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Bert Clive Burnell Lincoln - Diary from SY Aurora
Dec 25th 1912 / Mar 15th 1913

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Bert Clive Burnell Lincoln

Bert Lincoln diary - page 1 December 25th 1912

Bert Lincoln diary

sketch of the Aurora on a piece of hessian

Aurora leaving Hobart 2-12-1911
Leaving Hobart

Pack ice seen on 31st Dec 1911, five men on deck and rigging of the Aurora
The Aurora in pack ice
Aurora / Mawson 1911-1914

Bert Lincoln was an Able Bodied ordinary seaman on board the SY Aurora during a trip lasting just under three months from Hobart to Commonwealth Bay Antarctica and back again to relieve Mawson's expedition during its second summer, the middle of a three summer and two winter expedition.

He was born in 1888. So in 1913 when he went on the Aurora to the Antarctic he was 25yrs old. He served in the Camel Corp in 1918 as a Corporal and died aged 30 yrs. He was 5' 10 1/2" tall. He was the eldest of four children in his family. War details for Bert Lincoln

What follows is Bert's diary of the voyage. As far as I am aware this is the only such account of an ordinary sailor onboard an expedition or relief ship during the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. Often men such as Bert were not even included on lists of the ship's personnel which only tended to list the ships officers, expedition scientists and the support personnel who spent their time on the base.

The diary is in the possession of Sharyn Smith from Australia the great niece of Bert Lincoln to whom I am very grateful for sending me a copy that I have typed out to publish here. Sharyn states:

"Apparently they weren't to have any writing material on board as the ship had their own news reporters, but he wrote it anyway"

 ... which goes a long way to explaining why accounts such as this one are so rare. It is typed it as it is written. There is an occasional word or letter that I have not been able to interpret, at these points I have written a row of dashes ----- or wrapped question marks around the word where I have ?guessed?

Page 1 - Hobart to Antarctica
 
Bert Lincoln A.B. S.Y. Aurora

December 25th 1912

I am still aboard the expedition ship Aurora. We are lying in Hobart but are leaving tomorrow Boxing Day for Antarctica to pick up Dr. Mawson and his parties on the ice. We have been the guests of our captain J.K. Davis today at a Christmas dinner at the Oriental Hotel it was a flash affair. After dinner myself and my mate Louis with three lady friends went for a drive out in the country to a place called Berridale. We got home to tea about 6 o'clock in the evening went to a theatre and got aboard about 11.30.


Thursday
Dec 26th sailing day

We left Hobart at 10 a.m. had a great send off from a large crowd. We had our photos taken three times once by cinematograph. We have on board 40 sheep for fresh meat. We proceeded down stream to Brown's River where our 23 dogs came off by yacht from the quarantines station. We put the dogs forward on the coal which was in bags on deck but later we shifted the sheep forward and put the dogs in the waist we were outside the entrance shortly after dinner. We had fine weather until midnight, then got a heavy head wind, and a big sea rose up and made things a bit uncomfortable for the sheep started tumbling about and the dogs howling and fighting as is the fashion of the Esquimeaux dogs. During the early morning the dogs had to be shifted on to the bags of coal as heavy seas were coming aboard at the waist and as the course altered a little the ship started rolling heavily, we were steering S.W. by S 1/4 S.


Friday Dec 27th

The weather is still bad blowing strong from the West. Ship is deep loaded therefore she can't rise over the seas so readily, although she is an excellent sea boat she is dipping her jibboom clean out of sight time and time again, and the water is coming down our forecastle in streams, and is also pouring over the break of the fo'o'sle head. On the main deck over the sheep and dogs, and away aft, sheep in particular are having a bad time. All the passengers are sea sick and frightened of the heavy seas which come thundering aboard and smother everything in a smother of white foam. All of us sailors have been wet through times out of number, now is the time we envy our three strokes and three engineers. The boatswain killed a sheep as he broke his legs falling about.


