THE LAST DAYS AT HOBART AND THE VOYAGE TO MACQUARIE
``Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what
luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to
And the Wild is calling, calling--Let us go.''--SERVICE.
It will be convenient to pick up the thread of our
story upon the point of the arrival of the `Aurora' in Hobart,
after her long voyage from London during the latter part of the
Captain Davis had written from Cape Town stating
that he expected to reach Hobart on November 4. In company with
Mr. C. C. Eitel, secretary of the Expedition, I proceeded to Hobart,
arriving on November 2.
Early in the morning of November
4 the Harbour Board received news that a wooden vessel, barquentine-rigged,
with a crow's-nest on the mainmast, was steaming up the D'Entrecasteaux
Channel. This left no doubt as to her identity and so, later in
the day, we joined Mr. Martelli, the assistant harbour-master, and
proceeded down the river, meeting the `Aurora' below the quarantine
We heard that they had had a very rough passage after
leaving the Cape. This was expected, for several liners, travelling
by the same route, and arriving in Australian waters a few days
before, had reported exceptionally heavy weather.
the ship had reached Queen's Wharf, the berth generously provided
by the Harbour Board, the Greenland dogs were transferred to the
quarantine ground, and with them went Dr. Mertz and Lieutenant Ninnis,
who gave up all their time during the stay in Hobart to the care
of those important animals. A feeling of relief spread over the
whole ship's company as the last dog passed over the side, for
travelling with a deck cargo of dogs is not the most enviable thing
from a sailor's point of view. Especially is this the case in
a sailing-vessel where room is limited, and consequently dogs and
ropes are mixed indiscriminately.
Evening was just coming
on when we reached the wharf, and, as we ranged alongside, the Premier,
Sir Elliot Lewis, came on board and bade us welcome to Tasmania.
Captain Davis had much to tell, for more than four months had
elapsed since my departure from London, when he had been left in
charge of the ship and of the final arrangements.
docks there had been delays and difficulties in the execution of
the necessary alterations to the ship, in consequence of strikes
and the Coronation festivities. It was so urgent to reach Australia
in time for the ensuing Antarctic summer, that the recaulking of
the decks and other improvements were postponed, to be executed
on the voyage or upon arrival in Australia.
seized the earliest possible opportunity of departure, and the `Aurora'
dropped down the Thames at midnight on July 27, 1911. As she threaded
her way through the crowded traffic by the dim light
of a thousand
flickering flames gleaming through the foggy atmosphere, the dogs
entered a protest peculiar to their ``husky'' kind. After
a short preliminary excursion through a considerable range of the
scale, they picked up a note apparently suitable to all and settled
down to many hours of incessant and monotonous howling, as is the
custom of these dogs when the fit takes them. It was quite evident
that they were not looking forward to another sea voyage. The pandemonium
made it all but impossible to hear the orders given
the ship, and a collision was narrowly averted. During those
rare lulls, when the dogs' repertoire temporarily gave out,
innumerable sailors on neighbouring craft, wakened from their sleep,
made the most of such opportunities to hurl imprecations in a thoroughly
nautical fashion upon the ship, her officers, and each
one of the crew.
On the way to Cardiff, where a full supply
of coal was to be shipped, a gale was encountered, and much water
came on board, resulting in damage to the stores. Some water leaked
into the living quarters and, on the whole, several very uncomfortable
days were spent. Such inconvenience at the outset undoubtedly did
good, for many of the crew, evidently not prepared for emergency
conditions, left at Cardiff. The scratch crew with which the `Aurora'journeyed
to Hobart composed for the most part of replacements made at Cardiff,
resulted in some permanent appointments of unexpected value to the
At Cardiff the coal strike caused delay, but eventually
some five hundred tons of the Crown Fuel Company's briquettes
were got on board, and a final leave taken of English shores on
Cape Town, the only intermediate port of call,
was reached on September 24, after a comparatively rapid and uneventful
voyage. A couple of days sufficed to load coal, water and fresh
provisions, and the course was then laid for Hobart.
weather soon intervened, and Lieutenant Ninnis and Dr. Mertz, who
travelled out by the `Aurora' in charge of the sledging-dogs,
had their time fully occupied, for the wet conditions began to tell
on their charges.
On leaving London there were forty-nine
of these Greenland, Esquimaux sledging-dogs of which the purchase
and selection had been made through the offices of the Danish Geographical
Society. From Greenland they were taken to Copenhagen, and from
thence transhipped to London, where Messrs. Spratt took charge of
them at their dog-farm until the date of departure. During the voyage
they were fed on the finest dog-cakes, but they undoubtedly felt
the need of fresh meat and fish to withstand the cold and wet. In
the rough weather of the latter part of the voyage water broke continually
over the deck, so lowering their vitality that a number died from
seizures, not properly understood at the time. In each case death
was sudden, and preceded by similar symptoms. An apparently healthy
dog would drop down in a fit, dying in a few minutes, or during
another fit within a few days. Epidemics, accompanied by similar
symptoms, are said to be common amongst these dogs in the Arctic
regions, but no explanation is given as to the nature of the disease.
During a later stage of the Expedition, when nearing Antarctica,
several more of the dogs were similarly stricken. These were examined
by Drs. McLean and Jones, and the results of post-mortems showed
that in one case death was
due to gangrenous appendicitis, in
two others to acute gastritis and colitis.
The dog first
affected caused some consternation amongst the crew, for, after
being prostrated on the deck by a fit, it rose and rushed about
snapping to right and left. The cry of ``mad dog'' was raised.
