A thirst for adventure was the over-riding motivation for people seeking to join the AAE. There was, indeed, adventure in plenty for the men who took part, but it soon became clear to everyone that science was the real reason they were there. All of them, regardless of their state of learning, became aware that a kind of status was attached to one’s involvement in this most honourable vocation.
The principle scientific objective of the AAE was geographical discovery. The sledging parties were to travel in their appointed direction as far as possible from their home base and record what they saw – carefully, meticulously, with rigorous accuracy and objectivity. For Mawson, as for his men, this was science, pure and simple.
Each of the major sledging expeditions were to observe and record weather and similar phenomena met along the way. An abiding interest for Mawson was mapping the magnetic field and locating the wandering South Magnetic Pole– a residue from unfinished business on Shackleton’s 1908–09 expedition, when the magnetic pole party (including Mawson) was forced by limited time to cut short the due process of establishing the pole’s exact position.