Archive for the ‘Douglas Mawson’ Tag

February 26, 1914: Mawson’s Australian Antarctic Expedition–Home at Last.   Leave a comment

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

“On February 26 we gazed on distant cliffs of rock and earth–Kangaroo Island–and the tiny cluster of dwellings round the lighthouse at Cape Borda. Then we entered St. Vincent’s Gulf on a clear, hot day, marveling at the tree-clad shores and the smoke of many steamers.

“Our coming had been signalled from Cape Borda and when the pilot stepped on board he brought with him a telegram from Sir Samuel Way, Lieutenant-Governor of Australia, welcoming us home.

“The welcome home–the voice of the innumerable strangers–the hand-grips of many friends–it chokes one–it cannot be uttered.”

Frank Hurley, the expedition’s photographer, will shortly be tapped by Shackleton for his own upcoming Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

February 21, 1914: Mawson’s expedition nearing home   Leave a comment

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

On February 12, in latitude 55 S., a strong south-wester drove behind, and under half steam and with all sails set, the Aurora made eight knots an hour. The last iceberg was seen far away on the eastern horizon. Albatrosses followed in our wake, accompanied by their smaller satellites—Cape hens, prions and Lesson’s petrels. . . .

“The first real touch of civilization came early on the morning of February 21. A full-rigged ship on the southern horizon! It might have been an iceberg, the sails flashed so white in the morning sun. But onward it came with a strong south-wester, overhauled and passed us, signalling ‘Archibald Russell, fifty-four days out from Buenos Ayres, bound for Cape Borda.’ It was too magical to believe.”

January 19, 1913: The Aurora breaks through the pack   Leave a comment

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

{The expedition ship Aurora had picked up the men of Mawson’s expedition at Commonwealth Bay and was now on the homeward passage.] “The morning of January 16 found us in the neighborhood of Queen Mary Land skirting heavy pack-ice more formidable than any met with in that locality on preceding voyages, boding ill for our chances of reaching the open waters of the Davis Sea where we hoped to conduct investigations. Many petrels flew around and resting on the pack at its margin were dark swarms of terns which, from time to time, startled by the approach of the ship, rose in great flocks. . . .Presently, through the perfectly still air, the unmistakable blast of finner whales could be heard.

“At 10m p.m. on the 19th there was dense pack ahead, but beyond it, on the horizon, a dark line of open water was visible. From the crow’s-nest it was seen to the south stretching east and west within the belt of pack-ice—the Davis Sea. We had broken through the pack less than twenty-five miles north of where the Gauss had wintered.”

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.”


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