Leslie Russell Blake (1890 - 1918)
Cartographer and Geologist - Aurora 1911-1913
Single, was born in Hawthorn Victoria Australia on 28th October 1890, had lived for many years in Queensland previous to joining the Expedition. Before accompanying the Macquarie Island Party as Geologist and Cartographer, he obtained leave from the Geological Survey Department, Brisbane. He visited the Antarctic during the final cruise of the `Aurora' in the summer of 1913-1914.
Blake was amongst five who stayed for a further year at Macquarie Island in 1915.
He earned a Military Cross in the First World War and died of his wounds on the 3rd of October 1918 In France, just a month before the armistice.
With thanks to Beryl Hazlett. "I have just come across your web page on the crew and personnel list of the Aurora on the Mawson expedition to Antarctica 1911/13. Leslie Blake was the youngest brother of my grandmother".
Landmarks named after Leslie Russell Blake
Feature Type: cape
Description: A rocky cape on the Organ Pipe Cliffs, 4 mi W of Cape Wild. Discovered by the AAE (1911-14) under Douglas Mawson.
Motor launch at the ice front, Boat Harbour, Cape Denison, Madigan, Gillies behind, Hodgeman, Mawson and Blake
Christmas Day dawned fine and sunny, and we decided to make some attempt at a dinner. Blake produced a plum pudding, and this, together with roast mutton and several kinds of vegetables, washed down with a little claret, constituted our first Christmas dinner.
Blake and Hamilton were soon making inroads, each on his own particular sphere of work. On the 17th a baseline was laid down on the plateau, and Blake was able to commence his survey of the island. He had already made some geological investigations in the vicinity of North Head and West Point, as well as for a short distance along the east coast. Hamilton had visited nearly all the penguin rookeries in the vicinity, and already had several fine specimens. Marine collecting occupied part of his time and plant life promised to provide an interesting field.
During the opening days of March, Blake and Hamilton were engaged in field work down the island. They went as far as "The Brothers," a rocky promontory about two miles south of Sandy Bay. Wekas were so plentiful that they lived almost entirely on them. Blake, on returning to the Shack, had a badly blistered heel which kept him indoors for a few days. Hamilton, who had secured a goodly number of specimens, had to attend immediately to their preservation.
Blake had just recovered from his blistered heel when he had the misfortune to meet with a slight accident. He and Hamilton were engaged cutting a track through the tussock from the Shack to the beach, when the spade wielded by Hamilton struck Blake's foot, cutting through the boot and inflicting a wound on the great toe. It was treated antiseptically and bound up; Blake being laid up for a few days.
In anticipation of the 'Aurora's arrival, Blake and Hamilton collected some stores together in the hope that Captain Davis would transport them down to Lusitania Bay, thus obviating the necessity of carrying them down on foot. As Blake reckoned that he would remain there fully three months and Hamilton about two months, it was thought that such another opportunity might not present itself.
Blake was an expert with the needle and did some really neat mending, while with the aid of some woollen thread and a mug he darned holes in his socks most artistically. He was the authority on how, when and where to place a patch or on the only method of washing clothes. The appearance of his articles when washed, compared with mine, made me wonder.
On the 28th Blake and Hamilton started out in the dinghy for Lusitania Bay. They had already made a step and sprit, and, with a calico sail hoisted, the frail craft ran before a light breeze. Having a fair wind they made good headway along the coast, dropping in at a gentoo penguin rookery en route, and collecting about two hundred and twenty eggs. Mac was a passenger and was a very sick dog all the trip.
On December 2, at 10 A.M., Blake and I packed our sleeping-bags and blankets and started for Sandy Bay. The swags weighed only thirty-five pounds each and we made a rather quick trip.
Hamilton and Blake went out fishing in the dinghy on the 9th and made a remarkable haul of fish, sixty in number, ranging in size from a few ounces to twelve and a half pounds. They were all of the same species, somewhat resembling rock cod, but as usual they were covered with external parasites, and their flesh was full of worm-cysts. Hamilton preserved a number of them and the rest were cooked, but we did not relish them very much and the one meal was enough.
The end of the first month found Blake and Hamilton both very busy in making suitable boxes for specimens. Many of the larger birds could not be packed in ordinary cases, so Hamilton had to make specially large ones to accommodate them, and Blake's rock specimens being very heavy, extra strong boxes had to be made, always keeping in view the fact that each was to weigh not more than eighty pounds, so as to ensure convenient handling.
- I am concentrating on the Polar experiences of the men involved.
Any further information or pictures visitors may have will be gratefully received.
- Paul Ward, webmaster.
What are the chances that my ancestor was an unsung part of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration?