In Antarctica (ii) - Bert Clive Burnell Lincoln
from the SY Aurora, Australasian Antarctic Expedition
page 3 - Jan 24th 1913 / Feb 2nd 1913
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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. What follows is Bert's diary of the voyage.
It is typed as it is written. There is an occasional word or letters 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?
Friday Jan 24th
The launch did not get ashore until about 10 oclock this morning when the mate and his five men went ashore to work at the wireless masts. The rest of us have been working among the stores all day, by watch and watch clearing up and restowing and getting up odd things that had to go ashore, as, if Mawson does not turn up by the end of the month, a party which is already picked will have to stay at this base till next summer. About 2 o'clock this afternoon the launch was hoisted out of the water, as the wind was getting too strong for it to go ashore any more, so the mate and his two will have to stay ashore till the wind eases off again. To-night the wind is screaming through the rigging although we are under the lee of the glacier which is four or five hundred feet high altogether, and the ship is straining heavily at her anchor. If she should break away we would have to set out till it came calm weather again, then pick up the mate and the two sailors, and probably go and pick up the men at the second base and clear off home to Australia. It is one good thing here all the heavy blows come off shore so that we are under the lees & in some measure have a little shelter and if anything goes wrong we get blown off shore, whereas, if we had the wind from the sea and the shore to leeward of us and we carried away our cable we should be on the rocks and ice in about two minutes and it would be the last of the Aurora and her crew then s she would get smashed like an eggshell, strong though she is, and the wind blows that heavy here that if it came the same from the open sea we would have no chance what ever of holding on and no hope of steaming out in the face of it, so it is lucky for us that the wind is pretty dependable. It only varies from south to south-east when blowing with any strength here.
Since we lost our other anchor and cable, we have the weaker
(viz lighter) cable in use and the question "Will your
anchor hold" is much in use among us and "Are we downhearted"
Saturday Jan 25th
The wind was still blowing strong this morning but it eased off a little towards midday. It was exceedingly cold this morning and the other watch had to scrub out the forecastle and the square outside it. Our watch, in which the big Dane and myself are the only members on board, had to finish the square when we came on deck at midday to keep the twelve to six watch this afternoon, then we had to bag some coal to be sent ashore. after this was done the wind calmed suddenly, so we had to lower the launch in the water and put some thirteen bags of coal in her and the two ice baskets and she put off for shore with two men belonging to shore and our chief engineer.
When the boat got ashore after getting close in under the
ice, the wind rose again stronger than ever and prevented the
boat coming back again as it should have done to bring off the
mate and the two sailors. The wind was blowing from the south
and getting stronger all the time, and 10 minutes to 8 to night
it suddenly swung round to east and blew something awful with
the result that the ship gave a lurch on her cable and broke
it, and started drifting away to leeward, broadside on. It was
our dog-watch from seven till eight so I ran below and caught
up a quartermaster's top coat and rushed to the wheel calling
out the other watch from the forecastle before I went aft. The
wind by this time was so strong that one had to hold on tight
and pull yourself with your arms from place to place. I had
a terrible job to stay on the grating to steer. After a hard
tussle I got the helm hard up and the ship started to pay off
from the wind, but she did not go off far when the cable dragging
overboard stopped her although she still drifted away bodily
to leeward. Then the boatswain and the four other sailors got
the cable in and she answered her helm, and we blew down the
bay before the wind while the crew got everything movable about
the decks lashed securely. By 9.20 things were a bit ship-shape
and one a man from the other watch relieved me at the wheel,
when our watch (The Dane and myself) went below. The ship was
beating about the bay until midnight just keeping position and
a big sea was mounting up. The bay has been named Commonwealth
Bay by Mawson and the Aurora is the only ship that has been
here, consequently, it is not charted and when we had low tides
the other day some ugly rocks showed above the surface and we
were in danger of hitting some at any time during the struggle
as we could not see them.
