Nancy Robinson Flannery has done a fine job of editing these unabridged letters. They make poignant reading and are a reminder that even heroes suffer the same doubts and frailties as the rest of us.'
(Elizabeth Dean, Australian Book Review, June 2000)
Dark-eyed beauty Paquita Delprat, 17, first noticed the dashing Douglas Mawson, 27, at a function in Adelaide in 1909. By the end of 1910 they were engaged to be married.
The only cloud on the horizon was Douglas's impending expedition to Antarctica. He expected to be away for fifteen months, but they did not count on the disastrous trek from which he staggered back, alone and close to death, to find that the waiting Aurora had given up and steamed away only hours earlier. Douglas was stranded for another full year, and the lovers' endurance was stretched to the limit.
Long months intervened between ships to and from Antarctica. Letters from Douglas arrived in two batches, delivered twenty-two months apart. In one letter Paquita wailed, 'This everlasting silence is almost unbearable . . . ' The longer the lovers were apart, the more doubt, anxiety and despair crept into their correspondence, and the reader senses the growing strain on both sides.
Touchingly, Douglas kept Paquita's letters all his life. Nancy Flannery first saw them in 1991 among the papers his Estate had entrusted to the University of Adelaide, and was intrigued to glimpse the emotional life of the austere explorer-scientist. Six years later, she found Douglas's letters to Paquita among private family papers, thus completing both sides of this romantic story.