Archive for the ‘Commonwealth Bay’ Category

January 2, 1914: Mawson’s Expedition Leaves the Antarctic Continent for Good   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”—

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition finally departed December 23, 1913. “. . .the motor launch, with Madigan and Bickerton, sped away [from the Aurora anchored in Commonwealth Bay] for the last load through falling snow and a rising sea. Hodgeman had battened down the windows of the hut, and the chimney was stuffed with bagging, the veranda entrance closed with boards and, inside, an invitation was left for future visitors to occupy and make themselves at home. . . .

“During the night the wind rose and the barometer fell, while the air was filled with drifting snow. On the 24th—Christmas Eve—the velocity of the wind gradually increased to the seventies until at noon it blew with the strength of a hurricane. . . . . At lunch the anchor was found to be dragging and we commenced to drift before the hurricane. . . . The wind rose to a shriek in the shuddering gusts. The crests of the waves were cut off and swept away in fine spindrift. . . .

“On January 2, 1914, the wind having fallen off, the ship was brought to the south again. The mainland was sighted toward Cape Pepin and a stretch of high coast could be traced extending far away to the west—a greater length of coast than the Ship’s Party had seen in January 1912, and carrying the coast beyond the limits shown in D’Urville’s chart.”

November 1913: A Calm Evening in Adelie Land   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”–

“A calm evening in November! At ten o’clock a natural picture in shining colours is painted on the canvas of the sea and sky. The northern dome is a blush of rose deepening to a warm terra-cotta along the horizon, and the water reflects it upward to the gaze.

“Tiny Wilson petrels flit like swallows; from their nests in the crannies of the grey rock hills come the love carols of the snow petrels; seals raise their dark forms above the placid surface; the shore is lined with penguins squatting in grotesque repose. The south is pallid with light–the circling sun. Adelie Land is at peace:”

October 20, 1913: Spring arrives at Commonwealth Bay   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”–

“The winds were very high for the ensuing two days, and on the 17th (October) the horizon was clearer and more water-sky was visible. Before lunch on that day there was not a living thing along the steep, overhanging ice-foot, but by late afternoon thirteen birds [Adelie penguins] had effected a landing, and those who were not resting after their long swim were hopping about making a survey of the nearest rookeries. One always has a “soft spot” for these game little creatures–there is always something irresistibly human about them–and, situated as we were to be populated by the penguins–our harbingers of summer and the good times to be. Three days later, at the call of the season, a skua gull came flapping over the hut.”

September 24, 1913: A (very) Rare Calm   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”–

“On September 24, McLean reported a unique experience. He was quarrying ice in a fifty-mile wind with moderate drift close to the Hut, and, on finishing his work, walked down to the harbor to see if there were any birds about. He was surprised suddenly to leave the wind and drift behind and to walk out into an area of calm. The water lapped alongside the ice-foot, blue in the brilliant sun-light. Away to the west a few miles a fierce wind was blowing a torrent of snow over the brink of the cliffs. Towards the north-west one could plainly see the junction between calm water and foam-crested waves, To the south the drift drove off the hills, passed the Hut, and then gyrated upwards and thinned away seawards at an altitude of several hundred feet.”

Winter 1913: Marking time at Cape Denison   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”–

“Many have asked the question, ‘What did you do to fill in the time during the second year?’

“The duties of cook and night-watchman came to each man once every week, and meteorological and magnetic observations went on daily. Then were able to devote a good deal of time to working up the scientific work accomplished during the sledge journeys. The wireless watches kept two men well occupied, and in spare moments the chief recreation was reading. There was a fine supply of illustrated journals and periodicals which had arrived by the Aurora and with these we tried to make up the arrears of a year in exile. The “Encyclopedia Britannica” was a great boon, being always the last word in the settlement of a debated point.

“Again, whenever the weather gave the smallest opportunity, there were jobs outside, digging for cases, attending to the wireless mast and, in the spring, geological collecting and dredging. If the air was clear of drift, and the wind not over fifty miles per hour, one could spend a pleasant hour or more walking along the shore watching the birds and noting the changes which were always occurring along our short length of rocky shore.”

