Ernest H. Shackleton
The Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917
The AURORA had an uneventful voyage southwards. On Christmas Day she was anchored off Macquarie Island. Sir Douglas Mawson's wireless station could be seen as well as the hut constructed by Mawson during the Australian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14. A meteorological staff still occupied the hut and later that day the meteorologist, Mr. Tulloch, came aboard the ship and had dinner with Mackintosh. Stores were left for the scientific team on Macquarie and on December 31, the AURORA sailed for McMurdo Sound. Three days later the first iceberg was spotted at 62°40'S, 169°58'E. The next day they entered the pack-ice and on January 7 Mount Sabine, in South Victoria Land, was sighted some 75 miles away. The ship was off Cape Crozier on January 9 when Stenhouse, Cope, Joyce, Ninnis, Mauger and Aitken went off in a boat to locate an area where a small hut could be built and provisioned for a proposed three-man party during the winter months. Emperor penguin eggs could be secured here to supplement their diet. Unfortunately, no appropriate area for the hut and stores could be located, not to mention the fact that there was no penguin rookery to be found. The ship proceeded into McMurdo Sound but was confronted and delayed for three days by heavy pack-ice. On January 16 she reached a point off Cape Evans where ten tons of coal and ninety-eight cases of oil were offloaded. The AURORA worked her way further south and by January 24 she was within nine miles of Hut Point. Unable to go further, the AURORA was anchored to the sea ice and Mackintosh immediately arranged sledging depots. First officer, Lieutenant J.R. Stenhouse, was left in command of the ship with instructions to select a base for winter quarters and land a party. Meanwhile, the others would strike off for their first objective, Hut Point, where the men would find Robert Scott's structure built for the DISCOVERY EXPEDITION in 1902.
The two parties met again the next day as Joyce and his party ran into the very same problems. They reached the edge of the Barrier on January 30 and climbed up a slope to the Barrier surface, about 30 feet above the sea ice. On January 31, after 12 and a half hours of sledging, only two and a half miles had been made. The men had killed a seal at the edge of the sea ice and stored it for future consumption. One dog had to be left behind, with food, since he refused to pull. The following excerpts are from Mackintosh's diary:
off this afternoon at 3 p.m. Surface too dreadful for words. We sink
into snow at times up to our knees, the dogs struggling out of it
panting and making great efforts. I think the soft snow must be accounted
for by a phenomenally fine summer without much wind. After proceeding
about 1000 yds. I spotted some poles on our starboard side. We shaped
course for these and found Captain
Scott's Safety Camp. We unloaded a relay here and went back with
empty sledge for the second relay. It took us four hours to do just
this short distance. It is exasperating. After we had got the second
load up we had lunch. Then we dug round the poles, while snow fell,
and after getting down about three feet we came across, first, a bag
of oats, lower down two cases of dog-biscuit--one with a complete
week's ration, the other with seal-meat. A good find. About forty
paces away we found a venesta-lid sticking out of the snow. Smith
scraped round this with his ice-axe and presently discovered one of
the motor-sledges Captain Scott used. Everything was just as it had
been left, the petrol-tank partly filled and apparently undeteriorated...
February 1. We turned out at 7:30 p.m., and after a meal broke camp. We made a relay of two and a half miles...We covered seven and a half miles in order to bring the load two and a half miles.
February 2. We were awakened this afternoon, while in our bags, by hearing Joyce's dogs barking. They have done well and have caught us up...About 8 p.m., after our hoosh, we made a start, and reached Joyce's camp at 1 a.m...
The surface had been better that day and the party covered six miles without relaying. The next morning it took them two hours to cover the first one hundred and fifty yards. They finally were able to move into Joyces' tracks which allowed them to overtake Joyce on the morning of February 4. That night they covered another 10 miles. The next night another 11 miles was sledged. Joyce and Mackintosh passed each other regularly as Joyce would travel during the day while Mackintosh pulled at night. A blizzard confined the men to their tents for over twenty-four hours, commencing on February 10. On February 11, Mackintosh camped alongside Joyce. One of the dogs had died and several of the others were in poor condition so Mackintosh made up a team of the best dogs and instructed Joyce and Wild to accompany him while Smith, Jack and Gaze went back to Hut Point with the remaining dogs. A depot of fuel and oil was laid at this point, goodbye's were given, and the crews went off in opposite directions. Mackintosh's party built cairns of snow after each hour's traveling to serve as guides to the depot and as marks for the return journey. Another blizzard held the men up on February 13 with uncomfortable, cruel temperatures.
