What follows is a page by page copy of Stanley Gordon Roberts Taylor’s original diary of his voyage as a crewman on S.Y.Aurora to Antarctica with Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Exploring Expedition. The voyage described here is that of 1912-1913, which was sailing to Cape Dennison Adelie Land Antarctica to bring the expeditioners back to Australia.
(Friday 31st January 1913)
It was so cold this afternoon and tonight, that as she was shipping sprays over the deck, it would freeze.
At midnight there was two inches of ice on the deck.
The deckhouses, rigging and ship’s side was white.
Saturday 1st February 1913 Wind kept blowing hard off the land all night.
When I turned out 7 AM this morning, the ice was very thick on the deck, and the ship’s side was white, same with the rigging and deckhouses.
Towards midday it got warmer and the decks soon dried, after the sailors chipped and swept the ice off them.
During the afternoon the wind and sea increased, and in my watch on duty from 8 to 12 at night, it blew so hard and the seas were so great that we had the engines going as hard as we could get them to go, but the ship was not moving ahead an inch. She was going astern if anything.
It is hindering us a lot, as our time is so limited. You see, we cannot do anything as regards putting anything ashore or taking anything aboard.
If we could only get a few hours calm weather, it would do, so as we could get away to the second base, and pick up the party there.
They have lost all hope of finding Dr. Mawson and his two companions, but if he does not turn up before we leave here, the party ashore will not abandon the search before next year.
There is one party out now, thoroughly searching the route that he should have travelled over.
Sunday 2nd February 1913 The wind is still blowing hard.
It shows no sign of abating. Sometimes we can see the blizzards coming over the ice, picking up the snow in its course and carries it off the ice and over the sea to the ship, so thick that we cannot see the shore through it.
In fact, it is so thick that we cannot see the after end of the ship from forward.
These blizzards only last a few minutes, and a good job too, or we would not last very long.
It is now 3.30 AM and I am going to turn in till 7 AM. I have breakfast then, and go on watch from 8 till noon.
At 9 AM the wind blew harder, averaged 95 miles per hour. From 11.30 AM till 1 PM it was traveling at a rate of 120 miles per hour.
We had to drive the engines at their utmost. We are measuring the coal.
We have been burning on an average 18 cwt. per four hours, but from 8 AM till 4 PM today we got away with 48cwt. for the eight hours.
It is getting colder now every day, also the days are shortening up very quick.
The ship is covered with ice. The Captain is having a very anxious time of it.
He has not turned into his bunk for this last week.
Monday 3rd February 1913 This morning, when I turned out 7AM it was bitterly cold and the decks and rigging was covered with ice.
The wind howled something cruel.
The temperature at 8 AM was 21° and at midday it was 20°, that is 12 degrees below freezing point.
At midday the forward rigging was one solid piece of ice and any cross beams, ropes, also the keel of the whaling boat, had long icicles hanging from them.
All around the ship’s side was a shell of ice five inches thick. Also on the decks were thick. It was impossible to walk on them or even stand, with the ship jumping about and the wind blowing so hard.
Towards midnight it eased down a little but not much. At midnight the temperature was 26°. There has been an iceberg close to us ever since we have been here, till tonight. It was a very large one and flat on the top, bar for a long lump on it just like a church with a steeple, and at the back of it there was a porch, also marks like windows (as per sketch).
It must have been caught on an unseen rock that held it till it broke away tonight. When I came off watch at midnight it was gone.
[diagram he drew of the church-like iceberg]
Tuesday 4th February 1913 About 1 AM the wind sprung up just as fierce as ever again.
I am just about getting fed up with this place.
I shall not forget Commonwealth Bay, Adelie Land in a hurry.
This is the fourth day that we have been battling full speed ahead with the engines, in the one spot of Commonwealth Bay.
I can tell you it is grand sport.
To put a top on it, our water (fresh) tank is getting very low, and we see no prospects of replenishing it before we get to Gaussberg.
Also, this conjuring about has made a nice hole in our coal supply.
