In Antarctica (i)
Bert Clive Burnell
Lincoln - Diary from SY Aurora
page 2 - Jan 12th 1913 / Jan 23rd 1913
1 - Hobart to Antarctica | This page - 2 - in Antarctica (i) | 3 - in Antarctica (ii) | 4 - in Antarctica (iii) | 5 - in Antarctica (iv) | 6 - Homeward Bound
Bert Lincoln was an Able Bodied ordinary seaman on board the SY Aurora during a trip lasting just under three months from Hobart to Commonwealth Bay Antarctica and back again to relieve Mawson's expedition during its second summer, the middle of a three summer and two winter expedition. What follows is Bert's diary of the voyage.
It is typed as it is written. There is an occasional word or letters that I have not been able to interpret, at these points I have written a row of dashes ----- or wrapped question marks around the word where I have ?guessed?
Sunday Jan 12th
The sun has just risen clear of the horizon and just alongside a big berg. the time of sunrise is 1.45 and it set at about eleven o'clock so was out of sight for about 2 1/2 hours but we have had no darkness for three or four days. It seems strange to come on deck at midnight and find it very nearly as bright as midday sunshine and able to read or sew. anywhere --- if you can see your fingers & a needle with mitts on your hands. We sighted many large icebergs this morning and a great number of whales both Blue whales and fin -backs. We took a sounding at 3.50am and got a rock bottom at 350 fathoms and at 6 a.m. we took another sounding and got depth of 180 fathoms & at 8 o'clock we got 224 fathoms & at 9 o'clock we came into drift ice and at 9.30 we were only 30 miles north of the Antarctic Circle. It is a fine morning & the temperature is 30°. We took a sounding again at 10.30 & got 230 fathoms we are now 80 miles off our main base in Adelie Land. There are scores of blue whales, finbacks & killers around us. We passed close to an iceberg about 3 miles long but have seen some away on the horizon which are 30 or 40 miles long quite big islands of ice. At 7.15 p.m. a heavy S.E. wind is raging and sprays are sweeping the bridge and funnel. The temp is now 29° which is 3° of frost. and there are little icicles hanging all over the ship. We must now be very careful as we are surrounded by drift ice & icebergs and the weather is getting very thick. We are now in Lat 67° S. and the main base in Commonwealth Bay Adelie land was sighted at about 9.30 p.m. and there is a large ice barrier on our port beam. The wind is howling a treat and the cold cuts like a whip but we crept to our anchorage about 1.30 a.m. All hands on deck getting anchors out and the motor launch ready to put in the water. Came to anchor at 2 a.m. and after putting tackle on fore part of windlass (to help bear strain) a watchman was appointed & rest of crew turned in at 2.30 a.m.
Monday Jan 13th
At 6 a.m. we were all woke up with a rush as the strop securing the above mentioned tackle had carried away during a heavy squall and the windlass brake was not sufficiently screwed down and the cable chain was rushing out at the rate of knots and before anyone could get to the brake the whole lot of cable disappeared overboard, and is now on the bottom of sea, a loss of one anchor & 125 fathoms of new heavy Navy cable. We will no doubt dredge for it as it is valuable and might mean the loss of the ship. We of course steamed to position again and dropped our port anchor and you can guess we have plenty of safety tackle on also a devils claw and if this goes it will take the ships bows with it. The wind sometimes blows here at a velocity of 300 miles an hour. We are anchored in 15 fathoms of water and about 50 yards from shore which is about 3 feet of rock with 125 feet of ice above it in the shape of a cliff with perpendicular sides at the water's edge and sloping away back to a hill of ice & snow 250 ft high. This glacier is like nothing you can imagine but at the face it shows the ice in all shades of blue from sky blue back to pure white and a laying of frozen snow covering all. There are numerous big crevasses intersecting the hill and at the water's edge these are continually splitting down and hundreds of tons of ice in the form of small bergs go thundering into the sea making the old ship pitch and strain at her anchor. At 2 o'clock this afternoon the motor launch went ashore to Dr. Mawson's camp and brought aboard one of his men and some scientific specimens which have been collected. but Mawson is not expected back for 2 or 3 days he has taken a a party to the Magnetic Pole. he left on 15th December. The men at the base now have only been back from and exploring trip 2 days . The motor launch made 3 trips ashore before 9 o'clock tonight, and are now ashore for ice for fresh water. we melt the ice in our snow tanks which are heated with steam pipes. Our water has been getting very brackish lately, so we are glad to get ice-water.