Not many seconds had elapsed before all the deck hands were safely
in the rigging, displaying more than ordinary agility in the act.
At short intervals, other men, roused from watch below appeared
at the fo'c'sle companion-way. To these the situation at
first appeared comic, and called forth jeers upon their faint-hearted
shipmates. The next moment, on the dog dashing into view, they found
a common cause with their fellows and sprang aloft. Ere many minutes
had elapsed the entire crew were in the rigging, much to the amusement
of the officers. By this time the dog had disappeared beneath the
fo'c'sle head, and Mertz and Ninnis entered, intending to
dispatch it. A shot was fired and word passed that the deed was
done: thereupon the crew descended, pressing forward to share in
the laurels. Then it was that Ninnis, in the uncertain light, spying
a dog of similar markings wedged in between some barrels, was filled
with doubt and called out to Mertz that he had shot the wrong dog.
In a flash the crew had once more climbed to safety. It was some
time after the confirmation of the first execution that they could
be prevailed upon to descend.
Several litters of puppies
were born on the voyage, but all except one succumbed to the hardships
of the passage.
The voyage from Cardiff to Hobart occupied
The date of departure south was fixed
for 4 P.M. of Saturday, December 2, and a truly appalling amount
of work had to be done before then.
Most of the staff had
been preparing themselves for special duties; in this the Expedition
was assisted by many friends.
A complete, detailed acknowledgment
of all the kind help received would occupy much space. We must needs
pass on with the assurance that our best thanks are extended to
one and all.
Throughout the month of November, the staff
continued to arrive in contingents at Hobart, immediately busying
themselves in their own departments, and in sorting over the many
thousands of packages in the great Queen's Wharf shed. Wild
was placed in charge, and all entered heartily into the work. The
exertion of it was just what was wanted to make us fit, and prepared
for the sudden and arduous work of discharging cargo at the various
bases. It also gave the opportunity of personally gauging certain
qualities of the men, which are not usually evoked by a university
Some five thousand two hundred packages were
in the shed, to be sorted over and checked. The requirements of
three Antarctic bases, and one at Macquarie Island were being provided
for, and consequently the most careful supervision was necessary
to prevent mistakes, especially as the omission of a single article
might fundamentally affect the work of a whole party. To assist
in discriminating the impedimenta, coloured bands were painted round
the packages, distinctive of the various bases.
It had been
arranged that, wherever possible, everything should be packed in
cases of a handy size, to facilitate unloading and transportation;
each about fifty to seventy pounds in weight.
to other distinguishing marks, every package bore a different number,
and the detailed contents were listed in a schedule for reference.
Concurrently with the progress of this work, the ship was again
overhauled, repairs effected, and many deficiencies made good. The
labours of the shipwrights did not interfere with the loading, which
went ahead steadily during the last fortnight in November.
The tanks in the hold not used for our supply of fresh water
were packed with reserve stores for the ship. The remainder of the
lower hold and the bunkers were filled with coal. Slowly the contents
of the shed diminished as they were transfered to the 'tween
decks. Then came the overflow. Eventually, every available space
ship was flooded with a complicated assemblage of gear,
ranging from the comparatively undamageable wireless masts occupying
a portion of the deck amidships, to a selection of prime Australian
cheeses which filled one of the cabins, and pervaded the ward-room
with an odour which remained one of its permanent associations.
Yet, heterogeneous and ill-assorted as our cargo may have appeared
to the crowds of curious onlookers, Captain Davis had arranged for
the stowage of everything with a nicety which did him credit. The
complete effects of the four bases were thus kept separate, and
available in whatever order was required. Furthermore, the removal
of one unit would not break the stowage of the remainder, nor disturb
the trim of the ship.
At a late date the air-tractor sledge
arrived. The body was contained in one huge case which, though awkward,
was comparatively light, the case weighing much more than the contents.
This was securely lashed above the maindeck, resting on the fo'c'sle
and two boat-skids.
As erroneous ideas have been circulated
regarding the ``aeroplane sledge,'' or more correctly ``air-tractor
sledge,'' a few words in explanation will not be out of
This machine was originally an R.E.P. monoplane, constructed
by Messrs. Vickers and Co., but supplied with a special detachable,
sledge-runner undercarriage for use in the Antarctic, converting
it into a tractor for hauling sledges. It was intended that so far
as its role as a flier was concerned, it would be chiefly exercised
for the purpose of drawing public attention to the Expedition in
Australia, where aviation was then almost unknown. With this object
in view, it arrived in Adelaide at an early date accompanied by
Lieutenant Watkins, assisted by Bickerton. There
it unfortunately came to grief, and Watkins and Wild narrowly escaped
death in the accident. It was then decided to make no attempt to
fly in the Antarctic; the wings were left in Australia and Lieutenant
Watkins returned to England. In the meantime, the machine was repaired
and forwarded to Hobart.
Air-tractors are great consumers
of petrol of the highest quality. This demand, in addition to the
requirements of two wireless plants and a motor-launch, made it
necessary to take larger quantities than we liked of this dangerous
cargo. Four thousand gallons of ``Shell'' benzine and one
thousand three hundred gallons of ``Shell'' kerosene, packed
in the usual four-gallon export tins, were carried as a deck cargo,
monopolizing the whole of the poop-deck.
For the transport
of the requirements of the Macquarie Island Base, the s.s. `Toroa',
a small steam-packet of one hundred and twenty tons, trading between
Melbourne and Tasmanian ports, was chartered. It was arranged that
this auxiliary should leave Hobart several days after the `Aurora',
so as to allow us time, before her arrival, to inspect the island,
and to select a suitable spot for the location of the base. As she
was well provided with passenger accommodation, it was arranged
that the majority of the land party should journey by her as far
as Macquarie Island.
