Andrew Douglas Watson

AAE position: Geologist

Born in 1885, Watson graduated from the University of Sydney, where he became known to Professor TE David and, through him, to Douglas Mawson. He was appointed to the AAE as a geologist, and joined Frank Wild and five others in the Western Party, based on Shackleton Ice Shelf far to the west of the main Cape Denison base.

Watson’s first scientific task was to dig a shaft into the ice to study its structure. Venturing inland, he examined glacial effects on the landscape and accessible rock formations. He also took on the task of training the party’s sledge dogs, and in spring and summer of 1912–13 he ventured with Wild, Kennedy and Harrisson along the coast to the east.

Broken ice hindered their mapping of the coast, and a crevasse accident nearly cost Watson his life: ‘In an instant,’ he wrote, ‘I found myself dangling at rope’s end, fully 15 feet, into a yawning chasm, with sheer walls.’ A promontory on David Island was named Watson Bluff.

On his return to Australia in 1913, Watson lectured in geology at Mawson’s academic home, the University of Adelaide before returning to New South Wales to teach science at Sydney Boys’ High School, beginning a long career in school teaching that took him to Glen Innes, Bowral, Canberra and Homebush. He died in 1962, aged 76.