The Antarctic Diary of Archibald Lang McLean: McLean, Archibald
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The Antarctic Diary of Archibald Lang McLean

Author(s): McLean, Archibald

Copyright: 2020, UK
Specifications: 1st, 8vo, pp.vii, 400, 106 bw photos, 2 maps (1 fldg in pocket), gray cloth
Condition: dj & cloth new

First Publication of McLean’s Antarctic Diary

Archibald Lang McLean (1885-1922) was a graduate in Arts and Medicine at Sydney University who in 1911 applied to join Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911-14) as the expedition’s doctor and bacteriologist. On the expedition he studied the effects of the Antarctic environment on other members of the expedition, taking regular blood samples and skin swabs. From the beginning, McLean distinguished himself by his willingness to engage in hard manual labour, a trait that showed itself again on Macquarie Island, during the period when the base and wireless station were set up. He also carried out medical tests and examinations. He was the first to demonstrate that hair and nail growth decrease in the Antarctic, due to the cold, which causes vasoconstriction. He also was the first in the Antarctic to describe his methods of measuring haemoglobin, cell counts, and blood pressure. In fact, it has been suggested that through this work he laid the foundations for modern physiological research in the Antarctic.

When Aurora returned to collect the expedition, Mawson, Ninnis and Mertz had not come back from their sledging expedition and McLean volunteered to stay and if necessary search for Mawson. On 8 February Aurora sailed, leaving the small party behind. Within hours of the ship’s departure, Mawson returned in terrible physical condition, bearing with him the tragic tale of the deaths of Ninnis and Mertz. A wireless message was sent to Davis, asking him to come back to pick up the remaining men but the weather conditions prevented the men on shore from reaching the ship, and Davis eventually made the decision to leave the seven of them at Cape Denison. Mawson, McLean and the others would spend another year at their base.

The story of the second year at Commonwealth Bay was originally told in Mawson’s The Home of the Blizzard. The published primary sources about the second wintering have in the past been the diaries of Mawson and Madigan, two men who often did not see eye to eye. McLean’s contribution therefore adds a valuable perspective.

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