The party plodded forward and by the afternoon of February 20, they had reach 80°S. Mackintosh wrote, "As soon as breakfast was over, Joyce and Wild went off with a light sledge and the dogs to lay out the cairns and place flags to the eastward, building them at every mile. The outer cairn had a large flag and a note indicating the position of the depot. I remained behind to get angles and fix our position with the theodolite. The temperature was very low this morning, and handling the theodolite was not too warm a job for the fingers. My whiskers froze to the metal while I was taking a sight. After five hours the others arrived back. They had covered ten miles, five miles out and five miles back. During the afternoon we finished the cairn, which we have built to a height of eight feet. It is a solid square erection which ought to stand a good deal of weathering, and on top we have placed a bamboo pole with a flag, making the total height twenty-five feet. Building the cairn was a fine warming job, but the ice on our whiskers often took some ten minutes thawing out. To-morrow we hope to lay out the cairns westward, and then to shape our course for the Bluff". A blizzard kept the men in their sleeping bags on February 21 and it was not until the afternoon of the 23rd that Mackintosh and Joyce made an attempt to lay out the cairns to the west. Two dogs had died during the storm, leaving only seven to pull the sledge. On the morning of February 24th, the return march was started. Mackintosh wrote, "We did get off from our camp but had only proceeded about four hundred yards when the fog came on so thick that we could scarcely see a yard ahead, so we had to pitch the tent again, and are now sitting inside hoping the weather will clear. We are going back with only ten days' provisions, so it means pushing on for all we are worth. These stoppages are truly annoying. The poor dogs are feeling hungry; they eat their harness or any straps that may be about. We can give them nothing beyond their allowance of three biscuits each as we are on bare rations ourselves; but I feel sure they require more than one pound a day. That is what they are getting now...After lunch we found it a little clearer, but a very bad light. We decided to push on. It is weird traveling in this light. There is no contrast or outline; the sky and the surface are one, and we cannot discern undulations, which we encounter with disastrous results. We picked up the first of our outward cairns. This was most fortunate. After passing a second cairn everything became blotted out, and so we were forced to camp, after covering 4 miles 703 yards. The dogs are feeling the pangs of hunger and devouring everything they see. They will eat anything except rope. If we had not wasted those three days we might have been able to give them a good feed at the Bluff depot, but now that is impossible. It is snowing hard".
Another blizzard held them up throughout the 25th and 26th. Mackintosh wrote, "Outside is a scene of chaos. The snow, whirling along with the wind, obliterates everything. The dogs are completely buried, and only a mound with a ski sticking up indicates where the sledge is...The sleeping bags are damp and sticky, so are our clothes...One of the dogs gave a bark and Joyce went out to investigate. He found that Major, feeling hungry, had dragged his way to Joyce's ski and eaten off the leather binding. Another dog has eaten all his harness, canvas, rope, leather, brass and rivets. I am afraid the dogs will not pull through; they all look thin and these blizzards do not improve matters...We have a week's provisions and one hundred and sixty miles to travel. It appears that we will have to get another week's provisions from the depot, but don't wish it. Will see what luck to-morrow". The next day, Mackintosh wrote that, "We are now reduced to one meal in the twenty-four hours. This going without food keeps us colder. It is a rotten, miserable time". The weather cleared on the 27th which allowed Mackintosh and Joyce to go back to the depot and retrieve additional stores. Wild remained behind to build another cairn and dry out the sleeping bags in the sun. The party resumed their homeward journey the next morning and, with a sail on the sledge and a nice southerly breeze, managed to cover nine and a half miles that day. That evening, for the first time since leaving the AURORA, the men saw the sun dip to the horizon, a reminder that the Antarctic summer would soon be over. The dogs continued to collapse from exhaustion and famine. On March 2 Mackintosh wrote, "After lunch we went off fairly well for half an hour. Then Nigger commenced to wobble about, his legs eventually giving under him. We took him out of his harness and let him travel along with us, but he has given us all he can, and now can only lie down. After Nigger, my friend Pompey collapsed. The drift, I think, accounts a good deal for this. Pompey has been splendid of late, pulling steadily and well. Then Scotty, the last dog but one, gave up. They are all lying down in our tracks. They have a painless death, for they curl up in the snow and fall into a sleep from which they will never awake. We are left with one dog, Pinkey. He has not been one of the pullers, but he is not despised". At one point, a strong gust of wind came up and blew the sledge over, tearing the sail off in the process. More time was lost as repairs were necessary. Camp was made and, as Mackintosh wrote, "If all was as beautiful as the scene we could consider ourselves in some paradise, but it is dark and cold in the tent and I shiver in a frozen sleeping-bag. The inside fur is a mass of ice, congealed from my breath. One creeps into the bag, toggles up with half-frozen fingers, and hears the crackling of the ice. Presently drops of thawing ice are falling on one's head. Then comes a fit of shivers. You rub yourself and turn over to warm the side of the bag which has been uppermost. A puddle of water forms under the body. After about two hours you may doze off, but I always wake with the feeling that I have not slept a wink". They made only three and a half miles on March 3. Sledging was becoming increasingly difficult so Mackintosh removed the outer runners and scraped the bottom. Left behind was all spare gear, including dog-harness, in order to reduce weight. Temperatures were reaching -28°F and on the 5th, Mackintosh wrote that, "We are struggling along at a mile an hour. It is a very hard pull, the surface being