Saturday Dec 28th

The weather is gradually growing worse, the wind is enough to blow a man off the bridge whilst standing. I nearly got hoisted over the wheel by a spoke catching between the buttons of my big quarter master's overcoat as the wheel gave a kick. The dogs are howling and fighting in fact they have been at it ever since they came aboard we get many a green sea over us whilst going to past them, as we must do seeing that they fight to the death although they are tame enough to try and smoodge to us if we take any notice of them as we pass, still the majority of them have their fangs ever ready. They formerly belonged to Amundsen the Norwegian Ant Explorer who reached the South pole & were presented by him to Dr. Mawson. One or two of them have actually been to the Pole. The weather moderated a little in the dog-watches. We are steering S.E. by S. We have the lowest top sail and the foresail set.


Sunday Dec 29th

Since midnight the wind has risen again and the sea is higher than ever and is very short and is not a long true sea either therefore it is a tremendous strain on our little "Aurora" she is as lively as a feather in the wind, and the seas are still thundering upon her forecastle head and also over the deck house and main deck and sprays are dashing high over the funnel as high as the topsails yards. Fancy passengers by the big 10,000 to 20,000 tons liners voyaging through the tropics talking about rough weather, why we are in the roughest part of the world in a ship of only 386 tons. So you can judge what it must be like. with her decks completely hidden under water & foam.
We have had to kill four more sheep which got injured. We took in the fore-sail & lower topsail at 2 p.m. and took a sounding and got 1,617 fathoms & white clay bottom. Wind is now blowing from S.E. & a big awkward sea is running, a lot of blackfish were swimming round the ship this afternoon.
The weather is getting colder every day but we don't mind the cold as much as we have been served with cold weather gear such as underwear, monkey suits, sea boots, mitts, hoods etc. etc.
The weather is still extremely bad & what with the dogs howling and sheep sculling about things are very lively, and the passengers who are members of the expedition such as the secretary two whaling experts & a wireless operator, and are supposed to help with the work (by watering, feeding and generally looking after the sheep and dogs) are down in the cabin lazing and having a a good time and leaving their work to us six sailors and the boatswain and they will go back to Australia and boast of the work they have done, but all the work of this expedition is being done by the six sailors and boatswain & the sailmakering all the work on board ship and with any gear that has to be fixed up. We are now steering S by E.1/2E. and are about 275 miles south of Tasmania, we make hardly any headway in the heavy weather we have ahead.


Monday December 30th

The weather is worse again this morning and a heavy southerly gale is blowing with heavy hail showers. We have been stopping fight among the dogs and all through the night. The ship is still taking liberal portions of the Southern Ocean aboard. Great excitement today as we saw the sun for about five minutes. We had to kill two more sheep today & one died of his own accord and was used for dogs feed. The boatswain & myself are the butchers & the skins are supposed to be ours to sell when we get home to Australia so you can depend upon it him & I will stick out for skins. Our watch got wet through three times between 4 & 8 o'clock this morning at midday the weather was getting worse again our position is Lat 50° 45"S. Long 145° 4"W ship is doing about 1 mile an hour going full speed ahead again the weather and sometimes she gets knocked astern by an extra big sea. Our forescastle which is on a level with the 'tween decks of course is down below is swimming with water and some bunks are soaking wet. By midnight the weather was so bad that seas were thundering aboard from fore to aft and the wind has risen to a proper hurricane and us sailors wonder what we can see in it to come to sea then some way will strike up "All the nice girls love a sailor" so we decide that must be the reason we stick at it.


