George Frederick Ainsworth

AAE position: Leader of the Macquarie Island party; meteorologist

George Ainsworth, born in Sydney in 1878, was a meteorologist in the Melbourne office of the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau (established in 1907) when he was selected by Mawson to lead the AAE’s Macquarie Island party and serve as the island’s weather observer.

Ainsworth was instrumental in maintaining detailed daily weather records on the island — an achievement valuable enough to persuade the Bureau to replace the AAE crew with a new team. In the event the observations continued only until 1915.

His leadership was not without detractors — Sawyer, Hamilton and Blake all had differences with Ainsworth — but the party’s dedication, competence and self-reliance saw them all through a difficult second winter. Ainsworth and the three remaining members of the team were collected by Aurora on 28 November 1913, en route to Cape Denison.

On his return to Australia, Ainsworth received an officer’s commission in the Australian Military Forces. He remained in Australia as a war censor, based mainly in Brisbane, eventually joining the Counter Espionage Bureau and achieving the rank of honorary captain. His agents investigated anti-war, German and Russian groups and analysed information from censored letters and other sources. At the war’s end Ainsworth continued this function for the Commonwealth police.

In 1921 Ainsworth was made head of a foreign section in William Hughes’ Prime Minister’s Department. He attended the Imperial Economic Conference in London in 1923 and the International Labour Organisation meeting at Geneva in 1924. Ainsworth resigned from the public service late in 1924 when Hughes was toppled as Prime Minister — a decision he later regretted.

Until 1929 Ainsworth managed a Melbourne motor-parts firm before going to New Zealand as general manager for the Chrysler Corporation and then to Queensland as general manager for a glass and rubber manufacturer. In 1935 he became State organiser for the United Australia Party, but lost money gambling on horses and returned to Sydney (Vaucluse) about 1937. He owned a delicatessen in Leichhardt, delivered radio talks on the Antarctic, and was briefly employed again in meteorology during World War II.

Ainsworth died in October 1950.