very sticky. Pinkey still accompanies us". The next day a wind came up which allowed them to once again use the sail. The men suffered from frostbitten hands as the ropes had to be constantly secured...that afternoon Pinkey collapsed and was left behind. More blizzards followed but on May 10th they reached the Bluff depot. Another blizzard followed so the journey could not resume until March 12. When they camped that night, Mackintosh noted that, "Our bags are getting into a bad state as it is some time now since we have had an opportunity of drying them. We use our bodies for drying socks and such-like clothing, which we place inside our jerseys and produce when required. Wild carries a regular wardrobe in this position, and it is amusing to see him searching round the back of his clothes for a pair of socks. Getting away in the mornings is our bitterest time. The putting on of the finneskoe is a nightmare, for they are always frozen stiff, and we have a great struggle to force our feet into them. The ice sennegras round one's fingers is another punishment that causes much pain. We are miserable until we are actually on the move, then warmth returns with the work. Our conversation now is principally conjecture as to what can have happened to the other parties. We have various ideas".
Saturday, March 13 was another day spent in the bags due to another blizzard. Both Joyce and Wild suffered from frost-bitten toes while in their bags and had particular difficulty in getting the circulation restored. They could not resume their march until March 15. Mackintosh wrote, "The air temperature this morning was -35° Fahr...To cap everything, I developed a toothache, presumably as a result of frost-bitten cheek. I was in positive agony. Joyce, who had wakened up, suggested methylated spirit, so I damped some cotton-wool, then placed it in the tooth, with the result that I burnt the inside of my mouth. All this time my fingers, being exposed, were continually having to be brought back. After putting on the methylated spirit I went back to the bag, which, of course, was frozen stiff. I wriggled and moaned till morning brought relief by enabling me to turn out. Joyce and Wild both had a bad night, their feet giving them trouble...The skin has peeled off the inside of my mouth, exposing a raw sore, as the result of the methylated spirit. My tooth is better, though...". From here things went better. On March 18, during one of the best marches of the journey, Mackintosh wrote, "I look forward to seeing the ship. All of us bear marks of our tramp. Wild takes first place. His nose is a picture for Punch to be jealous of; his ears, too, are sore, and one big toe is a black sore. Joyce has a good nose and many minor sores. My jaw is swollen from the frost-bite I got on the cheek, and I also have a bit of a nose...Our beards and our moustaches are masses of ice. I will take care I am clean-shaven the next time I come out. The frozen moustache makes the lobes of the nose freeze more easily than they would if there was no ice alongside them...I ask myself why on earth one comes to these parts of the earth. Here we are, frost-bitten in the day, frozen at night. What a life!" The temperature that day, at 1 p.m., was -23°F. They made Corner Camp, where they had been on February 1, on the evening of March 19. The next day they only made 2 miles. On March 23, Mackintosh wrote, "No sooner had we camped last night than a blizzard with drift came on and has continued ever since. This morning finds us prisoners. The drift is lashing into the sides of the tent and everything outside is obscured". They made a start at 7 a.m. on the 24th after a breakfast of cocoa and biscuit-crumbs. "Our start was made under most bitter circumstances, all of us being attacked by frost-bites. It was an effort to bare hands for an instant...Wild is a mass of bites, and we are all in a bad way...We had been pulling about two hours when Joyce's smart eyes picked up a flag. We shoved on for all we were worth, and as we got closer, sure enough, the cases of provisions loomed up. Then what feeds we promised to give ourselves. It was not long before we were putting our gastronomic capabilities to the test. Pemmican was brought down from the depot, with oatmeal to thicken it, as well as sugar. While Wild was getting the Primus lighted he called out to us that he believed his ear had gone. This was the last piece of his face left whole--nose, cheeks, and neck all having bites. I went into the tent and had a look. The ear was a pale green...Then his fingers went, and to stop this and bring back the circulation he put them over the lighted Primus, a terrible thing to do. As a result he was in agony...Just before leaving, Joyce discovered a note left by Spencer-Smith and Richards. This told us that both the other parties had returned to the Hut and apparently all was well...". On March 25 the men picked up sledge tracks and, following these, found a route down to the sea-ice. A short time later the three men reached Hut Point. Mackintosh wrote, "We shouted. No sound. Shouted again, and presently a dark object appeared. This turned out to be Cope, who was by himself. The other members of the party had gone out to fetch the gear off their sledge, which they also had left...We heard then how the ship had called here on March 11 and picked up Spencer-Smith, Stevens, Richards, Ninnis, Hook, and Gaze, the present members here being Cope, Hayward and Jack". Mackintosh learned that Spencer-Smith, Jack and Gaze, who had turned back on February 10, had reached Hut Point without difficulty. The third party, led by Cope, had also been out on the Barrier but had not accomplished much. The party had tried to use the motor-tractor but had failed to get effective service from it; the car was now lying at Hut Point. Spencer-Smith's party and Cope's party had both returned to Hut Point before the end of February. The AURORA, after picking up the six men at Hut Point on March 11, returned to Cape Evans which was the site chosen by Stenhouse for the winter quarters. The six men now remaining at Hut Point were cut off from the winter quarters at Cape Evans by the open water of McMurdo Sound. They lived an uneventful life under primitive conditions at the hut. Wild and Joyce battled their frostbites...Joyce had both feet blistered, his knees were swollen, and his hands were blistered. They ran low of seal blubber in early April and on April 15 several seals were sighted and killed.
