On Feb. 8, 1913, Douglas Mawson arrived back at the hut known as Winter Quarters, the main base camp of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. He had left the camp three months earlier, accompanied by Belgrave Ninnis, a 25-year-old lieutenant in the British Royal Fusiliers, and Xavier Mertz, a 29-year-old lawyer from Switzerland. He returned alone, emaciated, his hair and beard coming out in clumps, the skin on his hands and feet peeling off in sheets, his countenance so ravaged that the men who greeted him were not entirely sure which one he was.
“Alone on the Ice” is the story of Mawson’s unfathomable solo trek across 100 miles of Antarctic ice. Battered by winds of 60 miles per hour or more, buried in drifts of blowing snow, threatened at every turn by invisible cracks in the ice, he endured all the standard torments of Antarctic exploration. But for 31 days he endured them alone under conditions that few could have survived.