Sunday Jan 26th 1913
Our watch came on deck at midnight and the other watch were not allowed to turn in but had to hold themselves in readiness or as it is called aboard ship "Stand by". The Dane had the wheel from twelve till two, when I relieved him. During the two hours from 12 to 2. We had to brace the yards about six times as we kept putting about and the wind would keep suddenly shifting as much as eight points-which of course is a quarter-and sometimes even as much as sixteen points which is half-way round the compass. When I relieved the wheelman at two o'clock I had to stay there of course until 8 bells four o'clock, during which time the crew had to get our spare anchor out of the fore-hatchway on to the forecastle head which was a ticklish piece of work, when such a storm was blowing. With the aid of the topsail halyards the trawl boom, and its gear and plenty of tackles and the steam windlass and steam winch, the anchor was at last safely landed on the starboard side of the fore-castle-head just abaft the cathead, and the cable was hauled out through the port hawse pipe (it was stowed in the port locker and had to be over the port side of the windlass as we have not got the starboard side minded yet) with the trawl wise and access to the anchor, passing under the bobstay and was shackled on to the ring of the anchor which was then lowered over the side ready for dropping. The job was finished by four o'clock but in the meantime the ship had beaten back to her anchorage and had to put about, but when the anchor was ready she headed up again to the anchorage which she reached about 7.30 and the anchor was dropped in thirteen fathoms of water and all the cable we have left, which is only sixty fathoms was paid out, and all the emergency tackles and gear such as anchor buoy etc. were fixed up by eight o'clock.
When I was relieved at four o'clock from the wheel the captain
called all hands aft to "Splice the mainbrace". then my watch-mate
and myself went down to the forecastle and slept in our clothes
with our feet to the bogey. but as it happened we were not called
out before 7.20 (breakfast time). We went on deck at eight o'clock
and the P.O's viz boatswain and sailmaker who had been on duty
continuously for 24 hours by then went below & also the other
watch, which had lost their watch below from 12 to 4.
This is the first time since I joined the ship that a watch-below has been lost by the other watch, at every other time that all hands were needed our watch was the unlucky one that had to lose a watch below.
At eight o'clock this morning the chief mate and chief engineer and the two sailors tried to put off from shore to the ship and after being nearly drowned were driven back, but at eleven o'clock the chief mate& engineer accompanied by Mr. Eitel (the sec of the expedition) reached the ship in safety leaving the two sailors ashore at the camp. The captain was mad with the mate for leaving the two sailors ashore, because if we lose our present anchoring gear which is not at all dependable, we can't do anything but clear off to the others base at Gosberge leaving the people here who have plenty of stores, to wait till next summer to be taken home, and so if anything happens we will have a job to get our two men aboard before we go and the ship is too short handed without them. The weather was too windy for the launch to go ashore again for the two men so we hoisted it in the davits.
When we left Hobart we had altogether 245 fathoms of cable
and 3 anchors one being a spare one, and was stowed down below.
Now we have only that spare anchor left and 60 fathoms of cable.
The cable which broke last night was a full length merchant
ship's cable 120 fathoms and we lost the anchor and 60 fathoms
of cable chain thus leaving us 60 fths. The anchor we lost before
carried 125 fathoms of Navy cable with it and the cable was
exceptionally strong, so now we call our anchor with its short
length of weak cable, "Our Forlorn Hope." and it will be one
of the greatest miracles that have ever happened if it holds
on until we are ready to leave here. We have not only to be
afraid of the cable breaking again but also of the anchor dragging
as the less the cable paid out, the more the anchor will drag
and it used to drag some with 90 fathoms of cable out. Last
night when the cable parted we were riding on 105 fathoms of
cable so it snapped away and water. We have the last anchor
we lost buoyed so we will know just where to drag for it. if
the captain decides to stay which I think is useless.
