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Part 7

The S.Y. Aurora’s voyage west from Commonwealth Bay Adelie Land to collect Mr Wild’s Western Party from Gaussburg
What follows is a page by page copy of Stanley Gordon Roberts Taylor’s original diary of his voyage as a crewman on Steam Yacht (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.
Part 7 details the events around the retutn of Dr Douglas Mawson’s return to Commonweath Bay after the disasterous Far East Party excursion, learning of the deaths of Mertz and Ninnis, S.Y. Aurora’s return to Commonwealth Bay and Cape Dennison, inability to transfer anyone to or from the shore and then the voyage west from Commonwealth Bay Adelie Land to collect Mr Wild’s Western Party from the ice shelf at Gaussburg Antarctica.
The scan of each page is accompanied by a transcription of the words for ease of reading. 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

Dad's Diary p71 by SpearLily

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.

Well we got underway at 11.20 AM.
It was surprising the change that came over the ship.
Everybody had a smile on their face.     We opened the engines out to full speed on our way to Gaussberg.

All went well till 8.20 PM when we received a message per wireless to say that Dr. Mawson had returned to Adelie Land safe but worn out.
His two companions Ninniss & Mertz were Dead.

So we put the ship about to pick Dr. Mawson and the chaps we left behind up.

This sad news cast a gloom over the ship, in fact over the expedition.
It was deadly [quiet], everyone walked around the ship on tiptoe and spoke in whispers.

Ninnis was an Englishman and Mertz was Swiss.    Both were ex-soldiers, Ninnis an officer in the Royal Fusiliers & Mertz of the Switzerland Army.

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Sunday 9th February 1913    We sighted the land at 1 AM.
The night was very dark being foggy through the snow falling heavy.
It was rather dangerous as there were a lot of icebergs knocking around.
As we neared the coast a strong breeze [blew] up.
The temperature was at 19°F.

We arrived in Commonwealth Bay at 8 AM, and were off the base at 11 AM.
The Captain decided to have the whale boat in readiness, should the weather abate but a little.   They had the flag flying half mast ashore.

At 1 PM the Second mate tried to get in conversation with them ashore by flag signals (with two small flags) but we could get no reply the reason I do not know.   By this time the Captain abandoned all hope of landing the whale boat.
So we cruised about the bay as before until 6 PM when the Skipper and the landing party that we had aboard held a consultation.

They however, said it was absolutely unsafe, so as we cannot possibly waste another minute we cleared off out of it at 6.20 PM.
I think the Captain’s idea is that as this Party ashore here have their quarters built on land, whereas the Party at Gaussberg are quartered on the Barrier Ice, so you see they are in danger all the time.
I suppose he reckoned it would be the wisest plan to look to their safety first.

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Which in my idea he was justified in doing.

10 PM. We are now heading N. by E. for the 2nd base with yards squared and running before a six knot breeze.
It is a fine night and the temperature is at 23°F.

Monday 10th February 1913   It is fine weather this morning.   There are a lot of icebergs about.   There were about 37 around us anything from 100yds to 5 five miles long.
At 10.45 AM we run into some heavy pack ice.
It was so heavy that it pulled the ship up dead several times.
Sometimes we would come across a big berg that laid low in the water.
The ship would run right up on to it, the nose of the ship clean out of the water, then she would slide back again into the water.
Then go steady up to the berg and battle with it sometimes for a ¼ of an hour and twenty minutes before she would push it to one side.

We had to keep the engines at full speed all the time.   It was when she would slide back off the bergs that our danger would increase as going backwards like that we did not know but a lump of ice may have got under her stern, and if the propeller should catch one of them it would have been all up with us.
We were about halfway through the pack at noon when we see a blow just ahead.    Soon after we see

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several more blows.    We then see the backs of a school of about a dozen whales.   They swam about a little while and then disappeared and left a lake in the pack ice about a quarter of a mile in diameter.

When we came into this lake a Right whale came up close along side of the ship.    It was over 40 forty feet in length and the thickest part of its body showed 6 – 7 feet out of the water.
It is the sort of whale that we want to catch.    A Right whale is always recognized by its blow, it is like the Prince of Wales feathers.    It also has a hump on its back.
It has a large square nose like a Rhinoceros. [Diagram he drew of the Blow resembling a Prince of Wales Feather.]

We have no time to stop for whales now.
We got out of the pack ice about four PM.    At 5 PM we got up to an iceberg we reckoned to be 30 miles in length.    We also passed another one 10 miles in length.    Oh, I forgot there [were] hundreds and hundreds of seals black and white, also Penguins on the Pack ice.    In fact the ice was covered with them [seals].    They did not get frightened when we came along.
We passed quite close to them.    Some would hardly take the trouble to lift their heads.   Their very lazy movements amused me very much.   One very large white one (they are skin colour, they call them white) we passed close to, he was laying on his back and took not a bit of notice of us, so I got a piece of salt junk and hit him fair on

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the snout.   You would have thought he would jump up with fright, but no he just lifted his head lazily up then laid down again, wagged his flappers and went to sleep again.