The Governor of Tasmania, Sir Harry
Barron, the Premier, Sir Elliot Lewis, and the citizens of Hobart
extended to us the greatest hospitality during our stay, and, when
the time came, gave us a hearty send-off.
2 arrived, and final preparations were made. All the staff were
united for the space of an hour at luncheon. Then began the final
leave-taking. ``God speed'' messages were received from
far and wide, and intercessory services were held in the Cathedrals
of Sydney and Hobart.
We were greatly honoured at this time
by the reception of kind wishes from Queen Alexandra and, at an
earlier date, from his Majesty the King.
Proud of such universal
sympathy and interest, we felt stimulated to greater exertions.
On arrival on board, I found Mr. Martelli, who was to pilot
us down the river, already on the bridge. A vast crowd blockaded
the wharf to give us a parting cheer.
At 4 P.M. sharp, the
telegraph was rung for the engines, and, with a final expression
of good wishes from the Governor and Lady Barron, we glided out
into the channel, where our supply of dynamite and cartridges was
taken on board. Captain G. S. Nares, whose kindness we had previously
known, had the H.M.S. `Fantome' dressed in our honour, and lusty
cheering reached us from across the water.
As we proceeded
down the river to the Quarantine Station where the dogs were to
be taken off, Hobart looked its best, with the glancing sails of
pleasure craft skimming near the foreshores, and backed by the stately,
sombre mass of Mount Wellington. The ``land of strawberries and
cream'', as the younger members of the Expedition had come
to regard it, was for ever to live pleasantly in our memories, to
be recalled a thousand times during the adventurous months which
followed. Mr. E. Joyce, whose name is familiar in connexion with
previous Antarctic expeditions, and who had travelled out from London
on business of the Expedition, was waiting in mid-stream with thirty-eight
dogs, delivering them from a ketch. These were passed over the side
and secured at intervals on top of the deck cargo.
The engines again began to throb, not to cease until
the arrival at Macquarie Island. A few miles lower down the channel,
the Premier, and a number of other friends and well-wishers who
had followed in a small steamer, bade us a final adieu.
lay a sparkling seascape and the Tasmanian littoral; before, the
blue southern ocean heaving with an ominous swell. A glance at the
barograph showed a continuous fall, and a telegram from Mr. Hunt,
Head of the Commonwealth Weather Bureau, received a few hours previously,
informed us of a storm-centre south of New Zealand, and the expectation
of fresh south-westerly winds.
The piles of loose gear presented
an indescribable scene of chaos, and, even as we rolled lazily in
the increasing swell, the water commenced to run about the decks.
There was no time to be lost in securing movable articles and preparing
the ship for heavy weather. All hands set to work.
main deck the cargo was brought up flush with the top of the bulwarks,
and consisted of the wireless masts, two huts, a large motor-launch,
cases of dog biscuits and many other sundries. Butter to the extent
of a couple of tons was accommodated chiefly on the roof of the
main deck-house, where it was out of the way of the dogs. The roof
of the chart-house, which formed an extension of the bridge proper,
did not escape, for the railing offered facilities for lashing sledges;
besides, there was room for tide-gauges, meteorological screens,
and cases of fresh eggs and apples. Somebody happened to think of
space unoccupied in the meteorological screens, and a few fowls
were housed therein.
On the poop-deck there were the benzine,
sledges, and the chief magnetic observatory. An agglomeration of
instruments and private gear rendered the ward-room well nigh impossible
of access, and it was some days before everything was jammed away
into corners. An unoccupied five-berth cabin was filled with loose
instruments, while other packages were stowed into the occupied
cabins, so as to almost defeat the purpose for which they were intended.
The deck was so encumbered that only at rare intervals was it
visible. However, by our united efforts everything was well secured
by 8 P.M.
It was dusk, and the distant highlands were limned
in silhouette against the twilight sky. A tiny, sparkling lamp glimmered
from Signal Hill its warm farewell. From the swaying poop we flashed
back, ``Good-bye, all snug on board.''
a dogged plunge our laden ship would press. If `Fram' were ``Forward,''
_she_ was to be hereafter our `Aurora' of ``Hope''--the
Dawn of undiscovered lands.
Home and the past were effaced
in the shroud of darkness, and thought leapt to the beckoning South--the
``land of the midnight sun.''
During the night the
wind and sea rose steadily, developing into a full gale. In order
to make Macquarie Island, it was important not to allow the ship
to drive too far to the east, as at all times the prevailing winds
in this region are from the west. Partly on this account, and partly
because of the extreme severity of the gale, the ship was hove to
with head to wind, wallowing in mountainous seas. Such a storm,
witnessed from a large vessel, would be an inspiring sight, but
was doubly so in a small craft, especially where the natural buoyancy
had been largely impaired by overloading. With an unprecedented
quantity of deck cargo, amongst which were six thousand gallons
of benzine, kerosene and spirit, in tins which were none too strong,
we might well have been excused a lively anxiety during those days.
It seemed as if no power on earth could save the loss of at least
part of the deck cargo. Would it be the indispensable huts amidships,
or would a sea break on the benzine aft and flood us with inflammable
liquid and gas?