Monday Jan 27th 1913
While our watch was below in bunk for the 12 till4 watch this morning, the captain gave orders at 2 o'clock to call all hands and hoist the motor launch higher in the davits than she had been hanging all night, so we had to get out of bunk and get busy. We were finished by 10 minutes to 3, so we turned in again for an hour, but our watch below was spoiled and of course it rankled especially as this was an unnecessary job for the launch had hung in the same position in much worse weather and had come to no harm, and another cause of discontent was the fact that there are two steam winches on deck and both available to hoist the launch with but as one watch could have done the job with ease by using steam, the officers would not allow the steam to be used but made us turn out and all hands pull and strain at it. The officers here are all except one, steamboat officers and yet they have not the slightest idea of the use of steam for anything but the engines, oh they are a queer lot. To join this ship a sailor must be a sailor and used to square rigged sailing vessels, so when we see our passenger steamer officers la-de-da ing around making us a lot of unnecessary work we naturally curse steamboats and their officers up-hill and down dale.
Our watch was below again this morning from eight o'clock
till twelve (midday). Shortly after 8.30 the watch on deck lowered
the launch into the water and it was sent ashore to bring off
the other two sailors which it did arriving back about 10 o'clock.
The weather now became rather squally and at about 11.15 the
cable parted about 15 fathoms from the anchor so now we only
have 45 fathoms of cable left. Our list of accidents during
our fortnight here, is as follows
|1st One Anchor (starboard)
and 125 fathoms of Navy cable
2nd Smashed up starboard side of windlass trying to recover lost anchor
3rd Lost Port anchor and 60 fathoms cable
4th Lost also our spare anchor and 15 fathoms of cable
Thus we have lost 3 Anchors and 200 fathoms of cable altogether and have smashed up our windlass.
It is a wonder that our captain does not steam ahead slowly when the squalls come, and take some of the ship's weight off her cable but I suppose he is too much of a numb skull to know that and of course if he does not know it, we can't tell him as he is captain and thinks he knows everything. and his fellow officers are jackie know-alls too in their own estimations.
We are now steaming and drifting about the bay as we can't
very well anchor as we only have a little kedge anchor that
one man can pick up and carry with a bit of exertion.
Tuesday Jan 28th 1913
After drifting and steaming about the bay all night we dropped the little kedge in about 10 fathoms of water at 8.30 this morning. The other watch had shackled the kedge on to the remaining piece of cable during the 4 to 8 watch this morning.
The kedge was dropped and heaved up again a couple of times before it gripped but at last it held.
About 10 o'clock the kedge anchor started to drag when a puff of wind struck the ship and after dragging for a couple of minutes it gripped again but only held for about 10 minutes then the ship's head swung round till she was broadside on and she began to drift quickly to leeward. We started to heave in, but as the cable does not fit the windlass barrel, it took us nearly to dinnertime, because we had to keep tackles and wires on the cable to prevent it running out as the windlass tried to heave in. I had a dangerous job down the chain ---- stowing it as it came down, and two or three times at first it took charge and all ran out and it would stop with a terrible jerk when it came to the end, as the end was fast around the mast at the keelson. We are drifting about the bay now and have been ever since dinnertime as we found when we got the kedge aboard that one fluke was broken clean off down at the crown of the anchor so it is now practically useless even as a kedge anchor of it we could not expect so small an anchor to stand the strain when used as a main anchor.
We only steam to avoid any ice that comes floating by or
when a squall strikes us, so that the ship does not drift ashore.
The motor launch has been plying between the ship and the shore
all the afternoon taking stores ashore and bringing off stuff
that has to go to Australia such as scientific specimens. It
is pretty certain that a party will have to stay here till next
year and many of those ashore are of opinion that Dr. Mawson
is now dead unless he has got to the coast to the westward and
is living on penguins and sealmeat. But of course the men that
stay here will search for him if the search party which are
out at present do not find him. We are supposed to leave here
in a couple of days time and go west to the other base at Gosberge.
Kaiser Wilhelm II Land and pick up the other party then
go home to Australia probably to Sydney. We, the sailors and
firemen will not be sorry to reach Sydney and pay off.
