He was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime to the bottom of the earth. To a place where only the absolute strongest could survive. A place shrouded in darkness and mystery, a place that could kill the average man in less than 24 hours.
He was trekking to the Antarctic and the question is would he survive?
For three hellish months this man would be confronted with starvation, dehydration, hypothermia, delusions, loss of comrades, and death.
What started out as a scientific journey to the bottom of the earth ended in despair and suffering. The year was 1912 and the place was the Antarctic. A team of devoted adventures and scientist packed up all the supplies they assumed they would need and traveled to the ends of the earth for what they thought would be an adventure of a lifetime.
Although this man had nothing but good intentions, Mother Nature has a way of making her own rules and so it was on this fateful trip that Mother Nature would rewrite this man’s life story.
Departing from his home base camp he was on a mission to explore a region unknown to man. Along with two of his closest friends he packed his gear, sleigh dogs, courage and ventured into the unknown.
It was not long before disaster would strike. Soon after leaving, while walking over glacier ice packs, one of his fellow explorers suddenly disappeared into the abyss. In a blink of the eye, he had disappeared into the white landscape, along with a sled of dogs and all the gear.
He had fallen into a glacier crack and was lost forever to the icy grave. But, the now two-man team had to carry on and make a camp to survive through the night. With most of their supplies gone and a team of dogs lost, survival not adventure was now the new name of the game.
Lost, unsure off where they even were they set up camp and rationed what little food they had. They developed a game plan and they set forth into the icy landscape the following day. It wasn’t long before their food ran out and their dogs began to starve. One by one, they made the choice that they had to eat their beloved animals to survive. And so they did.
Although they did not know it, they were eating the dogs liver and it was full of toxins that were slowly killing them and making them sick. The two-man team was becoming desperate, their toes were frozen off, frostbite worked away at their hands, their hair was falling out, their nails lost weeks ago, and their skin just hung on their bones.
Soon, his friend, who ate more liver than him, would not be able to go on. So he laid him on a sled and although he was weak and dying himself he dragged his fallen comrade to a place where he could make a shelter to protect him from the cold. The comrade, despite his effort perished that night.
Left with only one dog he continued to trek toward base camp. He was cold, alone, forced to eat his only company(the last dog), and was still miles from camp.
At his lowest point he hung dangling 30 feet in the air, below was the abyss that had taken his mate, and holding him to life was a make shift rope that twisted in the wind. He had fallen into a glacier crack. But, he had the will to live and although his hands were like frozen meat, bloody, with the skin hanging off them, he inch by inch climbed up the rope to the top of the crack, only to slip and fall back down the rope again.
Exhausted, bleeding, dying and depressed, he mustered his last and only bit of strength and climbed the rope again. This time he made it and he climbed onto the solid pack ice and safety.
Throughout the week, while crossing this ice he would fall through cracks at least 14 more times. Every time, escaping death by a hair, and with every climb out his energy would diminish and so would his spirit.
Finally across the ice he found a base camp in a cave from a different team of scientist. Although it was abandon he set up their for the night, he had eaten his last dog, was bone thin and very sick. So he was relieved to have a shelter to rest for the night before making his final push back to base in the morning.
He would never make that morning trek. Mother Nature in a cruel twist of fate buried him into the cave. He had survived months with no food, lost two friends to the elements, killed his animals, had faced death over twenty times and now he found himself buried alive with no hope of escape.
But, the will to live is so powerful, so strong, that no storm and no element on earth can stifle it. So after being stuck for a week, he finally was able to get out alive and begin the last leg of his journey home.
It was three months to the date when he crossed a ridge that overlooked base camp. His toes were gone, his fingers had turned black, he was skin and bone and on the verge of death. He had survived three months in the Antarctic and now as he looked at camp he discovered it was vacant.
In the horizon he could see a ship leaving shore. It was the ship that was to carry the men back home after their exploration, and it was leaving without him. He had made it, but not in time.
He was too weak to scream and for a moment he thought of dropping to his knees and dying right there on the ridge. After fighting for his life for three months, he was about to give in.
But he did not, instead he began to wave his hands widely in the air, and although it seems like a miracle someone on the ship saw him and ordered the boat to stop.
It was too far out to sea to come back, but a smaller boat with a handful of men who came back to shore to save their friend. He looked so horrible and disfigured that his fellow-men did not even know who he was and had to ask him his name.
Although the main ship could not return to take them back to salvation until the following summer, he had made it back to base camp. He would remain on Antarctic for the winter, recovering and gaining strength to return home in spring.
He is Douglas Mawson the man who has inspired thousands of people stuck in a survival situation to make it out alive. He saved himself with his incredible will to live, and in return has saved others!
Who would we have lost, had he lost his will to live! Never give up!