Meanwhile, up at Cape Evans preparations were made for routine observations. On March 23, Stenhouse landed a party consisting of Stevens (leader), Spencer-Smith, Gaze and Richards who promptly took up quarters in Scott's hut. They were instructed to kill seals for meat a blubber. The landing of equipment, food and fuel proceeded at a leisurely pace as it was assumed the ship would remain anchored to her moorings throughout the winter. Some coal was taken ashore in April but most of it was lost as the sea-ice went out. The bay frequently froze over with the ice subsequently blown away due to blizzards. As Stevens wrote, "On the 6th May the ice was in and people passed freely between the shore and the ship. At ll p.m. the wind was south, backing to south-east, and blew at forty miles per hour. The ship was still in her place. At 3 a.m. on the 7th the wind had not increased to any extent, but the ice and ship had gone...Nothing has since been seen or heard of the ship, though a look-out was kept". The men did not abandon hope of the ship returning before the Sound froze firmly but Stevens immediately inventoried the stores and regulated food consumption such that it would last the ten men for not less than one hundred weeks. Unfortunately, no general provisions had been brought ashore...no clothing required for sledging had been landed either. But, Captain Scott's hut was equipped with some food and clothing and the men killed a number of seals for blubber and meat. On June 2, Mackintosh and his men from Hut Point showed up at the front door. A significant amount of risk was involved in the crossing but now all ten were at Cape Evans: Mackintosh, Spencer-Smith, Joyce, Wild, Cope, Stevens, Hayward, Gaze, Jack and Richards. The men, now wintered in, had little to do until September. During June the men washed and mended clothes, killed seals, made minor trips around the hut and discussed sledging plans for the coming summer. During July Mackintosh made several trips northwards on the sea-ice but always returned without getting far. Mackintosh and Stevens paid a visit to Cape Royds on August 13. The hut used by Shackleton's 1907-09 Expedition was soon discovered. Mackintosh wrote, "The outer door of the hut we found to be off. A little snow had drifted into the porch, but with a shovel, which we found outside, this was soon cleared away. We then entered, and in the centre of the hut found a pile of snow and ice, which had come through the open ventilator in the roof of the hut...Stevens prepared a meal while I cleared the ice and snow away from the middle of the hut. After our meal we commenced taking an inventory of the stores inside. Tobacco was our first thought. Of this we found one tin of Navy Cut and a box of cigars. Soap, too, which now ensures us a wash and clean clothes when we get back...Over the stove in a conspicuous place we found a notice left by Scott's party that parties using the hut should leave the dishes clean". They stayed at the Cape Royds hut over the next day and loaded up cases of meat, flour, dried vegetables and other sundries, setting off for Cape Evans on the morning of August 15. They arrived back at Cape Evans in only two hours and the rest of August was simply uneventful.
