Mawson: And the Ice Men of the Heroic Age: Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen

I thought I knew much about the history of Antarctic exploration. Yet I learned much, much more after reading this book.

The incredible story of Australia’s most famous polar explorer and the giants from the heroic age of polar exploration.

Douglas Mawson, born in 1882 and knighted in 1914, was Australia’s greatest Antarctic explorer. This is the incredible account of an expedition he led on December 2, 1911, from Hobart, to explore the virgin frozen coastline below, 2000 miles of which had never felt the tread of a human foot.

… he headed east on an extraordinary sledging trek with his companions, Belgrave Ninnis and Dr Xavier Mertz. After five weeks, tragedy struck—Ninnis was swallowed whole by a snow-covered crevasse, and Mawson and Mertz realized it was too dangerous to go on. Dwindling supplies forced them to kill their dogs to feed the other dogs, at first, and then themselves. Hunger, sickness, and despair eventually got the better of Ninnis, and he succumbed to madness and then to death.

Mawson found himself all alone, 160 miles from safety, with next to no food. This staggering tale of his survival, against all odds, also masterfully interweaves the stories of the other giants from the heroic age of polar exploration, to bring the jaw-dropping events of this bygone era dazzlingly back to life. …


Mawson cover

Mawson: And the Ice Men of the Heroic Age: Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen. (2012)

which of these men would you follow?





If you guessed the last man, you were right. Roald Amundsen not only led his party safely to the South Pole, ahead of Scott, but he managed to gain weight on the adventure.

In 1926, Amundsen was the first expedition leader to be recognized without dispute as having reached the North Pole. He is also known as the first to traverse the Northwest Passage (1903–06). He disappeared in June 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission.

Robert Falcon Scott
Robert Falcon Scott

Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that they had been preceded by Roald Amundsen‘s Norwegian expedition. On their return journey, Scott and his four comrades all died from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold.


Douglas Mawson
Douglas Mawson

Mawson turned down an invitation to join Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition in 1910; Australian geologist Griffith Taylor went with Scott instead. Mawson chose to lead his own expedition, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, to King George V Land and Adelie Land, the sector of the Antarctic continent immediately south of Australia, which at the time was almost entirely unexplored. The objectives were to carry out geographical exploration and scientific studies, including a visit to the South Magnetic Pole. …

Mawson himself was part of a three-man sledging team, the Far Eastern Party, with Xavier Mertz and Lieutenant Belgrave Ninnis

There was a quick deterioration in the men’s physical condition during this journey. …

It was unknown at the time that Husky liver contains extremely high levels of vitamin A. It was also not known that such levels of vitamin A could cause liver damage to humans. …

(Mertz and Ninnis died.) Mawson continued the final 100 miles alone. During his return trip to the Main Base he fell through the lid of a crevasse, and was saved only by his sledge wedging itself into the ice above him. He was forced to climb out using the harness attaching him to the sled. .

When Mawson finally made it back to Cape Denison, the ship Aurora had left only a few hours before. …

Ernest Shackleton
Ernest Shackleton

After the race to the South Pole ended in December 1911 with Roald Amundsen‘s conquest, Shackleton turned his attention to what he said was the one remaining great object of Antarctic journeying: the crossing of the continent from sea to sea, via the pole. To this end he made preparations for what became the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when its ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the shore parties could be landed. There followed a sequence of exploits, and an ultimate escape with no loss of human life, that would eventually assure Shackleton’s heroic status, although this was not immediately evident. …


Two choices.

1. You can simply assume there is no privacy. No privacy online. None on phone.

Or …

2. you can try taking some small steps to discourage the NSA and other organizations from collecting data on you.

I’m switching from Google search to DuckDuckGo, for example. That might help. Apple is now offering DuckDuckGo as an alternative web search engine.

On the other hand, Google is responding to criticism, now offering end-to-end mail encryption, to try to make your email private.

reset the net

Watch the RESET the NET VIDEO .


defending Greg Mortenson

Did 60 Minutes Get it Wrong?

Two filmmakers, Jennifer Jordan and Jeff Roads, are working on a documentary that delves back into the Greg Mortenson story. Their film is called 3000 Cups of Tea (see trailer below), and it is nearing completion. They say they have a very different side of the story to tell, and that their experience with Central Asia Institute, and Mortenson’s work, does not resemble what 60 Minutes reported. They have visited many of the schools that were the result of Greg’s work, and they say that aside from a few that aren’t up and running, most of them are serving the purpose that their founder intended. …

Adventure Blog – 3000 Cups Of Tea: Revisiting The Greg Mortenson Story

Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo.

details –

the Nepalese Royal massacre and the mess today

The governance of Nepal has been sorrowful compared with neighbors India and Bhutan.