Wednesday Jan 29th 1913
We drifted about the bay this morning till 6.40 then just as I relieved the wheel the captain came on the bridge and rang full speed ahead and we steamed back near the camp in the teeth of a pretty stiff breeze. When we arrived off the camp we turned and went along the coast to the eastward, We are to be away for three days searching the coast of Adelie Land to the east.
We have been steaming along about three miles offshore and
threading our way among large icebergs all day & the officers
have been scanning the ice and numerous small islands along
the coastline, through glasses and telescopes and going aloft
to the crows nest but we did not sight any signs of Mawson today.
We have had to keep sounding about every half hour all day as
this coast is unchartered. we do it with a machine on the poop
as the ship is moving. This afternoon when I relieved the man
at the wheel, he reported the course to the mate on the navigation
bridge and then he went to the big telescope which was mounted
on its stand near by the wheel on the steering bridge an away
from the officers and was just going to have a look when the
mate happened to see him, and snarled out "Keep your eyes out
of that Schroeder" as if the man would defile it by looking
through Schroeder then said "I am only looking for Dr. Mawson"
the mate snapped back "never mind Dr. Mawson, get off". Such
things on the part of officers in a ship which is kept up by
public money seem rather nasty to our way of thinking and if
the officers only heard us talking in the forecastle sometimes
their ears would burn as they would know how much we despise
Thursday Jan 30th 1913
We are still steaming along the coast looking for Mawson. This morning at 4 o'clock we had to start keeping a lookout in the crows-nest at the main-truck. We were then steaming along close under the great ice-barrier and wind which was blowing strong was right from the ice to us making it pretty cold. This morning at 7.30 the temperature was 20° and at midday it was 23°. The man in the crows-nest can see very little more than those on deck as the face of the ice-barrier is from 100tf to 150 ft high rising perpendicular from the water, and the crows nest is about 85 ft high. We stopped at midday in an inlet of the barrier and took a sounding getting a rock-bottom at 340 fathoms, thus showing that the barrier is afloat and not covering over land, as the ice only has one foot above water to seven feet below and the sounding was taken close alongside the icebarrier.
We sighted a range of mountains in the far distance thus showing that we were still in the vicinity of land.
We have been going to the eastwards from the base as it was
eastwards Mawson travelled from the base. We have been firing
rockets about every half hour today and to night and this morning
a kite was flying from the poop. The rockets are fired from
the poop and they then burst six hundred feet in the air. All
this of course is to attract Mawson's attention if he is anywhere
close. About ten o'clock tonight we sighted heavy pack ice stretching
for miles and miles to the port beam from ahead with the ice-barrier
on our starboard side and about eleven o'clock we put about
and steamed back along the ice barrier towards the base at full
speed. We were only to be away from the base for three days
and we have been travelling away from it for two days now. so
we will be a little over three days away by the time we get
Friday Jan 31st 1913
We are still on our way back to the main-base. we are steering from point to point of the ice as our steering comp is very sluggish and the ship is almost about before the compass shows she is swinging from her course. This is caused by our proximity to the south magnetic pole. We had to keep lookout today again in the crows nest but as we did not nose in so close to the edge of the ice the officer gave us a telescope in the nest.
We passed many very pretty icebergs today and some we passed
very close and the men forward who had cameras were busy taking
snapshots whenever we passed close to an exceptionally grand
berge. They have to do it on the sly of course as we sign articles
in the ship not to take any specimens, photos or keep a diary
nor to say anything concerning the expedition for a period of
at least twelve months after the expedition is finished. This
if course is to allow Mawson and his scientists and ship's officers
to spin their tales without being contradicted by the sailors
because if the people of Australia knew as much of it as a man
in the forecastle they would be disgusted at the whole affair
and on account of this captain and officers like to keep us
ignorant of everything, but by saying nothing and
watching everything we learn a lot and as one or
two men who smoodge to the officers and scientists learn a bit
more and pass it on to the rest of us, we know of most of the
doings of the expedition.
We are supposed to leave the main base tomorrow for the base at Gaussberge.
