Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer


Six page letter from John Close to Alice Close, Antarctica 1911


Six page letter from John Close to Alice Close, Antarctica 1911

Object information


Written by John Collinson Close, an 'assistant collector' on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14, led by Douglas Mawson.

Physical description

A six page handwritten letter in lead pencil on cream coloured paper with an ink annotation in the top left corner of the first page. Handwritten at the top of the first page is the heading 'Australasian Antarctic Expedition / S.Y. "Aurora" 10/12/1911 / Lat. 53.44 South: Long 156.13 East.' The letter begins 'My Dear Beloved / My last was penned first before / we sailed from Hobart ...'

Statement of significance

This collection comprises objects belonging to John Henry Collinson Close, a member of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911-1914, led by Dr Douglas Mawson. It includes a telescope and case; pocket compass; Bryant and May matchbox (used to keep Close's Morse code); diary entries and letters from Close to his wife Alice (three on AAE letterhead); a hand-stitched canvas pouch with a label written by Close in ink, containing two rock samples collected in Antarctica and sent to Alice by supply ship in 1912; a copy of Life Magazine from September 1914; newspaper cuttings of eight articles written by or referencing Close; three typescript letters, including correspondence from Douglas Mawson; handwritten copies of two poems, including one by Tennyson; a newspaper cutting of a Douglas Stewart poem; and a registered envelope addressed to Close.

The John Collinson Close collection dates from the 'heroic era' of Antarctic exploration, perhaps the last great period of geographical discovery on Earth. It demonstrates key events in a story that led to Australia's claim over 42% of the continent. Linked to this story, and to this collection, are simultaneous ties to the old notions of Empire and the assertion of a new national identity. Close's private letters and journalism reveal the contrast between the personal experiences of a lesser-known expeditioner and a venture, overshadowed by a mythologised leader, now abstracted into the national memory and imagination.

Object information

Back to top