Tuesday Jan 14th 1912
This morning we had to take the motor launch to davits and hoist it just clear of the water as the weather was getting boisterous. We have been working all day and turn in all night but we are to go watch & water as at sea, shortly, so that the work of shipping spare stores and specimens from the camp ashore, can go on by night and day. The temperature to day has been 31°. Early this morning whilst the watchman was in the galley on deck, one of the men woke up and was having a smoke when he noticed live coals dropping on the forecastle floor from the deck overhead and on investigating found that the bogey & its chimney were red hot and had set the place afire & it was blazing furiously although confined to a small place. By shutting off draught from it and a liberal use of water they succeeded in extinguishing it after half an hours work. They had to reach into the fire from a small opening and throw water on with a pannikin. It burnt a hole through the main deck under the forecastle head.
Wednesday Jan 14th
At 4 o'clock this morning the wind was piping, and the ship was straining at her anchor, and the anchor and cable we have left is smaller a good deal than the one we lost the other morning so we were very anxious, especially as the wind was blowing at a velocity of 90 miles an hour by the wind gauge ashore. but the windlass with the help of a big tackle and a devil's claw and a large mooring wire which were all arranged to take the strain together held safely and we were not sorry either as if the cable went we would have nothing much good to put on our spare anchor and would always have to keep on dodging about till we finished here and then go to the other base which is 1300 miles away and do the same there and I the meantime being without anchoring gear stood a tremendous risk of losing the ship. The wind here sometimes blows at a velocity of 300 miles an hour and for the twelve months the parties have been here the wind has averaged 55 miles an hour for everyday. This seems to be by far the worst spot in Antarctica for cyclones blizzards etc. As it is much better at the other base which is named Gosberge.
This morning at 4 o'clock the temper was down to 23° and
wherever the seawater touched the ships sides or the bottom
of the motor launch as it hung in the davits it instantly froze
but still we did not feel the cold any more than in winter time
in Australia. I had one pair of underpants and a pair of navy
blue ship's uniform trousers and a flannel (navy) my green and
white football jersey (which is about worn out) and the blue
coat which ?Frededinold? made me three years ago and a muffler
& my Happy Hooley hood, One pair
of cashmere socks and my seaboots. At this rate I will be able
to wear out my old clothes and save my good new ones which the
ship issued to me. I have now about five times as many clothes
as ever I had in my life before and also 5 pairs of boots and
two (2) pairs of sea-boots making 7 pairs in all. I will need
a wagon to shift my clothes from the ship when I pay off. But
I expect when we are homeward bound I will dump those
that have been in service the longest.
Thursday Jan 15th
Dr. Mawson is not back with his party yet and in fact the men here were divided in 4 parties one of them to be relief party and establish food depots on the lines of march of the other three parties and only the relief party are home again the rest are all overdue and some of the relief party came in snowblind and altogether they had a hard time of it. what with shortage of food and blizzards etc. and sometimes for a whole week would not be able to over more than 12 miles or an average of about 2 miles a day. About half of our Esquimaux dogs were taken ashore last night for a run on the ice and snow and when a couple of them were passed down with there chains the rest were all anxiously scrambling to get in the front line so they would get taken that trip but only half were taken and when the launch returned the wind was getting to strong so we hoisted the launch clear of the water and knocked off for the night only keeping time during our watch on deck.
Friday Jan 16th 1912
The weather is still fairly fine which is a good job for us while we have only one anchor. We got our spare anchor from below into the fore hatchway but found that the stopper was too big by about a quarter of an inch so the engineers and donkeyman have been chiselling it down smaller to fit. When it is ready it will be useless as we have no spare cable to shackle it to. No more men have come in from the exploring parties ashore and the men ashore are getting anxious for their safety as their food was only supposed to last till yesterday although I suppose in case of emergency they would eat some of their dogs. The rest of our dogs were taken ashore this morning so if a search party has to go out for the missing two parties they will have dogs for their sledges.
The most anxiety is felt for the men with the motor-sledge their leader's name is Vickerson.
The temperature today is 26° above zero or 6° (6 degrees) of frost. Freezing point is 32°.
The weather is nice and warm as long as it is calm but the
cold bites a little when the wind is blowing hard. I notice
that the Australians (including New Zealander's) stand the cold
quite as well as the men who hail from cold countries. I suppose
we will soon be fishing today and recover our lost Anchor cable
as the Chief mate & Chief engineer are busy making a grappling
iron. They think they are journeymen blacksmiths I can tell
Saturday Jan 17th
Early this morning in fact at exactly 2 bells (1 o'clock) one of the AB's came into the fo'c'sle and said there is a party on sight coming over the ice-mountain. Of course there was a stampede for the deck some of the watch below coming straight out of their bunks with only singlets and underpants on. The firemen came up next then the sailmakers and boatswain. There were three men, it turned out afterwards to be Vickerson and his party with the motor sledge one man on the sledge breaking the ice so we could not see him but the three men walking behind made us think it was Mawson as his party consisted three. We waved to the party from our forecastle head and they waved back. They had no food left, not an atom so they just got back to camp in time. One of the men a man named Murphy and next in command here to Dr. Mawson told us that he made one trip in the spring and he averaged 2 miles a day for a week making 12 to 14 miles in a week but he made the return in one day. so it shows how crevasses hinder them till they know where they are. Huge pieces of ice were thundering down the face of the glacier into the sea all last night and one tremendous lump came down the swell from which made the ship rock and roll and tug at her cable. Some pieces are drifting out so we might be able to catch some and water ship as at present they bring off a couple of basketfuls in the launch whenever they are coming from shore without a cargo.