By dint of strenuous efforts and good seamanship,
Captain Davis with his officers and crew held their own. The land
parties assisted in the general work, constantly tightening up the
lashings and lending ``beef,'' a sailor's term for man-power,
wherever required. For this purpose the members of the land parties
were divided into watches, so that there were always a number patrolling
Most of us passed through a stage of sea-sickness,
but, except in the case of two or three, it soon passed off. Seas
deluged all parts of the ship. A quantity of ashes was carried down
into the bilge-water pump and obstructed the steam-pump. Whilst
this was being cleared, the emergency deck pumps had to be requisitioned.
The latter were available for working either by hand-power or by
The deck-plug of
one of the fresh-water tanks was carried away and, before it was
noticed, sea-water had entered to such an extent as to render our
supply unfit for drinking. Thus we were, henceforth, on a strictly
limited water ration.
The wind increased from bad to worse,
and great seas continued to rise until their culmination on the
morning of December 5, when one came aboard on the starboard quarter,
smashed half the bridge and carried it away. Toucher was the offlcer
on watch, and no doubt thought himself lucky in being, at the time,
on the other half of the bridge.
The deck-rings holding the
motor-launch drew, the launch itself was sprung and its decking
On the morning of December 8 we found ourselves
in latitude 49 degrees 56 minutes S. and longitude 152 degrees 28'
E., with the weather so far abated that we were able to steer a
course for Macquarie Island.
During the heavy weather, food
had been prepared only with the greatest difficulty. The galley
was deluged time and again. It was enough to dishearten any cook,
repeatedly finding himself amongst kitchen debris of all kinds,
including pots and pans full and empty. Nor did the difficulties
end in the galley, for food which survived until its arrival on
the table, though not allowed much time for further mishap, often
ended in a disagreeable mass on the floor or, tossed by a lurch
of more than usual suddenness, entered an adjoining cabin. From
such localities the elusive piice de resistance was often rescued.
As we approached our rendezvous, whale-birds** appeared. During
the heavy weather, Mother Carey's chickens only were seen, but,
as the wind abated, the majestic wandering albatross, the sooty
and the mollymawk followed in our wake.
the specific names refer to Appendix which is a glossary of special
and unfamiliar terms.
Whales were observed spouting, but
at too great a distance to be definitely recognized.
on December 11 land began to show up, and by 6 A.M. we were some
sixteen miles off the west coast of Macquarie Island, bearing on
about the centre of its length.
In general shape it is long
and narrow, the length over all being twenty-one miles. A reef runs
out for several miles at both extremities of the main island, reappearing
again some miles beyond in isolated rocky islets: the Bishop and
Clerk nineteen miles to the southward and the Judge and Clerk eight
miles to the north.
The land everywhere rises abruptly from
the sea or from an exaggerated beach to an undulating plateau-like
interior, reaching a maximum elevation of one thousand four hundred
and twenty-five feet. Nowhere is there a harbour in the proper sense
of the word, though six or seven anchorages are recognized.
The island is situated in about 55 degrees S. latitude, and
the climate is comparatively cold, but it is the prevalence of strong
winds that is the least desirable feature of its weather.
Sealing, so prosperous in the early days, is now carried on
in a small way only, by a New Zealander, who keeps a few men stationed
at the island during part of the year for the purpose of rendering
down sea elephant and penguin blubber. Their establishment was known
to be at the north end of the island near the best of the anchorages.
Captain Davis had visited the island in the `Nimrod',
and was acquainted with the three anchorages, which are all on the
east side and sheltered from the prevailing westerlies. One of the
old-time sealers had reported a cove suitable for small craft at
the south-western corner, but the information was scanty, and recent
mariners had avoided that side of the island. On the morning of
our approach the breeze was from the south-east, and, being favourable,
Captain Davis proposed a visit.
By noon, Caroline Cove, as
it is called, was abreast of us. Its small dimensions, and the fact
that a rocky islet for the most part blocks the entrance, at first
caused some misgivings as to its identity.
A boat was lowered,
and a party of us rowed in towards the entrance, sounding at intervals
to ascertain whether the `Aurora' could make use of it, should
our inspection prove it a suitable locality for the land station.
We passed through a channel not more than eighty yards wide,
but with deep water almost to the rocks on either side. A beautiful
inlet now opened to view. Thick tussock-grass matted the steep hillsides,
and the rocky shores, between the tide-marks as well as in the depths
below, sprouted with a profuse growth of brown kelp. Leaping out
of the water in scores around us were penguins of several varieties,
in their actions reminding us of nothing so much as shoals of fish
chased by sharks. Penguins were in thousands on the uprising cliffs,
and from rookeries near and far came an incessant din. At intervals
along the shore sea elephants disported their ungainly masses in
the sunlight. Circling above us in anxious haste, sea-birds
of many varieties gave warning of our near approach to their nests.
It was the invasion by man of an exquisite scene of primitive nature.
After the severe weather experienced, the relaxation
made us all feel like a band of schoolboys out on a long vacation.
A small sandy beach barred the inlet, and the whaleboat was
directed towards it. We were soon grating on the sand amidst an
army of Royal penguins; picturesque little fellows, with a crest
and eyebrows of long golden-yellow feathers. A few yards from the
massed ranks of the penguins was a mottled sea-leopard, which woke
up and slid into the sea as we approached.
were spent examining the neighbourhood. Webb and Kennedy took a
set of magnetic observations, while others hoisted some cases of
stores on to a rocky knob to form a provision depot, as it was quickly
decided that the northern end of the island was likely to be more
suitable for a permanent station.
