The outbreak of the European war, following immediately upon the conclusion of our explorations, was a disaster of the first magnitude in its repercussion upon the prompt and successful publication of reports dealing with the work achieved.
Some of those most responsible for the conduct of the scientific programme were killed; others by the end of the war were diverted into new channels of life, far removed from occupations permitting them to devote time to the elaboration for publication of the data accumulated by them.
Perhaps the greatest misfortune was that adequate realisation of the asset expected to yield sufficient funds to defray the cost of publication of the scientific reports never eventuated. This asset was in the nature of an exceptionally complete and varied film record of newly discovered lands and of the life of Antarctica – a masterpiece by Frank Hurley whose initiation into Polar photography was an event of this Expedition.
A satisfactory agreement was reached for the sale of film rights and the final document relating thereto was to have been signed on the very day that war broke out. On that fateful day, in view of the new orientation of national affairs, the purchasers declined to complete the contract.
A small sum only was netted from lectures and exhibitions of the film in America. This and the proceeds from the sale of the popular story, ‘The Home of the Blizzard’, were devoted to clearing up outstanding debts.
At the conclusion of the war, every effort was made to proceed with the publication of the reports. With the generous help of many scientific workers this has at length been done. Unfortunately many of the manuscripts were ready for publication long before funds were available for printing. As a result the completion of the work has been long drawn out and all that can be said is ‘better late than never’.
The first parts to appear were printed at the Government Printing Office, Adelaide. Then the Government of New South Wales undertook the publication of the Reports, operating through a Publications Committee comprising the Government Printer, the Chief Librarian (W. H. Ifould) and a representative both of the Australian Museum and of the Expedition. These volumes have been issued from the Government Printing Office, Sydney. With a view to limiting the cost of printing, data relating to certain aspects of the work are being incorporated in publications dealing with like subjects which are in process of printing as the Reports of the British, Australian, New Zealand, Antarctic Research Expedition.
All records, maps, photographic negatives, and so far as possible, the scientific collections and relics of the Expedition have been handed over to the Government of New South Wales in fulfilment of an agreement whereby the reports would be printed by and issued from the Government Printing Office, Sydney. The manuscript material is to be preserved at the Mitchell Library and the natural history collections at the Australian Museum.
– Douglas Mawson, AAE Scientific Reports Series A Vol I