Stanley Gordon Roberts Taylor was born in Prahran, Melbourne on 23rd December 1887. Like many children born in the late 19thcentury he had a disrupted and limited education, which involved attending primary schools at Collingwood in Melbourne and Avoca in country Victoria. Stan ‘ran away to sea’ at the age of 12 or 13 years and served on many ships sailing all over the world, before joining the crew of the S.Y. Aurora at the age of 25.Stan wrote this diary while he was serving as a fireman (stoker and greaser) on the Steam Yacht Aurora’s 1912-13 voyage to collect Dr Douglas Mawson and the Australasian Antarctic Expedition after their first winter’s work in the ‘Land of the Blizzard’. This was the famous voyage which departed from Cape Denison on the morning of the same day Dr Mawson returned from the ill-fated Far Eastern sledging excursion and upon their return were unable to pick up Dr Mawson and the personnel who had remained at the base to search for Mawson, Mertz and Ninnis.When the crew signed on for the voyage, they were told that they were not allowed to take any photographs or keep any diary of the journey, as this was deemed to be the exclusive preserve of the official photographer, Frank Hurley, and the Secretary of the Expedition, Mr C.C. Eitel. To our knowledge this is one of only two records of the journey from the perspective of the working men on the ship (see Bert Lincoln’s diary).Stan was a very observant young man, with a keen interest in the world around him. After long hours on duty, carrying coal and stoking the furnaces, butchering sheep, working with the sailmaker and taxidermist, and looking after the sled dogs, and skylarking with his mates, he huddled in the cramped cabin, and using a dip-pen and bottle of ink, he recorded this diary.We appreciate the dedication and determination it must have taken to keep this daily record and log of the voyage. Stan describes for us his damp and draughty cabin, rugged up against extreme cold, meticulously recording position, temperature and soundings, and taking us with him through each day; and all the while, the continuous heaving and rolling, rolling, rolling of the ship. He comments that it is the first time in his experience “to see a ship roll her forecastle head under water, right to her capstan.” And again “This darned tub is beyond all reason. She rolls for breakfast, rolls for dinner, rolls for tea, and then rolls for sleep. I can tell you I am just about fed up with it – roll, roll, roll ever since we left Browns River Hobart. If you could see me trying to write this you would take pity on me.” Through all this and the deafening noise of ice grinding past the hull adjacent to their cabin, Stan takes us with him.
This diary gives us a vivid picture of the times and the conditions people lived and worked under in the early exploration of Antarctica. In reading this diary, we can share with Stan his pleasure in the beauty and grandeur of the Antarctic wilderness, as well as the hardships they suffered and his doubts and fears. “Our very lives are depending on these old engines. I can tell you, I listen to every little sound they make, expecting something to carry away at every moment.”
Stan told his mother that if ever she should see film or photographs of the Aurora, she might see him hanging upside down in the rigging. We have yet to find the photograph he was referring to.
This copy of the diary of Stanley Gordon Roberts Taylor has been transcribed by a co-operative effort of a number of his descendants. We have only corrected the original spelling and sentence structure where we feel this is necessary to make the meaning of the text easier to discern.
This document remains the property of Stanley Taylor’s family and their descendants. Readers are welcome to read study and share the document, but it may not be used for commercial or financial gain. Copying is permitted provided that the source is cited. © 2011 Irene Gale
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