The nights are lengthening now.   It is pitch dark from 11 PM till 3AM.

Tuesday 11th February 1913    A fairly heavy sea sprung up about midnight last night, and this morning a great change has come over the weather.
There is a heavy sea running across our beam causing us to roll a lot.
Also a strong breeze blowing.    We are steering west in Latitude 64.30° and expect to arrive at Gaussberg about the 22nd, but not if this weather keeps up.

That is one day later than this ship left Gaussberg for home last year.
There are only a few bergs about today.
We are traveling about 2½ knots per hour and the temperature 28°F.

Wednesday 12th February 1913    At 4 AM the weather was fairly good but towards 8 AM the wind and sea sprang up again.
At 11 AM the engines were opened out a little more, and at noon our position was Lat. 64.30° South,  Long. 138.30° East.    The sun is shining very bright and it is quite warm.    At midnight the temperature was 27°F, at midday 31°F. We did 50 miles for 24 hours up to noon today.

Dad's Diary p76 by SpearLily

Thursday 13th February 1913    Nothing much of interest today, wind and sea a little rougher.    We are steering due West.
At 3 PM sighted pack ice, got up to it 5 PM but the sea was too rough to attempt to go through it so we had to go around it.
If we had of attempted to go through it we would have stood a chance of being smashed up.

Our run for 24 hours up to midday today was 80 miles which makes us 300 miles from Adelie Land and 1000 miles to go to Gaussberg.
The temperature at 10 PM 27°.

Friday 14th February 1913    Today is beautiful weather, the sea is calm as a mill pond, and the sun is bright and warm.
When I came off watch midnight last night any water laying about was frozen.
The temperature was 26°.     This morning 10 AM it was 30.5°.
Towards the afternoon a breeze sprang up right behind us so we set the foresail also the upper & lower topsail.
8 PM the breeze came up stronger and we rattled along at ten knots per hour.

Saturday 15 February 1913.    Breeze kept up strong all day today.    4 AM started snowing and 7 AM it was so thick we could not see a ship’s length from us, so we took in the foresail and upper topsail, leaving the lower topsail still unfurled.    This morning at about 10 AM I was

Dad's Diary p77 by SpearLily

climbing out of the coal bunker with a shovel.
When I got to the top, the ship gave an extra heavy roll, I lost my hold and fell to the bottom, about 18 feet.     I landed on my back.
The shovel followed me down end ways, the blade landing on my forehead, and made a cut over my left eye, two inches long it made me feel pretty queer for a while.    I have had a splitting headache all day since.

The Temperature has averaged 26° to 28° all day today.   It has been drizzling rain and snowing all day.    And the ship has been very nigh turning over.
There is a very big sea running with us.    From 8 PM till midnight it snowed very heavy.

Sunday 16 February 1913    This is the eighth Sunday since we left Hobart.
The weather calmed down towards 4 AM, at which time we set the fore sail, also upper topsail.    The forenoon watch from 8 AM till noon was glorious, weather quite warm.   The temperature rose to 31° but it cooled down towards evening.    7 PM it started snowing again.    We took in foresail at 8 PM and the temperature at midnight was 26°.

Monday 17 February 1913    At 3.30 AM, the weather being clear, we set the foresail.    It snowed a little during the forenoon watch.

Dad's Diary p78 by SpearLily

From 1.30 PM ti1l 5 PM it snowed heavy, all hard frozen snow and the temperature was at 20°.    At 8 PM we took in the foresail leaving the upper & lower topsail unfurled.    From 10 PM till midnight it was pitch dark.

We have some very bad coal and it smokes terrible.   The Captain came and asked me if it was possible to stop some of the smoke as the wind being a dead fair one, it carries the smoke right ahead of her, and what with that and the darkness they could see absolutely nothing.
Then to put a top on it, it started snowing again at 11 PM for half an hour so we had to stop the engines.

Tuesday 18th February 1913    We set foresail at 7 AM.    The weather has been pretty fair all day today, a light fair wind blowing.    At 8 PM we took in the foresail.

We are burning Greta coal and it makes a terrible lot of smoke.   The Skipper was at me about it again.    The only remedy I had for it was to open the furnace doors, but it is very injurious to the boiler, more so down here in these parts as the air is so cold.    So I would not try it on without the chief Engineer’s sanction.    So at 10.30 PM it started snowing and we had to stop the engines and let the two sails that were set carry her along.
At 11 PM it was pitch dark.