The Royal penguins were
almost as petulant as the Adelie penguins which we were to meet
further South. They surrounded us, pecked at our legs and chattered
with an audacity which defies description. It was discovered that
they resented any attempt to drive them into the sea, and it was
only after long persuasion that a bevy took to the water. This was
a sign of a general capitulation, and some hundreds immediately
followed, jostling each other in their haste, squawking, whirring
their flippers, splashing and churning the water, reminding one
of a crowd of miniature surf-bathers. We followed the files of birds
marching inland, along the course of a tumbling stream, until at
an elevation of some five hundred feet, on a flattish piece of ground,
a huge rookery opened out--acres and acres of birds and eggs.
In one corner of the bay were nests of giant petrels in which
sat huge downy young, about the size of a barn-door fowl, resembling
the grotesque, fluffy toys which might be expected to hang on a
Here and there on the beach and on the grass
wandered bright-coloured Maori hens. On the south side of the bay,
in a low, peaty area overgrown with tussock-grass, were scores of
sea elephants, wallowing in bog-holes or sleeping at their ease.
Sea elephants, at one time found in immense numbers on all sub-antarctic
islands, are now comparatively rare, even to the degree of extinction,
in many of their old haunts. This is the result of ruthless slaughter
prosecuted especially by sealers in the early days. At the present
time Macquarie Island is more favoured by them than probably any
other known locality. The name by which they are popularly known
refers to their elephantine proportions and to the fact that, in
the case of the old males, the nasal regions are enormously developed,
expanding when in a state of excitement to form a short, trunk-like
appendage. They have been recorded up to twenty feet in length,
and such a specimen would weigh about four tons.
on the `Aurora' in the evening, we learnt that the ship's
company had had an adventure which might have been most serious.
It appeared that after dropping us at the entrance to Caroline Cove,
the ship was allowed to drift out to sea under the influence of
the off-shore wind. When about one-third of a mile north-west of
the entrance, a violent shock was felt, and she slid over a rock
which rose up out of deep water to within about fourteen feet of
high-water level; no sign of it appearing on the surface on account
of the tranquil state of the sea. Much apprehension was felt for
the hull, but as no serious leak started, the escape was considered
a fortunate one. A few soundings had been made proving a depth of
four hundred fathoms within one and a half miles of the land.
A course was now set for the northern end of the island. Dangerous-looking
reefs ran out from many headlands, and cascades of water could be
seen falling hundreds of feet from the highlands to the narrow coastal
The anchorage most used is that known as North-East
Bay, lying on the eastern side of a low spit joining the main mass
of the island, to an almost isolated outpost in the form of a flat-topped
hill--Wireless Hill--some three-quarters of a mile farther north.
It is practically an open roadstead, but, as the prevailing winds
blow on to the other side of the island, quiet water can be nearly
However, when we arrived at North-East Bay
on the morning following our adventure; a stiff south-east breeze
was blowing, and the wash on the beach put landing out of the question.
Captain Davis ran in as near the coast as he could safely venture
and dropped anchor, pending the moderation of the wind.
the leeward slopes of a low ridge, pushing itself out on to the
southern extremity of the spit, could be seen two small huts, but
no sign of human life. This was not surprising as it was only seven
o'clock. Below the huts, upon low surf-covered rocks running
out from the beach, lay a small schooner partly broken up and evidently
recent victim. A mile to the southward, fragments of another
wreck protruded from the sand.
We were discussing wrecks
and the grisly toll which is levied by these dangerous and uncharted
shores, when a human figure appeared in front of one of the huts.
After surveying us for a moment, he disappeared within to reappear
shortly afterwards, followed by a stream of others rushing hither
and thither; just as if he had disturbed a hornets' nest. After
such an exciting demonstration we awaited the next move with some
Planks and barrels were brought on to the beach
and a flagstaff was hoisted. Then one of the party mounted on the
barrel, and told us by flag signals that the ship on the beach was
the `Clyde', which had recently been wrecked, and that all hands
were safely on shore, but requiring assistance. Besides the shipwrecked
crew, there were half a dozen men who resided on the island during
the summer months for the purpose of collecting blubber.
The sealers tried repeatedly to come out to us, but as often as
it was launched their boat was washed up again on the beach, capsizing
them into the water. At length they signalled that a landing could
be made on the opposite side of the spit, so the anchor was raised
and the ship steamed round the north end of the island, to what
Captain Davis proposed should be named Hasselborough Bay, in recognition
of the discoverer of the island. This proved an admirable anchorage,
for the wind remained from the east and south-east during the greater
part of our stay.
The sealers pushed their boat across the
spit, and, launching it in calmer water, came out to us, meeting
the `Aurora' some three miles off the land. The anchor was let
go about one mile and a half from the head of the bay.
was exchanged with the sealers. It appeared that there had been
much speculation as to what sort of a craft we were; visits of ships,
other than those sent down specially to convey their oil to New
Zealand, being practically unknown. For a while they suspected the
`Aurora' of being an alien sealer, and had prepared to defend
their rights to the local fishery.
All was well now, however,
and information and assistance were freely volunteered. They were
greatly relieved to hear that our auxiliary vessel, the `Toroa'
was expected immediately, and would be available for taking the
ship-wrecked crew back to civilization.
Owing to the loss
of the `Clyde', a large shipment of oil in barrels lay piled
upon the beach with every prospect of destruction, just at a time
when the realization of its value would be most desirable, to make
good the loss sustained by the wreck. I decided, therefore, in view
of their hospitality, to make arrangements with the captain of the
`Toroa' to take back a load of the oil, upon terms only sufficient
to recoup us for the extension of the charter.
with Ainsworth, Hannam and others, I went ashore to select a site
for the station. As strong westerly winds were to be expected during
the greater part of the year, it was necessary to erect buildings
in the lee of substantial break-winds. Several sites for a hut convenient
to a serviceable landing-place were inspected at the north end of
the beach. The hut was eventually erected in the lee of a large
mass of rock, rising out of the grass-covered sandy flat at the
north end of the spit.