The men on shore who are scientists cannot rig up their wireless telegraph masts which were blown down in a blizzard since the ship was here last year so our crew have to do it for them and to-day we, the A.B's have been splicing wire for stays while our chief mate and two of our chaps were ashore all day setting the stays up tight. Handling the wire was not a nice job especially in the cold and at such a job we could not wear mitts as it would be too awkward. The men ashore had to stay the lower mast well then send up the topmast and set the topmast stays tight, and now a top-gallant mast has to be sent up and its stays set up tight, then the wireless operators want a royal mast sent up above that again but whether the royal mast will be sent up, for them or not is doubtful yet. The lower mast and topmasts reach to a height of 130 feet above waterline while the fore-top-gallant mast of the "Aurora" is only 85 feet (above water-line) at the truck. so by the time the top-gallant mast is set up on shore I think the operators ought to be satisfied although the higher the masts the further the messages will reach.
When the men were tightening the stays up on the topmast a lanyard carried away and the stays which were already tightened pulled the mast over to such an angle that the mast was on the point of falling when they caught and held on to the broken end of the lanyard and their weight was just enough to right the mast then one man let go and put on a new lanyard and they then finished the job without mishap.
To-night after six o'clock the launch came back to the ship from shore with our men and a couple of baskets of ice and after getting two more baskets of ice the launch put off from the ship to drag for our lost anchor and cable, and after dragging for 3 1/2 hours till about half past ten their grappling iron caught on the cable, but of course all they could do was to place a buoy on the end of the grappling line and leave it so that if it is fine weather to-morrow (Sunday) we can fish it up and get the anchor aboard. but the sailors are all wishing a gale of wind to blow to-morrow to prevent them from working us so that we will have Sunday without work just by way of a change. In every ship on Sundays a man always has to be at the wheel steering and at night a man on lookout but other than those duties there is no work on Sundays unless anything should suddenly go wrong, and the crew have to work to save the ship from damage, but in this ship all the most needful work is left for Sundays on purpose, so much so in fact that of the nine months I've been in her I have had only about three Sundays without working all my watch on deck when at sea. When we are in civilised port of course we have our Sunday as the authorities would come down on the skipper. While the "Aurora" was in dock at Williams town undergoing repairs, the officers were hard put to it sometimes to find us enough hard work to keep us busy for we were there for three months, and we sailed out on a Saturday dinner time and of course worked Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday we were working aloft all day bending the sails on to the yards in a drizzling rain, The vessel was bound to Port Kembla N.S. for coal and from there to Hobart from Hobart to MacQuarrie Is. and back to Hobart to get ready for trip to Antarctica, and the sails were not used for some days after they were bent and in fact very little were they used on the voyage to MacQuarrie and back even with a dead-fair wind, and we sailors naturally thought it a dirty trick when the sails could have been bent on whilst in dock a lot easier than when at sea with the vessel rolling.
I used to be a great believer in everything British but "live and learn" I will have to be hard up to sail again under an English flag. From now onwards I will go first under my own flag Australian failing that I will go under a foreign flag preferably Scandinavian, S.American or French.
The "Aurora" flies. The English blue ensign, and as a house-flag
the Royal Thames Yacht Clubs flag. I don't mind hard work and
plenty of it but I hate so much overtime for nothing, when on
Sunday Jan 19th
Our watch came on deck at 4 o'clock this morning and found it fairly cold, the thermometer registering 20° above zero which is 12° of frost. A strong wind was blowing and the launch which was moored alongside was taking sprays over herself and as the spots of water hit her they immediately turned to ice so that she was quite dry but had a thick coating of ice over every exposed part. It seems strange to put a lump of ice down on deck and come and lift it after a couple of hours and find it still the same size and the deck quite dry underneath it. The ice seems more like great lumps of alum than like ice. The other watch, which went below at 4 o'clock this morning and turned in, were called out at 5.30 to help hoist the motor launch as the water was getting rough. They then went off duty again until 8 o'clock. This was a job that ought to have been done at 4 o'clock, 8 bells when both watches were dressed and awake instead of waking men up in their watch, off duty and making them get dressed for ten minutes work. but that is the officers' style aboard here. The other watch were due on deck again at 8 o'clock and were supposed to have their breakfast before that to do which they must turn out at 7.20. but it being blowing hard & Sunday they would not then turn out till 8 o'clock when we came below.