The first sledging party, consisting of Mackintosh, Richards and Spencer-Smith, left Cape Evans on September 1 with 600 pounds of stores on one sledge, and had an uneventful journey to Hut Point. They attempted to get the motor-tractor running and on the 3rd they returned to Cape Evans. The second trip to Hut Point was made by a party of nine, with three sledges. Two of the sledges were pulled by the men, loaded with 1278 pounds of stores, while the third, carrying the sleeping bags, was pulled by the dogs. Eight men made the third journey to Hut Point, taking 600 pounds of oil and 630 pounds of stores. From here, on September 14th, the party pulled loaded sledges to Safety Camp, on the edge of the Barrier; this would be the starting point for the march across the Barrier to the Minna Bluff depot. Another load was taken to Hut Point, and on to Safety Camp, on September 24. The last entry in Mackintosh's diary, left at Cape Evans, says "Everybody is up to their eyes in work. All gear is being overhauled, and personal clothing is having the last stitches. We have been improvising shoes to replace the finneskoe, of which we are badly short. Wild has made an excellent shoe out of an old horse rug he found here, and this is being copied by other men..Last night I had a bath, the second since being here...To-morrow (September 30) we start for Hut Point. Nine of us are going on the sledge party for laying depots; namely, Stevens, Spencer-Smith, Joyce, Wild, Cope, Hayward, Jack, Richards, and myself. Gaze, who is still suffering from bad feet, is remaining behind and will probably be relieved by Stevens after our first trip. With us we take three months' provisions to leave at Hut Point. I continue this journal in another book, which I keep with me". The nine men reached Hut Point on October 1. The depot-laying expedition began from Safety Camp on October 9: three sledges and three tents were taken out onto the Barrier by three teams, consisting of, 1)Mackintosh, Spencer-Smith and Wild; 2)Joyce, Cope and Richards; and 3)Jack, Hayward and Gaze. Mackintosh's account of the depot-laying journeys in the summer of 1915-16 are unfortunately not available..even though a diary was kept, the book was with him when he was lost on the sea-ice the following winter. The only narrative remaining is one compiled by Shackleton from notes kept by Joyce, Richards and other members of the parties. The dogs, untrained and in poor condition from the journey to McMurdo Sound in 1914, were nearly all dead by the beginning of the important sledging season of 1915-16. The men had to sledge almost continuously during a six-month period. They suffered from frostbite, scurvy, and snow-blindness. Nevertheless, had the Weddell Sea Party been able to make the crossing of the Antarctic continent as planned, the stores and fuel would have been waiting for them precisely where Shackleton expected to find them.
Four loads of stores were eventually deposited at Minna Bluff. The final load, brought by Joyce and his men, arrived at the Bluff on December 28. The Bluff depot was now stocked with between 2800 and 2900 pounds of provisions. Various depots were left over the following weeks. Cairns were built at short intervals as guides to the depots. Advancements were made quite rapidly and on the morning of January 18th, 82°S was reached. The depot here, like the one at 81°S, contained five days' provisions for twelve men. The final depot was to be placed at the base of Mount Hope, at the foot of the Beardmore Glacier, in latitude 83° 30'S. The loads were relatively light now but a new trouble developed on January 19th. Spencer-Smith was suffering from swollen and painful legs and was unable to do much pulling. Joyce wrote on the 21st that Spencer-Smith was worse, and that Mackintosh was showing signs of exhaustion. The next morning he reported to be unable to continue. The Mount Hope depot was very important so Spencer-Smith, at his insistence, was left with a tent, one sledge and provisions with the promise from Mackintosh that he'd be picked up on their return in about a week. Fighting challenging weather and "the biggest ice pressure" Joyce had ever seen, the men reached the foot of the Beardmore Glacier on January 26 and found two of Captain Scotts' sledges, upright, buried in the snow. Joyce wrote, "Wild, Hayward, and myself then took the depot up the Glacier, a fortnight's provisions. We left it lashed to a broken sledge, and put up a large flag. I took two photographs of it". The party remained in camp until the 27th due to a strong blizzard. Joyce experienced painful snow-blindness as the return trip commenced, some 365 miles from home. They reached Spencer-Smith on the 29th and found him alive, but unable to walk. Joyce's diary contains a rather gloomy reference to the outlook, since he guessed that Mackintosh also would be unable to make the homeward march. "If they will only last to 80°S. we shall then have enough food to take them in, and then if the ship is in I guarantee they will live in comfort the remainder of their lives". "Still blizzarding", wrote Joyce on the 21st. "We are lying in pools of water made by our bodies through staying in the same place for such a long time. I don't know what we shall do if this does not ease. It has been blowing continuously without a lull. The food for to-day was one cup of pemmican amongst three of us, one biscuit each, and two cups of tea among the three". The next day things had not improved. Joyce wrote, "Hardly any food left except tea and sugar. Richards, Hayward and I, after a long talk, decided to get under way to-morrow in any case, or else we shall be sharing the fate of Captain Scott and his party. The other tent seems to be very quiet, but now and again we hear a burst of song from Wild, so they are in the land of the living. We gave the dogs the last of their food to-night, so we shall have to push, as a great deal depends on them". They got underway at 2:20 p.m. the next day. Mackintosh stayed on his feet as long as humanly possible, tied to the rear of the sledge. Suffering from scurvy, he marched for half an hour on the 23rd before breaking down. Spencer-Smith was sinking as well. Wild, who was in charge of the invalids, was doing quite well but Joyce, Richards and Hayward were all showing signs of scurvy. On February 24th, Joyce wrote, "The worst of camping is the poor dogs and our weak condition, which means we have to get out of our wet sleeping-bags and have another half cup of tea without working for it. This is the second day the dogs have been without food, and if we cannot soon pick up depot and save the dogs it will be almost impossible to drag our two invalids back the one hundred miles which we have to go". On Saturday, February 26, Richards sighted the Minna Bluff depot. Joyce wrote, "The dogs sighted it, which seemed to electrify them. They had new life and started to run, but we were so weak that we could not go more than 200 yds. and then spell. I think another day would have seen us off".
