- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Jan 1915, p. 35-43
- Mawson, Sir Douglas, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Support form Adelaide University for scientific expeditions. The speaker's connection to the Empire, and his interest in Canada. Reference to Dr. Machell from Ontario on the Shackleton expedition, medical man on the "Nimrod." The British Empire as a phase in the unification of the world. The British Empire suffering severely at the present moment; suffering a shock and a loss that will be felt to the very last moment; feeling the irreparable damage when the flower of a nation is killed off. War today a crime. The Empire loss of the United States. The common foe of the world, the unknown. The more we know, the higher our civilisation and science is, the better. Monies required for this knowledge, to advance science. The shortage of these monies in time of war. The importance of finding out about the Antarctic. Much fundamental science to be done. The Antarctic expedition. An expedition which set out to open up new land. Details of organization and travel. The use of wireless telegraphy. The tragedy of the expedition, nearly a year after the Scott tragedy. The loss of a rear sledge which fell down a deep crevasse, killing Lieut. Ninnis. The loss of provisions, the struggle to get back. The barrenness of the Antarctic continent. The death of Dr. Mertz just 100 miles from the hut. The death of all the dogs, either through starvation or consumption. The speaker's drop and recovery from a crevasse. The state of the war now. Pride in the Australian navy. A belief in self-government. Optional service and compulsory training in Australia.
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- 22 Jan 1915
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- ANTARCTIC EXPLORATION
AN ADDRESS BY SIR DOUGLAS MAWSON, K.B., D.Sc., B.E.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, January 22, 1915
YOUR HONOUR, MR. PRESIDENT, AND GENTLEMEN,--It is a great pleasure for me to be here, though, as the President has said, things are a little rushed. It is very interesting to meet representative people such as those in this gathering, as one goes around the Empire and thus sees what the spirit is like. Some of you may know of me, and some of you know nothing of me; the fundamental thing is that I belong to the Empire. That is the keynote of everything in our Empire in these days, and it is the one thing that is going to be our beacon-light in the future. Though I was born in England, I have lived most of my life in Australia; formerly on the staff of Sydney University and latterly with Adelaide University. The University of Adelaide is very generous in a scientific way, and almost all the time I have been with them I have had unlimited leave on full pay. They believe that there are two ways of spending the money that is in their hands as trustees for the advancement of science; it may be spent either in the classrooms or on the field, and they interpret things in a generous way, and I think in the long run they find it is a good thing, not only for Adelaide University but for science generally. My present trip around the world is undertaken very largely for financial reasons. I am very sorry indeed that I am giving any lectures in which the proceeds are not going to the war, but from some of my lectures the proceeds go to the war and from some they do not. I have been hit very badly myself; just at the tail end of everything, when our expedition was wound up with great success--although we had our tragedies--the war dropped in a few weeks too soon, and left me in the hole, for I was unable to dispose of certain publishing rights, and there are salaries left unpaid, but it is not very serious, and I think I shall clear it off in this trip around the world; and any lectures which are not given for the war funds are given for that purpose. I like you to know that, because I personally do not touch any of the funds of the expedition, nor ever have; the Auditor-General of South Australia handles all the accounts. I receive nothing only my salary from Adelaide University, so I am all right anyway.
Apart from the Empire connection, I have always felt a great interest in Canada. We had with us on Shackleton's expedition an Ontarian, Dr. Machell; he was a medical man on the Nimrod. He is a quiet, unassuming fellow, and likely you never heard of him, but he was a typical Canadian and very well liked by all on the expedition. A man whom I met before he went with Scott was Wright, a very fine fellow; he comes from your University here in Toronto. Before starting out, while we were expounding our expedition, Lord Strathcona, the High Commissioner for Canada, sent me a cheque for a thousand pounds, stating that it was a little present from one part of the Empire to another; that was his view of it, with the Empire spirit always at the front.
