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Part 9

The S.Y. Aurora’s voyage from Gaussberg Antarctica back to Hobart

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’s 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 9 details the the S.Y. Aurora’s voyage back to Hobart Tasmania after having been unable to collect Dr Douglas Mawson from Adelie Land, but having succeeded in collecting Mr Wild and the Western Party of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.

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 p86 by SpearLily

Longitude 94° East,   Latitude 66° South.    2031 miles from Melbourne.

During the afternoon we had a photo taken on the ice of about twelve of us drinking tea, with a Griffiths Tea box, also a placard.    Painted on it was a railway signal post and “2031 miles to Griffiths Brothers Teas & Coffee“.
A very good advertisement.

Monday 24th February 1913
This morning was pretty chilly.   The glass at 8 AM was down to 8° and midday was down to 6°.   This afternoon I skinned a Penguin for myself, to be stuffed if possible, and a very difficult job it was too.   I have the bones to do yet.
I skinned another one tonight for my mate, and am now very tired.

It was snowing very hard from 8 PM till midnight, and we are amongst thick pack ice.   We will have a very difficult job to get through it.   We have the engines going dead slow.   The glass at midnight is still at 6°.
I am very tired now so I shall turn in.

Tuesday 25th February 1913
We got out of the thickest part of the pack at 6.30 AM and then opened out the engines to full speed.   We had a very hard struggle to get through the pack, and received considerable knocking about.    I hope we do not meet

Dad's Diary p87 by SpearLily

anymore.   It is very cold today, at least it feels so but the Glass has not been below 10°.    We think when the temperature is about 12° it is very mild.
I tell you, the cold does not put me about in the least.

There has been a terrible lot of icebergs around us all day.   One we passed this morning, it had an arch way through it.   It looked pretty, but it never came up to the one we see tonight.    It was a very large one about 230 feet high.
It had an archway through it a good 180 feet high.   We run right up to it and could easy have taken the ship through the arch.    Well, I cannot explain all the shapes and sizes of icebergs.    It would take a book for them alone.

Oh, I was forgetting a very important event today.   It happened at midday.
The Captain mustered all hands on to the poop to have our photos taken.
The photographer took three Photos, then he took a cinematograph of us all.

It was very funny.   I have a cup that holds three quarts.   I had some water in it.   I had a drink then passed it round.   Then, as they would not pass it back I had to have a scramble for it and spilt the water over those that were under us.

I was working at my Penguin all this afternoon.   It is a long tedious job cleaning their skins.

Dad's Diary p88 by SpearLily

Wednesday 26th February 1913
The weather has been champion since we left the 2nd base, hardly a move out of the ship.   A breeze sprang up on our port quarter this morning, so we set the upper and lower topsail, and the ship has started her old capers of rolling.
I skinned another penguin today.   There were a terrible lot of ice bergs around us this morning, there are not so many tonight.
I think we will be well clear of them tomorrow night.

I was speaking to one of the 2nd base party tonight.   He tells me that Mr. Wild, himself and Harrison set out to travel along the West coast.
They reached 60 miles, when they came across a lot of broken ice, on which they could travel only half a mile per day.   So, after four days they gave it up, and travelled inland about 160 miles, some days doing 1½ miles per day.
They then returned.

Another party of four set out East.    30 miles from the camp, they found a small rock, 20 miles further on they found another one, a little larger, about the size of the ship.    Then 60 miles by that, they found a lot of little ones, and on these were a rookery of young Emperor Penguins.    They only found one egg shell and it was broken, but they found thirty or fifty Antarctic Petrel

Dad's Diary p89 by SpearLily

eggs, eggs that no human eye have set eye on before.

The bird itself is black and white, and has two black bars across its back, the shape of a Cape Pigeon, and before being skinned it looks larger than an ordinary hen, but it has a very small body.    Through bad weather and conditions, they had to get rid of them and nearly all their other gear.
They have two shells for specimens.

The Emperor Penguin when on the ice lays her egg on its feet and sits on it till it is hatched.

Gaussberg is a mountain 30 miles south from where we lay, and it is about 1800 Statute miles off the south pole, and about 1610 Longitudenal miles.
The temperature was on an average at 18° today.

Thursday 27th February 1913.
We are still rolling a lot and are steering NE by E.    We took a sounding at midday 2330 Fathoms.   We got bottom but lost the sinker so we did not get a sample of the bottom.    The wind changed right round at dead ahead so we took in all sail at 9.30 AM.
At midday we were in Longitude 97° East,   Latitude 57.14° South.
There were plenty of icebergs about this morning, but they cleared away by midnight.

Dad's Diary p90 by SpearLily

There was only one to be seen at midnight and it was breaking up fast.
We had a beautiful day today.    The sun was out strong this morning and the Glass went up to 33° but it went down to 28° by 8 PM.
From noon yesterday till noon today we did 161 miles.

We have been measuring the coal since we left Adelie Land till noon today and we have burnt on average 6 six tons per day.   We have about 180 tons left now to take us to Hobart.   We have plenty of coal, the trouble is the ballast.
We have taken down all the top hamper we can and put it down the hold.