Mackintosh & Spencer-Smith
Being dragged on the Sledge
|Blizzard after blizzard confronted the men. On Thursday, March 9, Spencer-Smith called out that he was feeling queer. Wild spoke to him and at 5:45 Richards said, "I think he is gone". He had been dragged on the sledge for forty days, never complaining despite the intense pain. He was buried in his sleeping bag at the following position: Ereb. 184°--Obs. Hill 149°. A cross was made of bamboo and placed on a cairn at the gravesite. The men arrived at Safety Camp on Saturday, March 18, at precisely 4:10 p.m. They were back at Hut Point by 7 o'clock that evening, having traveled over 1561 miles in 160 days. Joyce wrote, "Before turning in Skipper shook us by the hand with great emotion, thanking us for saving his life". The five men now at Hut Point realized that some of the winter months must be spent there as they would have to wait for the sea to freeze between them and Cape Evans. They had no news of the ship and assumed she had not returned to the Sound since no message awaited them upon arrival back at Hut Point. Before the end of March, Mackintosh and Hayward, who suffered the most, were able to exercise. By the second week of April Mackintosh was free of pain, though the backs of his legs were still black. During April the sea froze in calm weather, but winds took the ice out again. During the first week of May the sea-ice formed rapidly. Richards wrote, "And now a most regrettable incident occurred.|
On the morning of May 8, before breakfast, Captain Mackintosh asked Joyce what he thought of his going to Cape Evans with Hayward. Captain Mackintosh considered the ice quite safe, and the fine morning no doubt tempted him to exchange the quarters at the hut for the greater comfort and better food at Cape Evans. He was strongly urged at the time not to take the risk, as it was pointed out that the ice, although firm, was very young, and that a blizzard was almost sure to take part of it out to sea." Despite changing weather for the worse, Mackintosh and Hayward struck out for Cape Evans at 1 p.m. By 3 p.m. a moderate blizzard was blowing which later turned into a full-blown event. On May 10, the first day possible, the three remaining men at the hut walked over new ice to the north to try and find some trace of Mackintosh and Hayward. The footmarks were clearly seen and the track they followed led in the direction of Cape Evans. Two miles out from the hut the trail ended abruptly, and in the dim light was a wide stretch of water, very lightly covered with ice, stretching as far as the eye could see. At this moment it was evident the ice on which the men were traveling had broken off and drifted out to sea.
The weather during June was persistently bad. No move had been possible on May 16, the sea-ice going out, so Joyce decided to wait until the next full moon. The weather was so poor in June that they had to wait until July's full moon to make the journey to Cape Evans. The party started for Cape Evans on July 15 and arrived later that same day. The men settled in to wait for the relief and, when opportunity allowed, Joyce led search parties to look for the bodies or any trace of Mackintosh and Hayward. Joyce subsequently handed the following report to Shackleton:
beg to report that the following steps were taken to try and discover
the bodies of Captain Mackintosh and Mr. Hayward. After our party's
return to the hut at Cape Evans, July 15, 1916, it was learned that
Captain Mackintosh and Mr. Hayward had not arrived; and, being aware
of the conditions under which they were last seen, all the members
of the wintering party were absolutely convinced that these two men
were totally lost and dead--that they could not have lived for more
than a few hours at the outside in the blizzard that they had encountered,
they being entirely unprovided with equipment of any sort. There was
the barest chance that after the return of the sun some trace of their
bodies might be found, so during the spring--that is, August and September
1916, and in the summer, December and January 1916-17--the following
searches were carried out:
(1) Wild and I thoroughly searched Inaccessible Island at the end of August, 1916.
(2) Various parties in September searched along the shore to the vicinity of Turk's Head.