It would have been much handier in
every way, both in assembling the engines and masts and subsequently
in operating the wireless station, had the wireless plant been erected
on the beach adjacent to the living-hut. On the other hand, a position
on top of the hill had the advantage of a free outlook and of increased
electrical potential, allowing of a shorter length of mast. In addition
the ground in this situation proved to be peaty and sodden, and
therefore a good conductor, thus presenting an excellent ``earth''
from the wireless standpoint. In short, the advantages of the hill-site
outweighed its disadvantages. Of the latter the most obvious was
the difficult transportation of the heavy masts, petrol-engine,
dynamo, induction- generator and other miscellaneous gear, from
the beach to the summit--a vertical height of three hundred feet.
To facilitate this latter work the sealers placed at our disposal
a ``flying fox'' which ran from sea-level to the top of
Wireless Hill, and which they had erected for the carriage of blubber.
On inspecting it, Wild reported that it was serviceable, but would
first require to be strengthened. He immediately set about effecting
this with the
help of a party.
Hurley now discovered that
he had accidentally left one of his cinematograph lenses on a rock
where he had been working in Caroline Cove. As it was indispensable,
and there was little prospect of the weather allowing of another
visit by the ship, it was decided that he should go on a journey
overland to recover it. One of the sealers, Hutchinson by name,
who had been to Caroline Cove and knew the best route to take, kindly
volunteered to accompany Hurley. The party was eventually increased
by the addition of Harrisson, who was to keep a look-out for matters
of biological interest. They started off at noon on December 13.
Although the greater part of the stores for the Macquarie Island
party were to arrive by the Toroa there were a few tons on board
the `Aurora'. These and the dogs were landed as quickly as possible.
How glad the poor animals were to be once more on solid earth! It
was out of the question to let them loose, so they were tethered
at intervals along a heavy cable, anchored at both ends amongst
the tussock-grass. Ninnis took up his abode in the sealers'
hut so that he might the better look after their wants, which centred
chiefly on sea elephant meat, and that in large quantities. Webb
joined Ninnis, as he intended to take full sets of magnetic observations
at several stations in the vicinity.
Bickerton and Gillies
got the motor-launch into good working order, and by means of it
the rest of us conveyed ashore several tons of coal briquettes,
the benzine, kerosene, instruments and the wireless masts, by noon
on December 13.
Everything but the requirements of the wireless
station was landed on the spit, as near the north-east corner as
the surf would allow. Fortunately, reefs ran out from the shore
at intervals, and calmer water could be found in their lee. All
gear for the wireless station was taken to a spot about half a mile
to the north-west at the foot of Wireless Hill, where the ``flying
fox'' was situated. Just at that spot there was a landing-place
at the head of a charming little boat harbour, formed by numerous
kelp-covered rocky reefs rising at intervals above the level of
high water. These broke the swell, so that in most weathers calm
water was assured at the landing-place.
This boat harbour
was a fascinating spot. The western side was peopled by a rookery
of blue-eyed cormorants; scattered nests of white gulls relieved
the sombre appearance of the reefs on the opposite side: whilst
gentoo penguins in numbers were busy hatching their eggs on the
sloping ground beyond. Skua-gulls and giant petrels were perched
here and there amongst the rocks, watching for an opportunity of
marauding the nests of the non-predacious birds. Sea elephants raised
their massive, dripping heads in shoal and channel. The dark reefs,
running out into the pellucid water, supported a vast growth of
a snake-like form of kelp, whose octopus-like tentacles, many yards
in length, writhed yellow and brown to the swing of the surge, and
gave the foreground an indescribable weirdness. I stood looking
out to sea from here one evening, soon after sunset, the launch
lazily rolling in the swell, and the `Aurora' in the offing,
while the rich tints of the afterglow paled in the south-west.
I envied Wild and his party, whose occupation in connexion with
the ``flying fox'' kept them permanently camped at this
The `Toroa' made her appearance on the afternoon
of December 13, and came to anchor about half a mile inside the
`Aurora'. Her departure had been delayed by the bad weather.
Leaving Hobart late on December 7, she had anchored off Bruni Island
awaiting the moderation of the sea. The journey was resumed on the
morning of the 9th, and the passage made in fine weather. She proved
a handy craft for work of the kind, and Captain Holliman, the master,
was well used to the dangers of uncharted coastal waters.
Within a few minutes of her arrival, a five-ton motor-boat of
shallow draught was launched and unloading commenced.
of the staff arriving by the `Toroa' were housed ashore with
the sealers, as, when everybody was on board, the `Aurora' was
uncomfortably congested. Fifty sheep were taken on shore to feed
on the rank grass until our departure. A large part of the cargo
consisted of coal for the `Aurora'. This was already partly
bagged, and in that form was loaded into the launches and whale-boats;
the former towing the latter to their destination. Thus a continuous
stream of coal and stores was passing from ship to ship, and from
the ships to the several landing-places on shore. As soon as the
after-hold on the `Toroa' was cleared, barrels of sea elephant
oil were brought off in rafts and loaded aft, simultaneously with
the unloading forward.
We kept at the work as long as possible--about
sixteen hours a day including a short interval for lunch. There
were twenty-five of the land party available for general work, and
with some assistance from the ship's crew the work went forward
at a rapid rate.