June 1913: The Adelie Blizzard “When Your Mits Begin to Go”   Leave a comment

–-From ‘When Your Mits Begin to Go’, June 1913 issue of “The Adélie Blizzard”–

“If you’re snowed-up in a blizzard in a sludgy sloppy tent,
And for days the drift has threshed and swished, and conversation-spent
You hazard another ‘chestnut’ on your mild forbearing mates,
And the scornful lips of someone with a wan smile oscillates.
That’s a detail, to the moment when you find your cast-iron mits,
And, having thawed them gently, find they’re going fast to bits.”

The Antarctic Year: Commonwealth Bay 1913   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”–

At the beginning of April, McLean laid the foundations of “The Adelie Blizzard,” which recorded our life for the next seven months. It was a monthly publication, and contributions were invited from all on every subject but the wind. Anything from light doggerel to heavy blank verse was welcomed, and original articles, letters to the Editor, plays, reviews on books and serial stories were accepted within the limits of our supply of foolscap paper and typewriter ribbons.

“It was the first Antarctic publication which could boast a real cable column of news of the day. Extracts from the April number were read after dinner one evening and excited much amusement. An “Ode to Tobacco” was very popular and seemed to voice the enthusiasm of our small community, while “The Evolution of Women” introduced us to a once-familiar subject. The Editor was later admitted by wireless to the Journalists’ Association (Sydney)

“Many have asked the question, “What did you do to fill in the time during the second year?”

August 4, 1913: “The Hut was almost completely buried. . .”   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”–

“July concluded its stormy career with the astonishing wind-average of 63.6 miles an hour. We were all relieved to see Friday, August 1, appear on the modest calendar, which was the particular pleasure of each night-watchman to change.

“After an immense deluge of snow on August 4, followed by a day of calm. The Hut was almost completely buried and everywhere the landscape was smothered to an unusual depth in very light flaky, dry snow. The dogs delighted to race about following in each others’ tracks; the leader in order to make any headway at all, proceeding by a series of plunges. At each bound they sank to nearly double their depth in the snow, so it was quite remarkable that they had sense enough to steeplechase along as they did. The exercise must have been exhausting, for some of them soon tried pushing their way along under the snow; and in response to a call one would observe, gradually approaching, a commotion on the surface indicating the existence of the dog beneath.”

July 26, 1913: A hurricane on a clear day at Commonwealth Bay   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”–

“From July 26 onwards the sky was cloudless for a week, and each day the northern sun would rise a fraction of a degree higher. The wind was very constant and of high velocity.

“It was a grand sight to witness the sea in a hurricane on a driftless, clear day. Crouched under a rock on Azimuth Hill, and looking across to the west along the curving brink of the cliffs, one could watch the water close inshore blacken under the lash of the wind, whiten into foam farther off, and then disappear into the hurrying clouds of spray and sea-smoke. Over the Mackellar Islets columns of spray would shoot up like geysers, and fly away in the mad race to the north.”

July 1913: Adelie Land’s greatest blows   Leave a comment

–from Douglas Mawson’s account “The Home of the Blizzard”–

“Almost a fortnight now elapsed, during which the weather was “impossible.” In fact, the wind was frightful throughout the whole month of July, surpassing all its previous records and wearing out our much-tried patience. All that one could do was to work on and try grimly to ignore it.

“On July 2nd it was thick as a wall outside and an eighty-five mile wind blowing; though almost entirely buried, the whole Hut trembled and the stove-pipe vibrated so that the two large melting pots on the stove rattled continuously. And so it commenced and continued for a day, subsiding slowly slowly through the seventies to the fifties and then suddenly redoubling in strength, rose to a climax at midnight on the 5th of one hundred and sixteen miles an hour!

“For eight hours it maintained an average of one hundred and seven miles an hour, and the timbers of the hut seemed to be jarred and wrenched as the wind throbbed its mightier gusts. These were the highest wind-velocities recorded during our two years residence in Adelie land and are probably the highest sustained velocities ever reported from a meteorological station.”


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