I like the title of this dub. I have been three times around the world and in a good many parts of the world beside, and it seems to me that imperialism is the one great thing that is going to lead to a happy and prosperous future. This Empire is a phase in the unification of the world. We started in the early days, a long time ago, with the unification of the counties in England itself; instead of fighting each other, with their separate heads, they arranged to work amicably together throughout the whole region. Now distant parts of the world come together to work with one object for right and for good, and with the code of Christianity at their head, I hope, at all times, and with no hard feelings toward another man because he happens to be of another nationality. We wish to be one people with one moral code; that is the only way we shall reach final unification. We cannot help differing as peoples in different parts of the world. Here in Canada a type must develop; the environment develops a different people; but there is no necessity to develop a different mental attitude towards our neighbours, and towards everything we are faced with in this world. It seems to me that the majority of the nations now warring against each other on the Continent surely do not want to fight. As we say, people get their monkeys up, somebody says you are hurting somebody else, and gradually the case is worked up so that we start fighting about things that ought not to be at all. I am not saying we are fighting without a just cause. From a very careful consideration and knowledge of the subject, I know that as far as Great Britain is concerned, Great Britain is acting as a sort of big policeman to try and enforce this moral code. The British Empire is suffering severely at the present moment; is suffering a shock and a loss that will be felt to the very last moment, and thousands of years to come the effect of this war must remain. You cannot have the flower of a nation killed off without irreperable damage. That sort of thing perpetuates itself, and has caused France to be at a lower ebb today than she ought to be, after the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, when the high stock of the country, that had taken a long time to breed, yeas gradually cut away and lost. We never can make up for it, but surely, had we refrained from taking up arms in a cause such as this was, we never could have survived the awful position in which we should have been put for all time. We would have been in a worse case had we not gone to war; it would not be so much that the vitality of the nation would be sapped, but the very moral character of the nation would be depleted. War at the present day, in the height of civilisation and amongst the leading powers, is certainly a crime, and we must hope that in the future it is made impossible; we must do all we can to prevent recurrences of this sort of thing, and it seems to one that this Empire is a conjunction of the people of the world with the one object in view to uphold peace, to reason over matters and not to fight over them, for, after all, when the fighting is all done then the argument will come just the same. Of course we meet a stubborn country like Germany-there are one or two things about the Germans, perhaps, that we do not like, they are a little overbearing and arrogant perhaps for the British people, but there are ways of getting over all these things, and we hope in the future, with united strength, to be able to do it. It almost brings tears to me to think that the United States has broken away from the British Empire; mistaken policies in the past, when Empire was new to Great Britain, led to that. There was no need of it. People wanted a different type, and now that she has broken away Britain has lost and lost heavily, for some of the most adventurous people of the Empire left her shores. Was her strength not sapped to that extent, and has it not been lost to all practical purposes in a struggle like this? So we do not want the best people of England, the most virile people of England, to go to distant parts and then say good-bye to the homeland; we want them to go there to get stronger developed and multiplied, and all remain together. Had the United States been now with us, I think that extra strength would perhaps have prevented Germany from going to war, and the whole thing might have been settled, as it may be settled in the long run, without such brutality and mortal combat.
