lennard Bickel.

Enjoyed all the photos but can't believe the edition didn't include a map - a terribl
Carol Kean
Sep 20, 2012 Carol Kean rated it it was amazing
Gruesome, agonizing read, all the more so because it really happened. The man with the sled packed full of supplies plummeted into a deep crevasse. In despair, the remaining men ate their beloved and loyal sled dogs. Madness plagued the men. In the most charitable and humane gesture, Mawson passed up the choicest part of the sled dogs (liver) to keep his only companion alive. Many years later Mawson would learn why this was the worst thing he could have done for his friend. (No plot spoiler ...more
This is absolutely one of the best books I have ever read. I found it in the library by accident several years ago and read it for a home school unit study. Within a few pages my world was all about following this incredible man and his companions through their travels and trials. Home school lessons revolved around Antarctica and Douglas Mawson. This incredible and true story left me breathless and amazed. I remember talking about Mawson to anyone who would listen. If I could meet an historical ...more
Nov 11, 2012 Jason rated it it was amazing
I've read several stories of early explorers, including Shackleton's memoirs. This story stands on its own two feet up there with the best of them. I've come to believe that not just anyone could survive extreme conditions like this, even if you have the knowledge to do so. It takes a degree of perspicacity and faith in oneself to transcend physical hardships like those presented in this book. And, as you'll see from reading the author's prologue, there was a bit of luck involved as well.

Derek White
Mar 12, 2014 Derek White rated it it was ok
Somehow this book didn't have the passion or the sense of adventure that other books in this genre have. Sure, it's an amazing story of survival and accomplishment, but it largely left me flat--probably because there are more interesting survival stories and there are books that are better written on these subjects.

And somehow when the publisher (or author?) decides to call it the "The Greatest Survival Story Ever Written", the emphasis is on the writing rather than Mawson's accomplishment. And
Jan 24, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it
Yeah, an astonishing, fairly unbelievable survival story. Was it worth it? To stick a flag in the ice and claim it for the monarch, or the empire, or whatever? In my book, no. Not worth 18 dogs. Not worth the lives of two men. Certainly the times have changed; some of those Edwardian attitudes got routed out by WWI.

That said, the survival story is riveting and sad, and our man Mawson was the most MacGyver person ever. Turn the sloughed off soles of your feet into boots? You bet! Plus a whole bun
Mar 26, 2016 crashqueen73 rated it really liked it
The only reason that I am rating this a four is because all the details about the distances and directions had me a bit baffled at times, even though they were pertinent to the story. Let's face it- it was a scientific expedition and all these factors were of utmost importance.

The remainder of the story of Mawson's Will was riveting reading. I did not want to put it down, needing to find out what was going to happen to Mawson and his team of two men and a little over a dozen dogs.

This book was a
Jane King
Despite the many typos in the Kindle Version, this book gripped me throughout. Such courage, determination, compassion and devotion to comrades is so rare. The suffering of all involved including the beloved dogs is described in perfect detail along with the explanations of the vocabulary used to describe the beautiful but malevolent Antarctic terrain. Not a book for weak hearted when it comes to suffering but a must read for anyone interested in learning about these heroes and their adventures.
May 31, 2016 Yvette rated it really liked it
The first quarter of this book was a struggle to get through, but once the history lesson was over, the overly-dramatic prose kept me glued to it. There were many moments when I questioned how much of the writing was embellished, considering that the account was taken from Mawson's diary entries, however, I ended up being completely fine with that.

This book is not for the squeamish.

(Also--and I'm assuming this is caused the bad scanning software--the ebook version was extremely full of typos, i
Jun 01, 2016 John rated it liked it
A brutal, well-told story. Bickel is meticulous and uses Mawson's diary and corroborating accounts wherever possible. Although just as harrowing, I wasn't as gripped by Mawson's account as some others (Shackleton, for example). I'm trying to put my finger on why that is. There are two reasons, I think: first, Mawson's purpose: mapping Antarctic territory doesn't have as clear a destination as some other accounts, and second, the mistake that Mawson and Mertz made of eating the dogs' livers is ...more
Jun 29, 2013 Howard rated it it was amazing
If you ever think that you're having a hard day or you just don't think you can finish the last five minutes of your Insanity workout read this book. I won't give away too much but at one point Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson's feet were so damaged by exposure and overuse that he was compelled to tie the soles of his feet back onto the rest of his feet. And he was still hundreds of miles away from the relative safety of his base camp.
Mar 27, 2014 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The flap copy and photograph captions in this edition are pure spoilers! DO NOT read the flap or photo captions if you don't want the biggest cliffhangers of Mawson's incredible tale revealed to you. Besides having some of the suspense taken out of the story because I read the flap and captions (grrr), I was still riveted by this incredible tale of survival and perseverance in one of the most deadly and inhospitable places on earth. Lots of neat arctic vocab too, like "sastrugi."
Feb 11, 2015 Pamela rated it it was amazing
How often do you read stories about real live heroes? The men who opened up the exploration of the Antarctic definitely fall into that category. A geologist wishing to map the Southern mountains and catalog its minerals, Douglas Mawson set out to confront the terror of ice, snow and wind on this unknown continent and (just barely) lived to tell the tale. Do yourself a favor and read this true story of a fight for survival against all odds.
Jerry Jackson
Dec 27, 2012 Jerry Jackson rated it it was ok
Instead of reading this second hand account of this polar survival story, I suggest that you read Douglas Mawson's first hand account of this same polar survival story "The Home Of The Blizzard: A True Story Of Antarctic Survival". A much better read with more detail. This book by Lennard Bickel does add new information as to why Mawson and his companion became so sick when trying to return to the base camp.
Dec 07, 2014 Dan rated it it was ok
Poorly written, this book jumps from one expedition to another. Explorers are introduced and then dropped off the page. The reader is pulled from meetings into flashbacks of explorations. It was unclear what expedition we are on. I would not recommend this very jumpy, jerky, hard to follow account of Mawson, Shackleton, Scott and everyone else who ever set foot in the Antarctic.
Mar 07, 2010 Dave rated it it was amazing
What's their motivation! Crazy stuff! Mawson taking off his boot at the end of the day and finding a complete skin cast inside that has peeled from his foot. Glancing over your shoulder, waving to your buddy; glancing back 5 seconds later and watching them vanics into a crevasse. Insane in the membrane! Great book.
Art King
Jul 22, 2009 Art King rated it it was amazing
The title of this book is very apt. It captures the essential fact of this story, which is the incredible will Douglas Mawson demonstrated. The odds of survival were stacked high against him and he knew it. Just when things could not possibly have gotten any worse - they got worse. Yet Mawson survived. What a story!
Mar 23, 2015 Larry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kindle version has many typos especially toward the end of the book. Overall a fantastic story and well written. The descriptions of the more desperate portions of the story were at once beautifully written and yet a bit drawn out and repetitive. A harrowing experience that you are brought into with well crafted descriptive language.
Heather Feather
Jul 09, 2015 Heather Feather rated it really liked it
I think the medical findings that occurred after this story was relayed by Mawson are the most interesting part of this particular survival story. I can't imagine what it would be like to be in that situation. I think the last few days of the journey were so well written. If you like survival stories, this one won't disappoint!
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“The winds have a force so terrific as to eclipse anything previously known in the world. We have found the kingdom of blizzards. We have come to an accursed land.” 0 likes
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