In Bed with Douglas Mawson,
Travels Around Antarctica

By Craig Cormick


"If you browse the internet, you might find the story of the Antarctic colony of Nadiria. The story goes that in the mid-19th century, a North American utopianist, Samuel Brundt, was inspired by a vision to lead an expedition to Antarctica to establish a utopian colony there. Fortunately, the colony discovered a chemical substance they called Heaven's Fire, which was a chemical compound that provided both heat and light and could also be used for excavating in the ice.

The records of Nadiria show that the colony went through the similar formative years of most utopian societies, struggling with logistics and fundraising, but between the years 1845 and 1850 three survey expeditions spent time in Antarctica scouting possible locations for the colony. They built a staging base in the jungle of Venezuela as a half-way camp between North America and Antarctica in 1852, and by 1855 were far enough advanced to send an expedition of engineers to start building tunnels in the ice for the colony. The history also states that the American Civil War prompted many of the colonists to flee south and by 1866 there were 147 souls living on the continent.

As the colonists dug deeper into the ice, they claimed to have discovered the remains of an ancient civilization and used many of the markings and icons they found as designs on the money the colony printed -- later to be known as dream dollars. The currency had denominations of 1, 4, 7, 13, 28, 52, 91, and 365 dollars, with different designs for spring, winter, autumn, and summer. They are intricate pink and red banknotes with strange symbols that make the pyramid and the eye on the US currency look tame, and are supposedly more full of hidden meanings and symbols than a Where's Wally puzzle.

In 1887 major divisions within the colony appeared after the sudden disappearance of Samuel Brundt. The next major crisis was the global recession of the 1890s, which delayed re-supply ships to the colony for several years, and in particular led to a shortage of Heaven's Fire. The last known records of the colony were dated August 1899 and when a rescue mission finally arrived in 1901 they could find no trace of the colonists, not even graves or bodies. Throughout the 20th century the dream dollars became highly prized collector's items, often being reprinted, and they were particularly popular with the Beat generation of the 1950s in New York -- who performed dream readings among poetry and music performances -- because the dollars were said to be able to provoke and control dreams.

During the 1960s dream dollars were said to be very prized by hippies, who used them to assist in LSD sessions of altered states of consciousness. In 1999, the hundredth anniversary of the disappearance of the colony, dream dollars made a comeback, as did awareness of the colony.

The truth, however, is slightly less fantastic, but just as dream-filled. Nadiria and the dream dollars were dreamed up by New York artist Stephen Barnwell, who has created currencies for many fictitious countries, such as the State of War. I downloaded a copy of the currency from the internet and show it to several people on the ship. Most are amazed at how gullible people are, though they never admit to me if they'd believed the story or not as I told it to them."


An excerpt from
"In Bed With Douglas Mawson, Travels Around Antarctica" by Craig Cormick
New Holland Publishers, Australia
Copyright © 2011 Craig Cormick
pp 155 - 157