Tuesday Dec 31st

Our watch came on deck at midnight & at one o'clock we very nearly had a calamity as the 2nd mate got knocked off the bridge taking with him the temperature box and its gear. He went out through the port bridge railing and struck the main rigging which saved him from going straight overboard After striking rigging he dropped to the main deck at the break of the poop a distance of 10-12 ft and was washing around in imminent risk of being washed overboard before I could reach him, which I eventually did and helped him back to the poop and thence to the bridge. I was keeping lookout on the lee side of the bridge as it was dangerous to stand any other place. Captain is very nervous tonight as weather is so bad &at quarter past one he came and asked me who relieved the wheelsmen at 20 past one I replied "myself sir". He then said "let me see you can handle her very well can't you"? I replied "I do my best sir" He then said "Well tonight remember she is only a very small ship and this is a dangerously high sea running and it is not true seas either so keep her dead true to her course and keep your name up, or she will get smashed". I steered her steady watching my compass. helm telltale & big seas as a cat watches a mouse. My relieving man was hardly at the wheel for a quarter of an hour when a sea came aboard on the starboard bow and tore the railings off the forecastle head & swept them over-board. Still have to kill sheep & ----- them in the main rigging making the ship look like a floating butchers shop. Dogs are keeping there name up for howling and sailors are swearing on account of being rolled out of their bunks (on to the wet floor) with the motion of the ship our watch came on duty at 6 o'clock this afternoon and found that the wireless was being erected, Yours truly was sent for the fore truck to send down four coils of copper wire unwinding as I came down had to hang on to base mast away in the air with the ship rolling 30° to 35° out of perpendicular either side also cold as ice aloft finished safely although very wet working aloft in drizzling rain. The wireless expert can only send and receive he has to get unskilled labor to do his rigging of gear ( a nice expert you will say the same as we do good job a sailor is a handy man. The apparatus was fixed steady to receive messages at quarter past eight, quick work but we expect to receive messages tonight New Year Eve. this time last year I was in barque "Dangy" in middle of pacific in glorious weather in the trade winds running for Sydney this year in the bitter cold weather in "Aurora" in S. Ocean battling South to Adelie land to Dr. Mawson. Tonight is the finest night we have had since leaving Hobart though still a bit rough. Our watch was on deck till midnight and we made our plans and everything went good the officer of the watch struck 8 bells for us aft & also blew the steam whistle like mad while two more of us struck bell forrard and spun the captain round. the stokers were up on deck banging away with their shovels. and the relieving watch poured up on deck and joined in too and we made a gloriously magnificent noise especially as the 23 Esquimeaux dogs all started howling squealing and fighting at the time. The old man jumped out of bunk in underpants on to the bridge & was choking with rage till he remembered New Years Eve then he went below again.


Jan 1st 1913

"Aurora's" 2nd voyage to Antarctica.
New Year came in with much finer weather and the sea is moderating. We tightened up the main rigging & main topmast backstays this morning by frappings and tryeing in with tackles. The rigging had become very slack on account of the heavy rolling & pitching there was danger of the mainmast going overboard with rigging & stays slack. One man went to the crows nest today & sent a message to the wireless operator to see if the gear was working right. It was satisfactory ships position today is lat 51°S & long145° West. Steering S.E. with the wind W.N.W. Squared the yards at 4.40p.m. had lower topsail and foresails set since 10.30 a.m. We took a sounding at 9 a.m. & got 2,170 fathoms of water but lost all the wire and gear & had to wind 4,000 fathoms of new wire on the machine this afternoon. We are now doing about 6 1/2 knots with the good fair wind we have & this is the best weather we have had since leaving Hobart. During last night the wireless operator caught passing messages from Hobart & also from Wellington N.Z.
The dogs are giving their usual concert & we have fed & watered them & the sheep. Whiskey and Stout was served today, 1 bot Why between 12 men ---- and also 2 bots of Imperial Russian Stout per man & of course the ones of us who didn't drink gave ours to our mates or the P.O's result was the sailmaker and one sailor were blue-blind-paralytic drunk & caused much fun as the ship is rolling considerably still. The average temperature today was 43° which you will no doubt envy as being nice & cool. ha! ha!


Thursday, Jan 2nd

The weather is fairly good and we are doing odd jobs again. The temperature at 2 a.m. is 38°. At 8 a.m. a lovely morning but ship is still taking water aboard. The dogs are loose for a run around & they enjoy it except when a sea comes & washes them around in the lee scuppers. We were dragging bags of coal from the main deck forrard and tipping it down the bunkers thus lifting ships head a bit and putting her stern down causing her to ride the seas better also to steer easier. Whilst at this job got water up to my waist four times wetting me through& filling my sea-boots. emptied boots out twice but no more as I got tired of it sometimes bag of coal & myself would cruise all round the main deck when a heavy sea caught us but never mind the weather is better & "All the nice girls love a sailor" ha! ha! At 4.15 p.m. clewed up and stowed the sails on the yards & took a sounding & got bottom at 1,850 fathoms but lost wire & gear on account of ship rolling and pitching so much. At 5 p.m. weather changed for worse again & with heavy squalls big seas were coming aboard. Had to chain up dogs to prevent them getting washed overboard. between 8 o'clock and midnight now and the wind is screeching through the rigging but the sea is not so extra rough as the force of wind flattens the sea down. Now midnight, our watch. turning in the wind has eased a little and this allows the sea to rise which it does. short and steep making us pitch tremendously and as we are riding it head on, the seas are thundering against her bows making it hard to hear anything in the forecastle.