The weather is pretty cold and wherever a spray lands on board it freezes. the main deck is covered with slush and ice and the bulwarks are covered with a coating of ice on the outside.
We arrived at the main base to-night about 9.30 and are now cruising to and fro till morning when the motor launch is expected off. We now have a couple of hours at night from eleven o'clock to one when it is a bit dark. We expect to be about a fortnight on the way west to Gosberge where Mr. Wild (one of Shackleton's men) is in command and to only be there a couple of days, then, if the weather is mild enough, come here again before we leave the Antarctic in case Mawson has reached the base during our absence.
The temperature tonight is 20° which is 12° of frost.
While we were lying at the base and losing anchors we had
the thermometer on board as low as 6° above zero one day
on the same day ashore it was 2° above zero, whilst several
times our thermometers showed 10° to 12° above zero but
we do not notice 10° with calm nearly so much as 20° when
windy weather. The wind makes the cold cut.
Saturday Feb 1st 1913
We are still off and on shore at the main base waiting for a bit of fine weather to get the motor launch aboard and the men who have to go home with us and so go to Gaussberge but the weather is still very windy with plenty of snow and cold. The ship is continually taking sprays over and the decks and rigging are covered with slushy snow and ice and from every projection there are icicles hanging and the outsides of the bullwarks are white with frozen sprays just as if a coat of white paint had been put on. The temperature is down to 18° which is fourteen degrees of frost. When we came on deck this morning at 8 o'clock we had to set to and shovel the snow and ice overboard, we could not sweep it through the scuppers as they are all frozen up. When that job was done we had to make ?sennett? (plaiting ropeyarns) for rovings which are used to bend the sails to the yards with.
When we are steaming up against the wind the engines are
opened up to their utmost speed and the ship just crawls to
windward when we get near the base and go about the engines
are slowed down to dead-slow and she sailed down to leeward
pretty quickly although we set no sails at all. Although we
are close to the land and in the lee of it still there is a
bit of sea on making it a bit awkward to write as she is lurching
& rolling a little. It is pretty cold at the wheel in this weather
and we think of the warm weather in Australia now, but we have
plenty of warm clothes so it does not cause us any very terrible
hardship. Then we have a nice little bogey in the forecastle.
Mawson is now a long time overdue and there is very little chance
of him going back to Australia this year if at all. The old
chap who joined the ship in Hobart as harpooner and A.B.
got his foot hurt the other day, by getting a smack with the
piston rod of the windlass, but he is able to get about again
now and he turned to again yesterday.
Sunday Feb 2nd 1913
The weather has been worse than ever to-day this morning on our watch on deck at 4 o'clock you could not see more than a ship's length in any direction as it was snowing hard. As our compasses are not much use for straight steering and we could not see our marks on shore to steer by we had to steer by the direction of the wind and sea. About 6 o'clock the snow ceased for a while when I was at the wheel and I was not sorry to have a mark to steer by again.
This is the sort of Sunday we like here in the "Aurora" as we do not get any work in such weather, but in fine weather all the big and important jobs are left until Sunday so that we do not get the benefit of Sunday.
I spent the day, when it was my watch on deck in the fore-castle near the bogey in the galley then a trick at the wheel and of course in bunk on my watch below.
The rigging is all covered over with ice and the lanyards of the rigging are blocks of solid ice as are also the jibboom, catheads and everything which is in an exposed position.
The ship is having a hard battle of it for although we are
in the lee of the land (or ice) still the wind is that strong
that a big sea is running and it is very fascinating at the
wheel steering as the wind gets under her weather bow and forces
her off a bit, then a sea gives her a smack on the w. bow and
sends her off more but you are shifting the helm down and watching
every move pitching and rolling. Then after a shudder and tremble
she answers the helm and forces her nose slowly up to windward
amidst clouds of spray and as we are steering nearly into the
wind one way then running before it the other sprays soar
up in the air as high as the topsail ---- then come whistling
down all over the ship and as far aft as the engine room and
are frozen by the time they land on deck.
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