Walter Henry Hannam - Biographical Notes
Wireless Operator and Mechanic - Aurora 1911-1913
Single, of Sydney, New South Wales, and joined the Expedition
in charge of the arrangements for a wireless telegraphic system.
He was in the Antarctic at the Main Base (Adélie Land) for two
summers and a winter, and was successful in transmitting wireless
messages for a short time during 1912 through Macquarie Island
to Australia, assistant magnetician for a time.
From Appendix 1, Mawson - Heart of the Antarctic
Landmarks named after Walter H. Hannam
Feature Name: Hannam Islands
Feature Type: island
Description: Three small islands lying in the eastern part of Commonwealth Bay, midway between Cape Denison and Cape Gray. Discovered by the AAE (1911-14) under Douglas Mawson.
Dynamite was to be used for blasting out the holes for the reception of the stumps, and so the steel rock-drills were unpacked and boring commenced. This was easier than it appeared, because the rock was much traversed by cracks. By the end of the day a good deal of damage had been done to the rock, at the expense of a few sore fingers and wrists caused by the sledge-hammers missing the drills. The work was tedious, for water introduced into the holes had a habit of freezing. The metal drills, too, tended to be brittle in the cold and required to be tempered softer than usual. Hannam operated the forge, and picks and drills were sent along for pointing; an outcrop of gneiss serving as an anvil.
Hannam had various occupations, but one was to attend to the needs of the inner man, until the completion of the hut. There is no doubt that he was regarded at this time as the most important and popular member of the party, for our appetites were abnormally good. About an hour before meals he was to be seen rummaging amongst the cases of provisions, selecting tins of various brands and hues from the great confusion. However remote their source or diverse their colour, experience taught us that only one preparation would emerge from the tent-kitchen. It was a multifarious stew. Its good quality was undoubted, for a few minutes after the "dinner-bell rang" there was not a particle left.
Finally, by September 30, the aerial was at such a height as to give hope that long-distance messages might be despatched. There was a certain amount of suppressed excitement on the evening of that day when the engine started and gradually got up speed in the dynamo. The sharp note of the spark rose in accompanying crescendo and, when it had reached its highest pitch, Hannam struck off a message to the world at large. No response came after several nights of signalling, and, since sledging had usurped every other interest, the novelty soon wore off.
Midwinter's Day! For once, the weather rose to the occasion and calmed during the few hours of the twilight-day. It was a jovial occasion, and we celebrated it with the uproarious delight of a community of eighteen young men unfettered by small conventions. The sun was returning, and we were glad of it. Already we were dreaming of spring and sledging, summer and sledging, the ship and home. It was the turn of the tide, and the future seemed to be sketched in firm, sure outline. While the rest explored all the ice-caves and the whole extent of our small rocky "selection," Hannam and Bickerton shouldered the domestic responsibilities. Their menu du diner to us was a marvel of gorgeous delicacies
The last-named, Bickerton, "bus-driver" and air-tractor expert, had converted, with the aid of a few pieces of covering tin, into a forge. A piece of red-hot metal was lifted out and thrust into the vice; Hannam was striker and Bickerton holder. General conversation was conducted in shouts, Hannam's being easily predominant.
The sum total of sounds was sufficient for a while to make every one oblivious to the clamour of the restless wind.
Throughout the afternoon we steered north-west and at 8.30 P.M. were approaching heavy pack. Just then Hannam received a wireless message from the Main Base informing us that Dr. Mawson had reached the Hut alone, his two comrades having perished, and instructing me to return at once and pick up all hands. We turned round and steered back immediately.
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