Friday Jan 3rd 1913

Came on deck this morning at 4 o'clock weather has suddenly grown fine again. ship is steering S.W. 1/2 S. and shipping very little water. during the night 4 sheep died or got killed & 2 or 3 more in a dying condition, had the wheel from 5.20 to 6.40 from then to 8 bells was skinning sheep. Boatswain and I dumped two dead ones overboard without troubling to skin them. At 8 bells went aloft with sailmaker and loosed forsail & set with with the two watches combined. Then we went below & had breakfast other watch are now setting upper & lower topsails & the ship is getting a wriggle on & the more the merrier as it is the roughest & worst part of the world here abouts and among the ice is smooth seas and calmer weather so hey! ho! for the Ice. Our watch came on deck again at midday and found the weather nice and fine although there was a big swell on causing the ship to roll heavy at times making it awkward skinning and dressing the injured sheep of which the other watch killed four and us two. We will be accomplished butchers at this rate by the time we get back to Australia. We went off watch at 6 o'clock & came back on deck again at 7 o'clock to keep the second dogwatch & found the weather very fine. Oh we made fast the foresail & lower & upper topsails at 2 o'clock this afternoon and at 4 o'clock stopped & took a sounding and got bottom at 1,800 fathoms but while heaving in the wire it carried away & we lost 1000 fths of wire and a diver. We went below at 8 o'clock in the evening and on coming on deck at midnight found the weather still fine, and the "Aurora Australis" showing brightly all over the sky. Dogs are very quiet now it is finer weather, weather getting gradually colder, ships position today is 54°30"S. lat 144° E. Long. the temperature is 36°. The whaling people are getting gear and whale boat ready and sharpening harpoons and lances and spades as we are liable to meet with whales at any time now.


Saturday Jan 4th 1913

The weather is still fine and is getting colder it is 35° today. We are steering S.E. by 3/4S the ship's position is 56°S Lat & 144° E Long. We took another sounding & got the bottom at 1570 fathoms.


Sunday Jan 5th 1913

Our watch came on deck at 4o'clock this morning it was my first turn to keep time. At 4.15a stoker (German) came and started to ?bounce? me because I had just filled the galley kettle (it was my duty) and he could get no boiling water for his cocoa. He should have had cocoa before 4 and relieved his mate in the stokehold at 4. Anyhow he was looking for trouble so we got out on deck and I got a couple on to his jaw and as he rushed and I sidestepped I slipped as the deck was very wet & slippery and came down and as I got up and went for him again the chief officer rushed down from the bridge and stopped us and told us to wait until we could get ashore as we would fall and hurt our heads fighting on the slippery deck. The fireman seem to think that the sailors are firemen's peggies but sailors are reckoned better class than firemen, anyhow we won't be bossed by foreign firemen. We went below at 8 o'clock & had breakfast & the other watch are now taking a sounding. They got bottom at 1900 fths on a clay bottom. The temperature is 34° we are heading S.E. 3/4 S.


Monday Jan 6th

The temperature at 3 a.m. is 33°. One more sheep died and 4 more had to be killed. The decks were slippery as they were covered in blood. We sailors do not like having to be butchers but the talent aft (who are supposed to do all this) leave it all to us. Of course on the lecturing platforms back in Australia they will say how they did all the work giving us no credit for it at all.
The topsail & foresail which were set at 5 a.m. were made fast at 4 p.m. we now have head wind & heavy seas plenty of water coming aboard& a few hundred gallons came into our quarters. Our position today is 59°S. Lat & 145° E. Long. The temperature is 34°.
We have had our bogey stove going in the forecastle since Sunday afternoon thus making things far more comfortable. and besides it dries the forecastle floor and makes it nice & warm for turning out of bunk. We are having plenty of snow squalls now although we do not have the howling gales of a week ago.


Tuesday Jan 7th 1912 (as written)

Lent down the gallant halyards at 5 a.m. were going to send down top gallant yard but the ship was rolling a bit too much so we left it. Took a sounding and got bottom at 2,230 fathoms yellow clay. The engines were stopped from 8 a.m. to midday to enable the engineers to put some fresh valves in the air-pumps . They are going again now. It has been drizzling rain and snow all day long. The temperature is 35°. We have a good wind on the port quarter now and we are bowling along. It is a wonder the "Old Man" don't set sails.
I have started putting on hard weather clothes today such as Happy Hooley hood & mitts jerseys etc. I have to take the wheel now, through the dog watch.


