Beating drums

From 28 June 1914, the day of the fateful Sarajevo assassination, it took a full five weeks for war’s prelude to play itself out. For the newly-dubbed Sir Douglas and Lady Mawson, this was a time of great activity: winding up their affairs in London, visiting Paquita’s relatives in Holland and the family of Xavier Mertz in Switzerland, then beginning the long voyage home out of the French Mediterranean port of Toulon.

The ship had not long left Aden when, on 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany, completing the steady slide of Europe into war. The rest of the voyage was a moment of rest before another hectic round of engagements for Mawson.

At the University of Adelaide, where he retained his academic position despite being absent for most of the previous four years, Mawson resumed teaching. But he could not abandon his AAE duties. He was granted leave to lecture to audiences in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart during September and October 1914.

And then he and Paquita — now pregnant — were off again. Mawson was to undertake a lecture tour arranged by a New York agency, en route lecturing in New Zealand. The couple endured Cape Horn and a chancy voyage up the east coast of South America (where German raiders had been active sinking Allied shipping) to London.

There Mawson had to sort out a casualty of war — a European lecture tour featuring a visit to Berlin to meet Eric von Drygalski, who had spent a year in East Antarctic waters just to the west of Shackleton Ice Shelf, a decade before Wild’s AAE group made the ice shelf their home. With Germany now an enemy nation, that could no longer be.