Wilkins and Mawson Polar Pursuits Talk

Wilkins’ and Mawson’s Polar Pursuits: exploring southern connections and degrees of separation.

Date: Thursday, 13 April 2023
Time: Arrival from 6:45pm for a 7:00pm start (sharp). Event concludes at 8:00pm.
Address: The Green Room, Freemasons Hall, 254 North Terrace, Adelaide 5000
Orator: Dr Emma McEwin


Join us for a fascinating deep dive into the qualities and spirit of these two remarkable polar explorers.

Who were these daring South Australian figures of the past?

Why were they drawn to undertake supremely high risk polar expeditions, remembering these pre-dated specialist modern Antarctic training and preparation regimes? 

In the 2023 Sir Hubert Wilkins Oration, Emma McEwin will explore the personalities and backgrounds of both Hubert Wilkins and Douglas Mawson. Although known for their opposing views and approaches, both men shared similar interests and character traits. Both married independent women who enabled their careers, and played an important role in supporting their many risky ventures. She will ultimately reflect on their legacies in the 21st century.  

Mark Pharaoh, Senior Collections Manager, SA Museum and Carolyn Spooner, Engagement Librarian, State Library of SA, will then join with Emma in a lively post-Oration conversation, with further expert polar history perspectives. 

Tickets: General Admission $20 / Concession $10

Ticket sales close Tuesday 11 April 2023

Enquiries: events@history.sa.gov.au
For more information on Sir Hubert Wilkins visit: https://www.history.sa.gov.au/

The Sir Hubert Wilkins Oration is presented by the History Trust of South Australia.


Dr Emma McEwin

Emma McEwin has a BA and Honours degree in English literature and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide. She has worked at the University of Adelaide since 2009 as a teacher and lecturer of both undergraduate and postgraduate students in English literature, creative writing, research skills, and English as a second language (ESL). She is the author of An Antarctic Affair (East Street Publications, 2008) and The Many Lives of Douglas Mawson (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2018). A postdoctoral research essay, ‘Nancy Atkinson: Bacteriologist, Winemaker and Writer (1910-1999)’, which was supported by the Bill Cowan Barr Smith Library Fellowship (2016), was published in The Australian Journal of Biography and History in 2018. Emma’s most recent publications are ‘Capturing the subject: Virginia Woolf’s Battle with Biographical Boundaries’ in Fear of Theory, Brill Academic Publishers, The Netherlands (2021), and ‘Atkinson, Nancy (1910-1999)’, published in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (online)in 2022. 

Mark Pharaoh, Senior Collections Manager, Australian Polar, and History of Science

Mark Pharaoh is Senior Collections Manager, Australian Polar, and History of Science at the South Australian Museum. In 2002 he oversaw the expansion of the Museum’s polar focus from just the Mawson Collection to include both the Wilkins, and Rymill Collections – which he describes as ‘SA’s Polar Monopoly’ of expedition leaders. He has been actively researching other museum Wilkins collections around the world, with his interest in Wilkins dating back to attending the opening of the Mt Bryan East Wilkins site.

Carolyn Spooner, Engagement Librarian, State Library of South Australia

Carolyn Spooner is an Engagement Librarian at the State Library of South Australia, where she has worked for some 40 years. She has a special interest in the Library’s archival collections which reveal the stories of South Australians, including Sir Hubert Wilkins. She is a member of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, the Australian Society for Sports History and the Cricket Lovers Society and actively researches and presents on aspects of South Australian history, with a particular interest in Wilkins.