(3) In company with Messrs. Wild and Gaze I started from Hut Point, December 31, 1916, at 8 a.m., and a course was steered inshore as close as possible to the cliffs in order to search for any possible means of ascent. At a distance of half a mile from Hut Point we passed a snow slope which I had already ascended in June, 1916; three and a half miles farther on was another snow-slope which ended in Blue Ice Glacier slope, which we found impossible to climb, snow-slope being formed by heavy winter snowfall. These were the only two places accessible. Distance on this day, 10 miles 1710 yds. covered. On January 1 search was continued round the south side of Glacier Tongue from the base towards the seaward end. There was much heavy pressure; it was impossible to reach the summit owing to the wide crack. Distance covered 4 miles 100 yds. On January 2 thick weather caused party to lay up. On 3rd, glacier was further examined, and several slopes formed by snow led to top of glacier, but crevasses between slope and the Tongue prevented crossing. The party then proceeded round the Tongue to Tent Island, which was also searched, a complete tour of the island being made. It was decided to make for Cape Evans, as thick weather was approaching. We arrived at 8 p.m. Distance 8 miles 490 yds.
I remain, etc,
Ernest E. Joyce."
As for theAURORA, following Mackintosh's departure on January 25, 1915, Stenhouse kept the ship off Tent Island. The ice-anchors would not hold, owing to the continual breaking away of the pack. During the next month, the AURORA occupied various positions around Cape Evans. On March 11 he proceeded to Hut Point where he dropped anchor in Discovery Bay, landing provisions for twelve men and embarking Spencer-Smith, Stevens, Hooke, Richards, Ninnis and Gaze, returning to Cape Evans that evening. Then, on May 6, 1915, the blizzard hit. From the log of the AURORA, "9:45 p.m.--The ice parted from the shore; all moorings parted. Most fascinating to listen to waves and chain breaking. In the thick haze I saw the ice astern breaking up and the shore receding. I called all hands and clapped relieving tackles on to the cables on the fore part of the windlass. The bos'n had rushed along with his hurricane lamp, and shouted, 'She's away wi' it!' He is a good fellow and very conscientious. I ordered steam on main engines, and the engine-room staff, with Hooke and Ninnis, turned to. Grady, fireman, was laid up with broken rib. As the ship, in the solid floe, set to the north-west, the cables rattled and tore at the hawse-pipes; luckily the anchors, lying as they were on a strip-sloping bottom, came away easily, without damage to windlass or hawse-pipes. Slowly as we disappeared into the Sound, the light in the hut died away". The ship drifted helplessly around the Sound throughout May 7. On the morning of May 8 the weather cleared a little as Cape bird was spotted in the distance. On May 9th, Stenhouse wrote, "Cape Bird is the only land visible, bearing north-east true about eight miles distant. So this is the end of our attempt to winter in McMurdo Sound...It is five weeks to the middle of winter. There is no sun, the light is little and uncertain, and we may expect many blizzards. We have no immediate water-supply, as only a small quantity of fresh ice is aboard when we broke drift. The AURORA is fast in the pack and drifting God knows where. Well, there are prospects of a most interesting winter drift. We are all in good health, except Grady, whose rib is mending rapidly; we have good spirits and we will get through. But what of the poor beggars at Cape Evans, and the Southern Party? It is a dismal prospect for them. There are sufficient provisions at Cape Evans, Hut Point, and, I suppose, Cape Royds, but we have the remaining Burberrys, clothing, etc., for next year's sledging still on board. I see little prospect of getting back to Cape Evans or anywhere in the Sound. We are short of coal and held firmly in the ice. I hope she drifts quickly to the north-east. Then we can endeavour to push through the pack and make for New Zealand, coal and return to the Barrier eastward of Cape Crozier. This could be done, I think, in the early spring, September. We must get back to aid the depot-laying next season". The record of the early months of the AURORA'A drift in the Ross Sea is uneventful. The supply of fresh water remained a problem as fresh fallen snow was their only source. Hooke and Ninnis worked hard at getting the wireless station going in hope of getting in touch with Macquarie Island, and possibly sending news of the ship to Cape Evans. They got the wireless going but, despite many attempts, their efforts were unsuccessful. The AURORA was quite helpless in the grip of the ice. From the ship's log on May 21, "The grating and grinding noise makes one feel the unimportance of man in circumstances like ours. Hope all is well at Cape Evans and that the other parties have returned safely. Wish we could relieve their anxiety". From the log on May 26, "If the ship is nipped in the ice, the ship's company (eighteen hands) will take to four sledges with one month's rations and make for nearest land. Six men and one sledge will endeavour to make Cape Evans via the Western land, Butler Point, Hut Point, etc. The remaining twelve will come along with all possible speed, but no forced marches, killing and depoting penguins and seals for emergency retreats". On June 8, "Made our latitude 75° 59'S. by altitude of Sirius. This is a very monotonous life, but all hands appear to be happy and contented. The temperature is -20°Fahr." The ship continued to drift throughout June and, from the logbook entry on July 22, "Ship in bad position in newly frozen lane, with bow and stern jammed against heavy floes; heavy strain with much creaking and groaning. 