On the morning of the 15th, after giving
final instructions to Eitel, who had come thus far and was returning
as arranged, the `Toroa' weighed anchor and we parted with a
The transportation of the wireless equipment to the
top of the hill had been going on simultaneously with the un- loading
of the ships. Now, however, all were able to concentrate upon it,
and the work went forward very rapidly.
All the wireless
instruments, and much of the other paraphernalia of the Macquarie
Island party had been packed in the barrels, as it was expected
that they would have to be rafted ashore through the surf. Fortunately,
the weather continued to ``hold'' from an easterly direction,
and everything was able to be landed in the comparatively calm waters
of Hasselborough Bay; a circumstance which the islanders assured
us was quite a rare thing. The wireless masts were rafted ashore.
These were of oregon pine, each composed of four sections.
Digging the pits for bedding the heavy, wooden ``dead men,''
and erecting the wireless masts, the engine-hut and the operating-hut
provided plenty of work for all. Here was as busy a scene as one
could witness anywhere--some with the picks and shovels, others
with hammers and nails, sailors splicing ropes and fitting masts,
and a stream of men hauling the loads up from the sea-shore to their
destination on the summit.
Some details of the working of
the ``flying fox'' will be of interest. The distance between
the lower and upper terminals was some eight hundred feet. This
was spanned by two steel-wire carrying cables, secured above by
``dead men'' sunk in the soil, and below by a turn around
a huge rock which outcropped amongst the tussock-grass on the flat,
some fifty yards from the head of the boat harbour. For hauling
up the loads, a thin wire line, with a pulley-block at either extremity,
rolling one on each of the carrying wires, passed round a snatch-block
at the upper station. It was of such a length that when the loading
end was at the lower station, the counterpoise end was in position
to descend at the other. Thus a freight was dispatched to the top
of the hill by filling a bag, acting as counterpoise, with earth,
until slightly in excess of the weight of the top load; then off
it would start gathering speed as it went.
were developed for arresting the pace as the freight neared the
end of its journey, but accidents were always liable to occur if
the counterpoise were unduly loaded. Wild was injured by one of
these brake-devices, which consisted of a bar of iron Iying on the
ground about thirty yards in front of the terminus, and attached
by a rope with a loose-running noose to the down-carrying wire.
On the arrival of the counterpoise at that point on the wire, its
speed would be checked owing to the drag exerted. On the occasion
referred to, the rope was struck with such velocity that the iron
bar was jerked into the air and struck Wild a solid blow on the
thigh. Though incapacitated for a few days, he continued to supervise
at the lower
The larger sections of the wireless
masts gave the greatest trouble, as they were not only heavy but
awkward. A special arrangement was necessary for all loads exceeding
one hundredweight, as the single wire carrier-cables were not sufficiently
strong. In such cases both carrier-cables were lashed together making
a single support, the hauling being done by a straight pull on the
top of the hill. The hauling was carried out to the accompanirrlcnt
of chanties, and these helped to relieve the strain of the Work.
It was a familiar sight to see a string of twenty men on the hauling-line
scaring the skua-gulls with popular choruses like ``A' roving''
and ``Ho, boys, pull her along.'' In calm weather the parties
at either terminal could communicate by shouting but were much assisted
by megaphones improvised from a pair of leggings.
the heavy weights handled and the speed at which the work was done,
we were fortunate in suffering only one breakage, and that might
have been more serious than it proved. The mishap in question
occurred to the generator. In order to lighten the load, the
rotor had been taken out. When almost at the summit of the hill,
the ascending weight, causing the carrying-wires to sag unusually
low, struck a rock, unhitched the lashing and fell, striking the
steep rubble slope, to go bounding in great leaps out amongst the
grass to the flat below. Marvellous to relate, it was found to have
suffered no damage other than a double fracture of the end-plate
casting, which could be repaired. And so it was decided to exchange
the generators in the two equipments, as there would be greater
facilities for engineering work at the Main Base, Adelie Land. Fortunately,
the other generator was almost at the top of the ship's hold,
and therefore accessible. The three pieces into which the casting
had been broken were found to be sprung, and would not fit together.
However, after our arrival at Adelie Land, Hannam found, curiously
enough, that the pieces fitted into place perfectly--apparently
an effect of contraction due to the cold--and with the aid of a
few plates and belts the generator was made as serviceable as ever.
In the meantime, Hurley, Harrisson, and the sealer, Hutchinson,
had returned from their trip to Caroline Cove, after a most interesting
though arduous journey. They had camped the first evening at The
Nuggets, a rocky point on the east coast some four miles to the
south of North-East Bay. From The Nuggets, the trail struck inland
up the steep hillsides until the summit of the island was reached;
then over pebble-strewn, undulating ground with occasional small
lakes, arriving at the west coast near its southern extremity. Owing
to rain and fog they overshot the mark and had to spend the night
close to a bay at the south-end. There Hurley obtained some good
photographs of sea elephants and of the penguin rookeries.
The next morning, December 15, they set off again, this time
finding Caroline Cove without further difficulty. Harrisson remained
on the brow of the hill overlooking the cove, and there captured
some prions and their eggs. Hurley and his companion found the lost
lens and returned to Harrisson securing a fine albatross on the
way. This solitary bird was descried sitting on the hill side, several
hundreds of feet above sea-level. Its plumage was in such good condition
that they could not resist the impulse to secure it for our collection,
for the moment not considering the enormous weight to be carried.