The Nepalese monarchy persisted 240 years until 2008.

The 1990s saw the beginning of the Nepalese Civil War (1996–2006), a conflict fought between government forces and the insurgent forces of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The situation for the Nepalese monarchy was further destabilised by the 2001 Nepalese royal massacre, in which Crown Prince Dipendra reportedly shot and killed ten people, including his father King Birendra, and was himself mortally wounded by what was allegedly a self-inflicted gunshot.

As a result of the massacre, King Gyanendra returned to the throne. His imposition of direct rule in 2005 provoked a protest movement unifying the Maoist insurgency and pro-democracy activists. He was eventually forced to restore Nepal’s House of Representatives, which in 2007 adopted an interim constitution greatly restricting the powers of the Nepalese monarchy. Following an election held the next year, the Nepalese Constituent Assembly formally abolished the kingdom in its first session on 28 May 2008, declaring in its place the establishment of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. …


The monarchy had governed poorly, not modernizing. A Republic will, hopefully, be an improvement.


The Nepalese Royal Family as seen in this 1989 photo at the Narayanhiti Palace in Kathmandu. The royal members, from left to right, were Crown Prince Dipendra, King Birendra, Prince Nirajan, Queen Aiswarya and Princes Shruti. An eyewitness to Nepal’s palace bloodbath said on June 7, 2001, the late Crown Prince Dipendra staggered and fell occasionally as he drunkenly mowed down most of his family in just over a minute. (Reuters)

The drunken son used 3 different automatic weapons to mow down his family. No doubt American Gundamentalists found a way to defend his access to those weapons.

The Nepalese Constituent Assembly was … formed as a result of the Constituent Assembly election that was held on April 10, 2008 in Nepal. …

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN (M)) was the largest party in the Constituent Assembly, having won half of the constituency seats and about 30% of proportional representation seats. …

Prachanda … is a Nepali politician and Chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPNM). He led a guerrilla war against the government and later served as Prime Minister of Nepal from 2008 to 2009. …

Power corrupts. Once Prachanda was in charge he took residence in a 15-room mansion and started living a wealthy lifestyle. …

Top Maoists called him corrupt.

Bottom line. Prachanda and the (Maoist) (CPN (M)) party was no more effective in leadership than the monarchy.

In the Nov. 2013 election Prachanda and his party came a distant 3rd.

The centrist Nepali Congress, the Himalayan nation’s oldest party, established itself as the largest group in the 601-member constituent assembly, winning 196 seats …

Looks like Prachanda is history.


Prachanda escapes bomb blast in western Nepal

What does all this mean for hikers?

Nothing, so far. Certainly there’s no security concern.

I do recall being asked to make a donation to the (Maoist) (CPN (M)) party on Annapurna in 1998. They were very polite. 🙂

Why Nepal is the world’s best destination for solo trekking

That’s the sub-title of an August 2012 post by Mark Horrell:


So the government of Nepal has u-turned on a decision made earlier this year to ban solo trekking in the country. It’s a victory for common sense. Nepal is currently the best place in the world for solo trekking, and to ban it would have been a bit like the Jamaican Olympic team forgetting to register their athletes for the 100 metres. …

The ban was supposedly intended for security reasons after the decapitated remains of a female Belgian trekker were found in the Langtang region in June. This followed a number of other incidents involving solo trekkers in the area.

But leaving aside arguments that a solo trekking ban punishes the victims rather than targets the criminals, not everyone thinks security was the only consideration behind the decision. TAAN represents trekking agencies who provide porters, guides and logistics to trekkers. The biggest cash cow for agencies are organised trekking groups with many clients, and some independent travel bloggers have suggested the government may have been under pressure from organisations such as TAAN to implement a solo trekking ban in the misguided belief that it would encourage solo trekkers to hire guides or sign up for group treks instead.

A ban on solo trekking would certainly have been bad for Nepal’s tourism industry

Why Nepal is the world’s best destination for solo trekking

I hiked Everest independently in 2009. No problem.

But there’s some Nepali confusion in 2013 as to exactly where one can trek independently. And where you can trek solo.

If I get to Nepal in November I’ll check current regulations in Kathmandu. Most likely end up starting independently and solo in Langtang & Helambu.