The world has a common foe, and that is the unknown. At all points there is that which we cannot understand. We think, perhaps, in our day that we have reached the top of the tree of knowledge, and we wonder how people could get along twenty years ago without knowing anything about-perhaps Rontgen rays or something like that. We wonder how a hundred years ago people got on without electricity, or gas-lit streets, without anaesthetics or wireless, or even without telegraphy of any kind. But people in a hundred years' time will wonder how we got along, for every year brings new discoveries, and all these go toward creature comforts for the world, and that is what we want to get at. I do not mean to say that we do not want to have hardships, but after all hardships are relative matters. If we can add to the creature comforts, that is going to multiply our lives and make them fuller. We can do more, and let us hope we are doing it, toward the good of the whole world. We can do so much more now than a man a hundred years ago could do, and so it will always be. There is nothing wrong in finding out about things. The more we know, and the higher our civilisation and science is, the better. It requires money, a great deal of money, to advance science, and in these times of war there will be a shortage of course of that sort of thing. Suppose, for instance, that instead of building an extra Dreadnought a few years ago, Germany had said to Great Britain at Great Britain's request, We will knock off one Dreadnought from this year's building programme if you will do likewise. It would have hurt neither nation. If that money had been devoted to exploration of the Antarctic regions, for instance, the world would have been so much richer. Though it seems a long way from here to the Antarctic, that continent at the South Pole is almost twice as large as Europe. It is a big piece of land, and you cannot have any piece of land on the earth of that size which has not bound up with it certain facts that are of supreme importance to science generally. Even to the chemist who works in the laboratory there are facts coming back from there that are going to give new ideas to him, and fill up his chain of evidence, and lead to new results in chemistry that will reflect on the creature comforts of the world., They are all bound up together, and you cannot advance one realm of science without helping others. This Antarctic question is to be tackled, and it is going to be pushed through, in little bits as money comes forward, and we are going to know all about it in time. Even a few years ago, had we had the money value of that Dreadnought at our disposal, it could all have been done, and without any hurt to Germany or Great Britain. I have heard people say, That is all very well, but if you were to do away with the army and the navy what a lot of people would be out of employment. That is quite wrong; I would get them all employed if I had the public funds; I would put them all at scientific work, and they could work overtime if they liked. There is plenty to be done; the more we inquire into the unknown, the more we find we do not know. We do not know what such a fundamental thing as electricity is; we handle it, we are able to use it, but we do not know what it is. We do not know what time and a and gravity, and such fundamental things, are at all. Did we know some of the fundamentals of these big things in nature, then our scope would be opened up enormously. The ordinary layman has no idea what it means to be able to handle the bricks of the house instead of just living in the house. If we could get down to these fundamentals we might find the reasons for life, and so on, and get right down to the very bottom. It is those big things that we do not know, and we shall not know all until we know the cause of life, and so forth.
But that is getting too far afield; I shall come back to my subject. I would like to tell you a good deal about this expedition. I am not one of those dry-as-dust lecturers, and I do not like talking without being able to illustrate my points in a better way than my words are able to make plain. I have a wonderful lot of pictures, and my lecture is just a succession of pictures, from one end to the other, strung together to illustrate the work, so I feel that if I were to tell you much about it here I would not give you the same impression and I would waste your time. But the fundamental fact was that our expedition set out to open. up new land. We were not after the South Pole; Captain Scott was out then, and we felt he was the man to do that for the British Empire, and we took a large area of unknown land where other expeditions had not landed, where only one or two spots of land had been seen away back in 1840. It was a big field; there were some who thought we might not be able to get into the land at all on account of pack ice, but it all turned out well in the long run. We landed three separate parties a thousand miles apart and they worked all the tune, and the ship came down during the summer, and much mapping of the coast was done. A thousand miles have been put in and 900 miles of the coastal platform surveyed by the ship. We used wireless telegraphy for the first time, and things went off very well, but there was a great tragedy. It was nearly a year after the Scott tragedy; it was in December 1912 when it happened. Myself and two others, Lieutenant Ninnis and Dr. Mertz, when we got iii miles out on one sledge journey, the rear sledge fell down a deep crevasse and Ninnis was killed. The crevasse was unfathomable, and we lost all our provisions. We had a struggle to get back, for there was no vegetation. The Antarctic continent is less interesting than the Arctic, because it is very barren. In the interior there is nothing but ice. On the way back there was nothing but the dogs that died of starvation, and then the rest of them went for food. It was a ghastly struggle; Dr. Mertz died a hundred miles from the hut; the dogs were all dead, and we were dragging the sledge ourselves. The last hundred miles I was done out and at the end of my tether, and it was a miracle how I got through. I dropped into a crevasse and got out again. I think Providence must have been with me from the start, because I went over the crevasse first with the sledge, and then fell down afterwards. I lived on the dogs' meat that Mertz died on, and there were many things that seem miracles; not only getting out of the crevasse where there was no help whatever, but at the last extremity coming on a cache put out by a search party. If it had been fifty yards to either side I would not have seen it. The whole thing was a miracle in its way.