They had neither firearms nor an Ancient Mariner's cross-bow,
and no stones were to be had in the vicinity--when the resourceful
Hurley suddenly bethought himself of a small tin of meat in his
haversack, and, with a fortunate throw, hit the bird on the head,
killing the majestic creature on the spot.
prize, they trudged on to Lusitania Bay, camping there that night
in an old dilapidated hut; a remnant of the sealing days.
Close by there was known to be a large rookery of King penguins;
a variety of penguin with richly tinted plumage on the head and
shoulders, and next in size to the Emperor--the sovereign bird of
the Antarctic Regions. The breeding season was at its height, so
Harrisson secured and preserved a great number of their eggs. Hutchinson
kindly volunteered to carry the albatross in addition to his original
load. If they had skinned the bird, the weight would have been materially
reduced, but with the meagre appliances at hand, it would undoubtedly
have been spoiled as a specimen. Hurley, very ambitiously, had taken
a heavy camera, in addition to a blanket and other sundries. During
the rough and wet walking of the previous day, his boots had worn
out and caused him to twist a tendon in the right foot, so that
he was not up to his usual form, while Harrisson was hampered with
a bulky cargo of eggs and specimens.
Saddled with these heavy
burdens, the party found the return journey very laborious. Hurley's
leg set the pace, and so, later in the day, Harrisson decided to
push on ahead in order to give us news, as they had orders to be
back as soon as possible and were then overdue. When darkness came
on, Harrisson was near The Nuggets, where he passed the night amongst
the tussock-grass. Hurley and Hutchinson, who were five miles behind,
also slept by the wayside. When dawn appeared, Harrisson moved on,
reaching the north-end huts at about 9 A.M. Mertz and Whetter immediately
set out and came to the relief of the other two men a few hours
Fatigue and the lame leg subdued Hurley for the rest
of the day, but the next morning he was off to get pictures of the
``flying fox'' in action. It was practically impossible
for him to walk to the top of the hill, but not to be baffled, he
sent the cinematograph machine up by the ``flying fox,''
and then followed himself. Long before reaching the top he realized
how much his integrity depended on the strength of the hauling-line
and the care of those on Wireless Hill.
During the latter
part of our stay at the island, the wind veered to the north and
north-north-east. We took advantage of this change to steam round
to the east side, intending to increase our supply of fresh water
at The Nuggets, where a stream comes down the hillside on to the
beach. In this, however, we were disappointed, for the sea was breaking
too heavily on the beach, and so we steamed back to North-East Bay
and dropped anchor. Wild went off in the launch to search for a
landing-place but found the sea everywhere too formidable.
Signals were made to those on shore, instructing them to finish
off the work on the wireless plant, and to kill a dozen sheep--enough
for our needs for some days.
The ship was now found to be
drifting, and, as the wind was blowing inshore, the anchor was raised,
and with the launch in tow we steamed round to the calmer waters
of Hasselborough Bay. At the north end of the island, for several
miles out to sea along the line of a submerged reef, the northerly
swell was found to be piling up in an ugly manner, and occasioned
considerable damage to the launch. This happened as the `Aurora'
swung around; a sea catching the launch and rushing it forward so
that it struck the stern of the ship bow-on, notwithstanding the
fact that several of the men exerted themselves to their utmost
to prevent a collision. On arrival at the anchorage, the launch
was noticeably settling down, as water had entered at several seams
which had been started.
After being partly bailed out, it
was left in the water with Hodgeman and Close aboard, as we wished
to run ashore as soon as the weather improved. Contrary to expectation
the wind increased, and it was discovered that the `Aurora'
was drifting rapidly, although ninety fathoms of chain had been
paid out. Before a steam-winch** was installed, the anchor could
be raised only by means of an antiquated man-power lever-windlass.
In this type, a see-saw-like lever is worked by a gang of men at
each extremity, and it takes a long time to get in any considerable
length of chain. The chorus and chanty came to our aid once more,
and the long hours of heaving on the fo'c'sle head were
a bright if strenuous spot in our memories of Macquarie Island.
In course of time, during which the ship steamed slowly ahead, the
end came in sight--'Vast heaving!--but the anchor was missing.
This put us in an awkward situation, for the stock of our other
heavy anchor had already been lost. There was no other course but
to steam up and down waiting for the weather to moderate. In the
meantime, we had been too busy to relieve Close and Hodgeman, who
had been doing duty in the launch, bailing for five hours, and were
thoroughly soaked with spray. All hands now helped with the tackle,
and we soon had the launch on board in its old position near the
** Fitted on return to Sydney after the first Antarctic
These operations were unusually protracted for we
were short handed; the boatswain, some of the sailors and most of
the land party being marooned on shore. We were now anxious to get
everybody on board and to be off. The completion of their quarters
was to be left to the Macquarie Island party, and it was important
that we should make the most of the southern season. The wind blew
so strongly, however, that there was no immediate prospect of departure.
The ship continued to steam up and down. On the morning
of December 23 it was found possible to lower the whale-boat, and
Wild went off with a complement of sturdy oarsmen, including Madigan,
Moyes, Watson and Kennedy, and succeeded in bringing off the dogs.
Several trips were made with difficulty during the day, but at last
all the men, dogs and sheep were brought off.
Both Wild and
I went with the whale-boat on its last trip at dusk on the evening
of December 23. The only possible landing-place, with the sea then
running, was at the extreme north-eastern corner of the beach. No
time was lost in getting the men and the remainder of the cargo
into the boat, though in the darkness this was not easily managed.
The final parting with our Macquarie Island party took place on
the beach, their cheers echoing to ours as we breasted the surf
and ``gave way'' for the ship.
III - FROM MACQUARIE ISLAND TO ADELIE LAND