I worked at my Penguin’s skins this afternoon for five hours, so I am pretty tired.    I have been on my feet since 7 AM.    It is now midnight.

Friday 28th February 1913
This morning was quite warm.   The Temperature was up to 42°, but towards evening it cooled down to 35°.    From noon yesterday till noon today we did 125 miles.    Our position at noon was Longitude 101° East, Latitude 56° South. We took sounding at noon, 2230 Fathoms, and lost the diver.
There a big sea running on the starboard bow and the wind SE by E.
We are steering East.    We set the foretop

Dad's Diary p91 by SpearLily

mast stay sail to steady the ship a little, as in the afternoon she began to roll in real earnest.

I was working at my Penguin all the afternoon for five hours.   I sat on a box with my legs wound round a stauntion, while I worked.   In the evening I was playing the Gramaphone and halfway through a record the spring broke.

Saturday 1st March 1913
It started raining at midnight last night and kept on till 8 AM.   Then the sun came out but it has been very cold all day.   The Temperature at 33°.   This morning the wind changed right round to a fair wind so we took in the fore top mast stay sail, and set the fore sail also upper and lower top sail and we spun along at the rate of nine miles per hour.   At night it started raining very hard, and we rolled to beat the band.

Sunday 2nd March 1913
From midday yesterday till midday today we covered 192 miles, so that was not too bad.    It is a cold, wet & miserable day all day today.
Nothing extraordinary has occurred.

Dad's Diary p92 by SpearLily

Monday 3rd March 1913
The wind and sea is on our port beam, and a big sea.   It is causing us to roll something cruel very nigh turning over.   For twenty four hours up to midday we did 184 miles.    That is not bad going for this ship.

Tuesday 4th March 1913
For twenty four hours up to midday we did 202 miles.   The wind is right behind us and blowing us along a treat.   Nearly all the other chaps suffered with cracked hands during the cold weather down south, but I was not affected in the least, but they are starting to crack now.   The right hand is the worst, so I shall have to cut the diary off short as I can not hold the pen properly.

Wednesday 5th March 1913
The temperature today has been as high as 55° quite warm.
The run to midday today was 179 miles.    My hands are very painful today.
We have seen plenty of the Aurora Australis this last six nights.    It is a beautiful sight.

Thursday 6th March 1913
My hands are worse today.   Every finger in my right hand is cracked.
Two fingers & thumb in the left hand.

Dad's Diary p93 by SpearLily

Friday 7th March 1913

Nothing extraordinary has occurred today.   It has been beautiful weather up till about 6 PM when it started raining and it rained all night.   I have not felt too well today, my hands are troubling me a lot.    Otherwise everything is going along smoothly.

The run to midday for twenty four hours was 190 miles and at midday we had 818 miles to do to Hobart.

Saturday 8th March 1913
We have had champion weather today, in fact it has been a pleasure trip since we left the ice, bar for the ship rolling.   The wind has been behind us nearly all the way, and with the upper and lower top sails and foresail set, it has helped us along a treat.

We did 172 miles for twenty four hours up to midday today.

The temperature at midday was 48° and our position was Longitude 131.49° East,   Latitude 47.17° South.

We expect if all goes well to arrive at Hobart about midday Wednesday 12/3/13.

Dad's Diary p94 by SpearLily

Sunday 9th March 1913

This is the eleventh Sunday out from Hobart.

Nothing out of the ordinary has occurred today.


This is the last entry in the diary.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather Rossiter permalink
    10/08/2011 4:44 PM

    I’ve read many Antarctic diaries, but this one presents a different view. The description of things unmentioned by other diarists, such as detail of the waterspouts at Commonwealth Bay, is most revealing. Taylor also reinforces what others have said of Captain Davis’s stamina and determination, and his brilliant seamanship.
    The dry humour that laughs at the hardships endured on this voyage makes this diary a pleasure to read. Taylor must have been a really nice guy and a great shipboard companion.
    Marvellous that it has been made publically available in this way. Thanks.

  2. Heather Rossiter permalink
    10/08/2011 4:46 PM

    PS. Have never before read of men getting rid of their beards by breaking them off when frozen!!

  3. Irene Gale permalink
    18/01/2012 11:30 PM

    Actually, Heather, when I was little he told me that they used tweezers and pulled each hair out one by one. I thought that must have been exceedingly painful. It explained why so many men had beards! I don’t know which of the methods he gave was the one actually used. He liked to keep us entertained.
    He was strong and kind, and had a great ability to withstand pain. We had very little money so he would treat himself rather than go to a doctor. When we found he had cancer we realised that he had known for months before, but just carried on with his life and work until he couldn’t do so any more.

    • Amber permalink
      22/03/2012 4:03 AM

      My mother told me today in passing that my great grandfather was on this voyage – (Arthur Maxfield, he was an engineer apparently. ) I had no idea. What a fantastic account to stumble across.

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