Dad's Diary p79 by SpearLily

Wednesday 19th February 1913    At 4 AM we set the foresail.    There were a terrible lot of icebergs knocking around.
One was about 250 feet high and 500 feet long, another one about 40 feet high and 30 miles long.    We travelled along the edge of it from 5 AM till 9 AM.
Another one was 300 feet high and it was round, about 100 feet in circumference.    It stood up out of the water like a needle point.

At 9.30 AM we run into a lot of pack ice but it was too thick for us to get through, so we had to put the ship about and take in the foresail and upper topsail.    At 11 AM we took in the lower topsail.    We steamed right along the outskirts of the pack ice trying to find an opening to get through it.

It is now 1PM.    We are still skirting the ice pack and we are steering east.
That is the direct opposite direction to what we want to go, so you see that means wasting a lot of time.    Our luck is dead out as far as wasting time is concerned.    There are hundreds of penguins swimming around under our bows.   We steamed all along the edge of the pack ice, all the afternoon and evening until 9 PM but there was no possible hope of getting through, so now we are drifting until daylight.

We are almost due north of Gaussberg 120 miles.    If we could only get through this pack ice we would be right.    We are four days overdue now.

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Thursday 20th February 1913
The sun set at 7.45 PM last night and rose at 3 AM this morning.
At midnight it was black as ink.    We would get right up alongside of an iceberg before we could see them and we were surrounded by them.
At 8 AM we had another go at the pack ice but it was too thick so we battled along the edge of the pack.    During the afternoon we came across some pretty icebergs.
At 7.30 PM we stopped the engines to pack the H.P. piston rod tail end gland which has been leaking this last three or four days pretty bad.    We got underway again at 8 PM but had to stop again at 9.15 PM as it was so dark and we were surrounded by large icebergs.
Friday 21st February 1913
We got underway again at 3 AM this morning, but the ice floes were so thick that we had to go slow, full, stop, and starting all the time.
We are well in among the ice today and are getting some terrible knocking about, especially this afternoon.   My bunk is just on a level with the water’s surface and every time she hit a berg and it scraped along the ship’s side it would kick up an unearthly row and would wake me up every time.
I expected to see an iceberg come sticking through the ship’s side every time I opened my eyes.
One floe about 100 feet in diameter and one foot high out of the water had fifteen seals on it.

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The sea is calm, and the ship is going along quite steady except when she hits a large berg, then she rolls for a bit.    I can tell you it is a treat to get her to be a bit steady was beginning to think that it was impossible for her to stop rolling, as we have done nothing but roll over since we lost our last anchor, without ceasing one minute.

Towards the evening it got very cool.  At 7 PM the Temperature was at 18° and midnight 10°.   The moon came out at 9 PM and the stars shone bright.
It was a most beautiful sight.    There is a light bitterly cold breeze blowing.
We are travelling dead slow, and expect to arrive at the base about Sunday night.
Saturday 22nd February 1913
Last night was the third time we see stars since we left Hobart.
My word, it is a beautiful sight, all these icebergs, most peculiar shapes and sizes.    It is impossible to explain what they look like.
The best part is the beautiful tints and colours of the bergs.
The wind increased towards 4 AM and by midday it was blowing pretty hard and snowing all day.    At midday we were off the end of the barrier along which we have to travel 120 miles SW by S.
By 5 PM the wind and seas increased, also it was blowing a blizzard up till midnight.    The snow is so hard and blown with such a force it fair cuts through us.     We had to keep the engines going for

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all they were worth, then I think we were going astern.
The wind howled and the seas raged all night.    We also kept crashing into icebergs both large and small.
I can tell you when a sea lifts the ship up out of the water and she comes down crashing onto an iceberg, it is enough to make your heart drop, the row it makes.     You would think the ship was falling to pieces.
Sunday 23rd February 1913
This is the ninth Sunday we have had since leaving Hobart.
We are not two months out yet, but by what we have gone through it seems like twelve months.
The weather calmed down of a sudden at 2 AM.   The water was as calm as a mill pond.    We took advantage of the calm and drove the engines to their utmost.    We had to work like demons to keep the steam up.

At 10 AM we could see a lot of black spots on the ice.    I asked a chap what they were, if they were the men, as he had a pair of binoculars.
He said, no they are penguins.   I never said so, but I did not believe him as they stood four- and five feet six inches high.
Well just when we got abreast of them, we crashed into a very large sheet of ice about two feet high out of the water.   We kicked up an unearthly row.
The row frightened the penguins.   They just laid on their bellies and slid off the ice into the water.
I can tell you I never got so Great a surprise in my

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life, as I was so sure of them being men.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather Rossiter permalink
    10/08/2011 3:32 PM

    He falls 18′, the sharp edge of the shovel lands on his forehead and opens up his skull, and all he gets is a headache! What is this guy made of?

  2. 31/08/2011 8:30 PM

    Fascinating views on that!

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