Let me say in conclusion that it has been a pleasure to me to have been honoured by you here today, and 'that I am particularly glad that this is an Empire Club. We are getting on pretty well in the war now. I know Canada has sent over a great number of troops, and we are sending a lot from Australia. By the way, ours are going to have a scrap very soon I think. They are in Egypt; it is a fine place in the winter, a fine place for a holiday; but these men are not there for a holiday. They have been well equipped and they are now waiting for the Turks to come over the hundred miles of desert, and see what they can do with the Suez Canal. There are a great number of British gunboats at intervals down the canal to sweep the Turks, and there are about 50,000 troops at the back of them and the Australians to give an account of themselves. I don't think the Turks are going to do much there.
We are very proud of our Australian navy. (A voice-Where is it now? ") The War Office knows all about that and nobody else does. There was a question once whether we would give the money direct, or whether we would build for ourselves and make them a colonial part of the navy. There were lots of us against that idea of a colonial part of the British navy; at first I must say I was one of them, but it has turned out the opposite way. I think now, in the light of recent events, it is the right thing for Australia to have her own navy; she is more likely to take an interest in it, and more likely to give the money; and manned by Australians it develops the navy spirit there, develops men for the sea. Of course this must be at the bottom of it, that as soon as there comes a time of war such a force should be put at the supreme disposal of the Admiralty in London, as ours was. I believe in selfgovernment strongly, and say that the navy should be ran by that state and put, like everything else, at the absolute disposal of the head body in time of trouble. There should be representatives in that head body from all the self-governing dominions, of course. When Von Spee's squadron got out of Kiao-Chow they got down close to Australia, and their intention no doubt was to make an attack on Australian shipping. They went away, and we wondered why, but it was made clear. The best of our ships was a Dreadnought cruiser and she was much more heavily armed than any of Von Spee's ships, and she could have waded right through them without being hurt at all. We just happened to have her. Until now British ships have manned the Australian station, and of course only second and third class vessels were kept there, because it was not supposed that they would ever be needed except for policing and so on. But the German ships came around, and it was because the Australian ships were there that they did not approach our shores. New Zealand adhered to the old system; there were British gunboats there and New Zealand was in a blue funk all the time. The Germans came as far as Samoa and then went back. The Australia steamed over waiting to hear of them coming near New Zealand. The British gunboats were quite inadequate there, and eventually the Japanese boats came down. Japan has been a very good ally. Australia will get the first trouble from Japan, if there is any trouble, because we do not allow any Asiatics in at all; we do not let any Europeans in if they cannot read and write their own language. It is a good thing, provided we can maintain it; I do not think it is worth fighting for, but when we have an island continent we would like to have it all of European or British descent if we can get it; and it will make such a strong country, being water-bound, that we would not be dictated to in the future, but our population is so small now that we are open to invasion of course.
Another thing we have there which I strongly and thoroughly believe in-and I do not know of any argument against it is compulsory training. Optional service and compulsory training. I do not believe in a man fighting unless he thinks he should fight, either from a moral obligation to his country, or that he wants a scrap. Compulsory training is quite a different thing, and it has been a great success in Australia, and I hope to see it in Great Britain. Lord Kitchener, when visiting Australia some years ago, advocated it, and it was taken up immediately, and every boy of from twelve to twenty serves one hour a week in military training, and a fortnight a year in camp. When the men are twenty, if they are wanted to fight, they know all about the game and in a month or two they can join the colours. But it does not mean that they need to fight. A few men in a regiment, who do not want to fight, spoil: the whole morale, but by all means train the young if it is good physically, if it is good for nothing else.
A vote of thanks to the speaker was moved by His Honour, Col. Hendrie, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, and seconded by Mr. Justice Craig.
[Sir Douglas Mawson also addressed 4000 children at the Massey Hall in aid of the Red Cross Fund. Editor.]