Wednesday Jan 8th

We have been having sleet & snow since yesterday, and there are no signs of it ceasing. We are expecting to sight ice at any moment now. We took a sounding at 11.30 this morning & got bottom of yellow clay at 2,257 fathoms There is a heavy swell running & the ship is rolling heavily. The temperature is 34°. We had the main pumps going two or three times today as the engine room pumps were not working satisfactorily and the water was over the footplates in the stokehold. Our position is 62°S Lat & 146° 5"E. Long. The other watch killed 3 more sheep today. We are a happy family today. In the dog-watches some were playing crib. I was playing the accordion while the rest sang. When our watch went on deck at 8 bells (8 o'clock) to night we found the ship chasing round after a barrel and after a lot of manoeveuring we picked it up. It was only an oil barrel probably drifted here from MacQuarrie Is. where they use a lot of barrels for penguin oil etc. Anyway we satisfied our selves that it was not a message from distressed mariners or anything of that sort as it was quite empty.


Thursday Jan

The weather is still very dirty and we have had snow & sleet for tree days now. We have not sighted ice yet. We started killing sheep today in earnest we killed a dozen and the decks we covered in blood. The dogs had a Christmas. We have only six sheep left & they will be killed tomorrow. Our position is 62° 19" S by dead reckoning today. When sounding this morning we got a yellow clay bottom at 2,200 fathoms. We took another sounding at 10 p.m. and got bottom at 2,150 fathoms. I have had wet feet continually since we left Hobart as our seaboots are not watertight. The wind is increasing tonight and is raising a bit of a sea but we are in calmer latitudes now than we were a week ago.


Friday Jan 10th

When we came on deck today we found it very calm although there was a slight swell on. the ship was hove to for a sounding alongside a lot of drift ice. During the early hours of the morning we sighted many icebergs. the sounding was 2,100 fathoms with a clay bottom. I relieved the wheel at midday and the course took me into the ice which got thicker until the course was altered. We have to steer clear of the larger pieces and the ship punches the rest aside out of her way of course her bows and forefoot are shod with steel to smash ice with. There are numerous birds around the ship such as Albatross Blue-billies and a few nightbirds. Our position is 63° 50' S lat by 148° E. Long. the temperature is 33°. The temperature at midnight was 32°. We killed the last of the sheep to-day and were not sorry either.


Saturday Jan 11th

Our watch came on deck at 4 o'clock this morning and found the weather like a typical Australian Jan morning except for the cold. The sun was shining and it was very calm & still. The temperature was 31°. At 5.30 we took a sounding and got a yellow clay bottom at 1,950 fathoms. We had icebergs round us all the morning and at dinner time when we took a sounding were close to a very large patch of drift ice. The sounding was 1,620 fathoms clay bottom we entered the drift at 12.30 and it was fairly heavy it was the prettiest sight I have ever seen. The blue sea with the white lumps of ice shining in the sunlight and some of the larger pieces showing a bright blue. The old ship trembled and shuddered when she was punching big lumps. We got clear of the drift ice about 3.30 and steered West along the edge of it passing only a few small pieces here and there with tremendous bergs in the distance. We saw several seals lying on the drift ice and later a couple of whales. We have been getting the whale boat & harpoons lances etc. ready this afternoon. We also saw penguins Antarctic Petrels & Mother Carey's chickens. A large whale crossed our bows at 4.15 this afternoon and nearly collided with us, he spouted right under our bows. We took another sound at 5.30 this afternoon and got 1,480 fathoms and rock bottom. The weather is still fine and except for slight swell the sea is like glass. The temperature is 32°. We were steering S.W. by W. till 6.30 when course was altered to W. again. We have made fine headway to-day & tonight and are now nearly 65° S latitude or over 10 degrees further South than Cape Horne which most sailors considered as "away South" We are now in glorious weather and have sing-songs every night through the dog-watches in the forecastle. The Esq dogs were quite glad to sight ice and were in great excitement when we were punching through the ice drift.

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