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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Melting an ice man

‘In this stern country of biting facts one’s love gets frozen in deeper ... Know Darling that in this frozen South I can always wring happiness from my heart by thinking of your splendid self.’

1 Sir Douglas Mawson, c. 1916 Thomson Studios. 2 Paquita Mawson, late 1940s Ingrid Erns.

Adelaide, 1909. Paquita Delprat was seventeen when she met Douglas Mawson, recently returned from an Antarctic expedition. In late 1910 Mawson wrote to Paquita’s father, GD Delprat, declaring: ‘I have drifted into an intense love for Paquita, and if a lifelong union is not realised my life shall be forever blighted.’ But there was a catch. ‘In all probability I shall go to the Antarctic … next year … then I shall return with your consent to my dear love.’ Delprat, though knowing Mawson to be a fellow of integrity, had understandable concerns. But Paquita accepted Mawson’s offer, knowing it would be a long, anxious wait before the nuptials – assuming he came back from Antarctica intact. The kicker is that things in Antarctica went horribly wrong, with Mawson coming close to dying a dreadful, desolate death in 1913. It’s said the thought of Paquita kept him alive. They were wed, finally, in March 1914, over three years after Mawson had popped the question.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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