January 25-27, 1912: Hurricane in Commonwealth Bay

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

“[On board the Aurora Captain John King] Davis decided to wait at Commonwealth Bay, if necessary until January 30; to remain later would, he believed, seriously jeopardize the chances of relief for the Western Base [Frank Wild’s] Party. The landing of stores was greatly hampered by squalls off the land. . . .

“It is only necessary to quote Davis’s report to give an ideal of the conditions under which the Ship’s Party maintained themselves during those days. Already the main anchor and chain had gone by the board. . . . ‘Terrific gusts followed in rapid succession and without warning the cable parted sixty fathoms from the anchor at 9 p.m. Having cleared the reefs to leeward, we managed to get in the rest of the chain and then stood along the coast to the north-west. . . .

“‘With reefs and bergs around, the increasing darkness about midnight made our position unpleasant. The engines had to be stopped and the ship allowed to drift with the wind, owing to a bearing becoming hot, but in a quarter of an hour they were moving once again. . . .To the north, violent gusts appeared to be travelling in various directions, but, to our astonishment, these gusts, after approaching our position at a great rate, appeared to curve upwards; the water close to the ship was disturbed, and nothing else. . . . The gale was in its third day on the 27th, and there was a hurricane sky during the morning. The wind would die away, only to blow more fiercely than before.'”

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