How to talk to your daughter about her body

This blog post by Sarah is going NUTS online. Already 700+ comments as I post.

… step one: don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “you’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are – you’re glowing.”

read more …


Gros Morne National Park – what the frack?

The UNESCO world heritage committee says a monitoring mission should be sent to Gros Morne National Park to assess fracking risks.

… it’s seriously concerned about plans for potential oil exploration near the site. …

Gros Morne

CTV – Fracking risks in Gros Morne should be assessed, UNESCO says

State of Canada’s Parks:

Among the good news: a huge new park in Québec which is now eastern North America’s largest protected area and Canada’s largest provincial park!

The bad news? We’ve identified numerous emerging threats to some of our most iconic parks. The threat of oil fracking metres from Gros Morne National Park heads the list, along with ongoing concerns about federal budget cuts and inappropriate commercial developments in our national parks. Also, some provincial and territorial governments are backtracking on promises to create new parks and protected areas. …

read more from CPAWS – One step forward, two steps back for Canada’s parks: CPAWS’ 2013 State of Canada’s Parks Report

hiking Hurricane, Olympics WA

At an elevation of 5,242 feet (1,598 m), Hurricane Ridge is a year-round destination. In summer, visitors come for views of the Olympic Mountains, as well as for superb hiking. …

Spectacular views of the Olympic National Park can be seen from the Hurricane Ridge viewpoint. The road leading west from the Hurricane Ridge visitor center is dotted with picnic areas and trail heads.

A paved trail called the Hurricane hill trail is popular with visitors, and is about 1.6 miles long (one-way) with an elevation gain of about 700 ft. It is not uncommon to find snow on the trails even as late as July. …

Hurricane Ridge is named for its intense gales and winds. The weather in the Olympic Mountains is unpredictable …

Don’t drive up the mountain before checking weather conditions.

Hurricane Hill is great.


Hurricane cloud

Sadly I got the the more typical vista when looking north to Canada. Nothing but cloud.


It started to clear as I descended.

descending Hurricane

Most visitors drive up. Take one of the wheelchair accessible walks, consume 1000+ calories at the snack bar. And drive on.

The biggest problem at Hurricane ridge, is this.

deer photo

Many wild animals get accustomed to humans. There’s supposedly never been a bear encounter in the park, but there have been animal encounters.

For example … A deer first followed. And then charged a leashed dog.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Owner not much help. 😦

In bright sunshine, however, it’s difficult to beat Hurricane Ridge. I like it even better than Logan Pass, the equivalent at Glacier National Park.

hiking Hurricane

more of my photos from Hurricane Ridge

flickr photos tagged “Hurricane Ridge”

hiking the Keystone XL pipeline


I wanted to learn everything about the environmental battle. I saw a country marked by apathy, and flickers of hope.

I’d felt strangely drawn to the Keystone XL.

In the fall of 2011, when I fantasized about walking the length of the 1,700-mile proposed pipeline — that, if approved, will carry oil from the Tar Sands of Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas — I was a lowly dishwasher at an oilman’s camp in Deadhorse, Alaska.

At the time, I was broke, just out of grad school, and demoralized with my situation. I had a miserable job that didn’t require a high school diploma, let alone the liberal arts degree that had nearly bankrupted me, and I was living in quite possibly the coldest, darkest, dreariest place on earth. I was an adventurer at heart, burdened with the duties of making a living.

I can say, from experience, that when you find yourself washing spoon after spoon, in the middle of the night, in a silent kitchen, at a working camp 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, you will begin to question the direction of your life. But I can say this also: The soul must first be caged before it can be freed. And when Liam, the cook I worked with, suggested we go on an adventure the next summer and hike the XL, I knew his idea was both crazy and brilliant. I looked at him and said, with what must have been an almost frightening excitement, “We must!” …

read more on Salon – My 1,700-mile hike across the XL Pipeline


You might ask: WHY would they transport dirty oil so far?

… The Port Arthur refinery operates as a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), which traditionally gives tax benefits to companies that use imported components to manufacture items within the United States. Usually refineries importing oil tax-free will still pay taxes when selling the refined products into the U.S. market. By both importing into and exporting from Port Arthur the company will avoid paying tax on the product sales.

A pretty sweet deal for Valero Energy Corporation (VLO).


I’ll be very surprised if President Obama does not approve the Pipeline.

But remove that corporate tax giveaway … ??

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