8 a.m.--Called all hands to stations for sledges, and made final preparations for abandoning ship...Am afraid the ship's back will be broken if the pressure continues, but cannot relieve her". The next day the "Pressure continued intermittently throughout the day and night, with occasional very heavy squeezes to the ship which made timbers crack and groan. The ship's stern is now in a more or less soft bed, formed of recently frozen ice of about one foot in thickness. I thank God that we have been spared through this fearful nightmare". By August 10, the ship's position was 70° 42' S. latitude, forty-five miles north-east of Cape Adare. On August 17 Hooke heard Macquarie Island on the wireless set sending weather reports to Hobart. Once again, on August 25, Hooke heard Macquarie and the Bluff (New Zealand) sending weather reports. On September 5 the wireless mast came down in a raging blizzard. On September 22 they had drifted to latitude 69°12'S, longitude 165° 00'E, ninety miles south of Sturge Island in the Balleny Group. During the month of October the AURORA drifted uneventfully. On November 17 Stenhouse made a sounding, at 66°S, 154°E, and found bottom at 194 fathoms. From the log entry of December 17, "No appreciable change in our surroundings. Every day past now reduces our chance of getting out in time to go north for rudder, anchors, and coal. If we break out before January 15 we might get north to New Zealand and down to Cape Evans again in time to pick up the parties. After that date we can only attempt to go south in our crippled state, and short of fuel...Shackleton may be past the Pole now. I wish our wireless calls had got through". The middle of January passed and the AURORA lay still in the ice. The latitude on January 24 was 65° 39'½S. The break-up of the floe came on February 12. Without steam and rudder, the foresail and foretopmast staysail were set the next day and the ship slowly moved northward. At 2 p.m., on March 14, the AURORA cleared the last belt of pack ice in latitude 62° 27.5'S., longitude 157° 32'E. On March 23rd communications was established with Bluff Station, New Zealand, and the next day with Wellington and Hobart. In the early morning of April 2, the AURORA picked up the tug PLUCKY, was taken in tow, and arrived in Port Chalmers the following morning.
Shackleton reached New Zealand at the beginning of December, 1916. The AURORA had been repaired and refitted at Port Chalmers and was now under the command of John K. Davis, who was a member of Shackleton's 1907-09 Expedition, and who subsequently commanded Dr. Mawson's ship in the Australian Antarctic Expedition. The Australian Government agreed to hand the AURORA over to Shackleton, even free and clear of debt upon her return to New Zealand after picking up the Ross Sea Party. Due to this generosity, Captain Davis commanded the ship down to McMurdo Sound while Shackleton "signed on" at a salary of 1s. a month. They sailed from Port Chalmers on December 20, 1916, for McMurdo Sound. The AURORA encountered her first ice a week later and entered the open water of the Ross Sea on January 7, 1917. Captain Davis brought the ship alongside the ice edge off Cape Royds on the morning of January 10. Shackleton went ashore with a party to look for any records possibly left in the hut. A letter was found stating that the Ross Sea Party was housed at Cape Evans. Shackleton was on his way back to the ship when six men, with dogs and a sledge, appeared in the direction of Cape Evans. At 1 p.m. this party arrived on board and Shackleton learned that of the ten members left behind when the AURORA broke away on May 6, 1915, only seven had survived. A final search was made for the bodies of Mackintosh and Hayward and, of course, they were not found. After the exhaustive searching, Captain Davis took the ship northward on January 17, 1917. The AURORA reached the main pack of ice on January 22 and crossed the Antarctic Circle on January 31. On February 4 Davis sent a formal report to the New Zealand Government by wireless, and on February 9 the AURORA berthed at Wellington.
As some of you know, little is known of the relief trip, commanded by Captain Davis, to McMurdo Sound at the end of 1916. The crew of the relief effort was comprised entirely of volunteer help. I have been very fortunate to receive a complete transcription of the diary kept by crew member Alasdair MacKinnon, A.B. during the Antarctic Relief Expedition journey of the SY AURORA from Port Chalmers to McMurdo Sound and return. The complete transcription, in the author's own words, is presented here in the public domain for the very first time. To see the diary click HERE or you can turn the page to read of Shackleton's last expedition, the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition, aboard the QUEST.
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