January 29, 1913: Mawson’s good luck and near miss

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

“. . . . there now remained only about twenty small chips of cooked dog meat and a few ounces of chocolate which I had kept carefully guarded for emergencies.  However, the wind and drift got up in the night and the start next morning was made in disappointing weather.  When five miles on the way another miracle happened.

“I was travelling along on an even down grade and was wondering how long the two pounds of food which remained would last, when something dark loomed through the haze of the drift a short distance away to the right.  All sorts of possibilities raced through my mind as I headed the sledge for it.  The unexpected had happened–in thick weather I had run fairly into a cairn of snow blocks erected by McLean, Hodgeman and Hurley, who had been out searching for my party.  On top of the mound, outlined in black bunting was a bag of food, left on the chance that it might be picked up by us.  In a tin was a note stating the bearing and distance of the mound from Aladdin’s Cave [an outpost of the base at Cape Denison] (E. 30 degrees S., distance twenty-three miles), and mentioning that the ship [Aurora] had arrived at the Hut and was waiting, and had brought the news that Amundsen had reached the Pole, and that Scott was remaining another year in Antarctica.

“It certainly was remarkably good fortune that I had come upon the depot of food; a few hundred yards to either side and it would have been lost to sight in the drift.  On reading the note carefully I found that I had just missed by six hours what would have been crowning good luck, for it appeared that the search party had left the mound at 8 a.m. that very day (January 29).”

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