Yesterday, we burned a few lbs. short of 9 nine tons, that is four tons more than we burn ordinary times, travelling at full speed.
It is very cold this afternoon, and a lot more ice has accumulated around the ship. At 7 PM the wind increased so that we had to give the engines all we could. The bearings were nearly all running hot.
I do not think any engines have stood the strain these old engines have.
All our lives depend on them. I can tell you, it is a hard battle they have when these blizzards strike us.
The worst part of it is, what with coal, water, anchors and cables gone, the ship is very light forr’ard, so that when a big sea comes along and lifts her nose out of the water, the wind catches her and slews the ship right
round. We then have a hard battle for it to get her head to it again, and while we are broadside on to the wind, the wind is so powerful that the ship heels right over and she stays there till she gets her head on to it again.
The wind eased off a little at 11 PM so we were able to take a little strain off the engines. At midnight, everything about the decks is absolutely white with ice. It looks a grand sight, but that is all that is grand about it, is the sight.
The temperature on average today has been at 12°.
Wednesday 5th February 1913 12.30 AM wind increased, 2 AM it was howling something cruel. During my watch last night from 8 PM till midnight, I burnt one ton, fifteen hundredweight of coal.
The temperature has been at 13° today. The rigging is covered with ice, the ratlins are one piece of ice from the bulwarks to the mast. The ice is a foot thick all around and the decks are covered with six inch of ice.
The sailors are all going around the decks picking the ice to pieces and throwing it over the side.
There has been some lumps of ice continually falling off the face of the glacier and drifting out our way. It is very dangerous for us cruising about like this, what with ice bergs and the submerged rocks and reefs all around us.
Our very lives are depending on these engines. I can tell you, I listen
to every little sound they make, expecting something to carry away every minute.
Our quarters are very cold and damp, the sailors forecastle especially.
The water poured down their skylight. Our room is very small, it has no ports or skylights, but the ice laying on the decks keeps thawing underneath and soaking through the decks, and drips into our bunks.
We roll ourselves in blankets, then roll canvass around us. It keeps a little of the water off us.
Thursday 6th February 1913 Weather much the same. Temperature 14°, wind blowing at 100 miles per hour.
The wind has averaged for the last seven days 85 miles per hour.
They have had to have two men at the wheel, then they could not manage to hold it, so they had to put a double relieving tackle on it to stop it from kicking. The extra tackle made it a little easier for the sailors.
Friday 7th February 1913 The weather has not improved any today.
We are constantly taking heavy sprays aboard which freeze almost immediately. When we have the luck to get a spray over us, in less than a minute after our clothes are white with ice, which will give you an idea how things are here. And this is midsummer. What must it be like in the winter.
One thing here that is handy we do not need to shave.
We just take off our happy hooley and let a spray wet our whiskers and when they freeze we just break them off.
The wind averaged 130 miles per hour today and the temperature 10°F.
I think Dr. Mawson has made his last trip to the Antarctic and taken a longer trip. Then again there is a hope that he may be at Cape Adare.
You see Cape Adare is 700 miles from here to the East.
Well Dr. Mawson was to try and do about 500 miles of that distance.
Now there is a likelihood that he did that 500 miles and met with a serious accident. If so it would be better for him to do that other 200 miles to Cape Adare than to do the 500 miles to get back here. And if he gets there in time the Terra Nova will pick them up.
She is due there about now, she is to call in there on her homeward bound passage to New Zealand. At Cape Adare Captain Scott has a hut and provisions, so Mawson will be all right if he gets there.
Saturday 8th February 1913 Today started very happy but finished up very sad. This morning when I turned out the weather showed a decided improvement. At 7.45 AM it was very good.
Well we hoisted a flag up, to warn the party ashore but I reckon they were asleep as they appeared to take no notice of it.
So we sent up a rocket. That soon brought them off with all their traps, in the launch.
Some very amusing also sad incidents occurred, when the party of six men that we are leaving behind were leaving the ship.
We had to force them off the ship.
They all volunteered to stay behind and search for Mawson, but it is still not very pleasant for [them] to think that they will not see home for another year, perhaps never.