At 10.20 the wind fell dead calm and the other watch had to start trying to fish up our lost anchor & cable. I think our watch were wanted too but as there were only two of us keeping the watch we would not turn out till our proper time, 12 o'clock noon. At noon the others watch should have gone off duty, but all hands were kept at work and the other watch went below for dinner at about 2.30 or 3 o'clock and were called out again twenty minutes later. We, of both watches had quarter of an hour for tea at a quarter to six and then had to work on till a quarter past ten at night.
Then our watch, whose watch below it was by rights from 8 till 12 (midnight) were sent below about half past ten and had to turn out at twelve (midnight) and keep the 12 till 4 watch in the morning. The other watch had the worst of it this time for a change. Two men, one from each watch went ashore with the chief mate this morning and have been working at the wireless masts all day. Our port anchor was heaved in and dropped again three times during the day and as the cable does not fit the windlass and so slips badly it means a lot of heavy hauling for us with tackles to prevent it jumping out of the slots in the windlass to say nothing of the terrible risk we run when handling it. After all the bullocking today we smashed up a grappling iron and then a small kedge anchor which was used for dragging and we never got our anchor & cable, so we will have to get it replaced in Australia when we return.
When we were up to these capers today the officers of course
only stand by and give orders, and when
their watch is up they get relieved & go off duty but
we must keep going and some of the officers are so mutton-headed
that they give us double the amount of work that is necessary
on account of this ignorance, and in fact it was the fault of
the chief mate that we lost the anchor and cable for he left
the brake of the windlass unsecured, and put a rotten strop
to hold the preventer tackle on the fore part of the cable and
when the strop carried away the cable just ran out over the
windlass gathering speed as it went till it all disappeared.
Thus ends our first Sunday in Adelie Land. and this job has
been saved for us until Sunday instead of being done on the
one or two calm days during the week, never mind. "All the nice
girls love a sailor, ha! ha!
Monday Jan 20th 1913
The motor launch which went ashore last night after we stopped work with some of the shore men, and was supposed to come off at six o'clock this morning to take the mate and two men ashore to work at the wireless masts, did not come until two o'clock this afternoon, but in the morning our watch, the boatswain and the mate and his gang of two were all working at the windlass getting the starboard barrel off as the bearing on the port side of it which got smashed yesterday, had to be taken off. It was a difficult thing to accomplish but was done by one o'clock. The mate and his two went ashore at two o'clock and the was on deck were busy reeving new braces on some of the yards, a thing which was badly needed in one or two instances. The tide was exceedingly low here to-day which was the cause of the motor launch being so late, for she was high and dry aground this morning when the men of the shore party woke up, and they could not drag her into the water as she was too heavy.
The mate and his two men have been working at the top-gallant mast ashore to-day which will reach to a height of 170 feet when set up, or about twice the height of the fore truck of the "Aurora".
This morning at about half past twelve a party left the hut
ashore to go and look for the motor sledge which was abandoned
about eleven miles away on the ice, the motor sledging party
having had a hand sledge with them when they returned the other
day and not the motor as they had run-out of spirits to drive
her with and she was too heavy to drag when they were so hungry.
If this last party see any signs of Mawson they will let us
know by smoke signals so they say. I hope Mawson comes in soon
as we are supposed to leave here on the twenty-fifth for Gosberge,
which is the base of the party under Mr. Wild's leadership.
If we have to leave here without getting Mawson, the "Aurora"
will either have to come back and freeze in over the winter
or else go home to Australia and return here next summer as
by the time we pick up the eight men at Gosberge it will be
too late to return here, and then escape wintering here and
they are doubtful as to whether the ship can stand the pressure
of the ice during the winter as she is getting old now being
in her thirty-seventh year and having had a hard life of it,
always among ice in the arctic ocean, when whaling. It is now
eight o'clock in the evening and the motor launch has just brought
us two baskets of ice and returned to the shore for the mate
and his men. The ice is melted by steam in the snow tank and
run off into the ship's water tanks. The launch returned about
ten o'clock without the mate as they stayed ashore to-night
to finish off setting up the top-gallant stays on the mast ashore
as it was unsafe to leave the top-gallant mast which they erected
that evening, without proper stays. The party who were out to
get the motor-sledge to day returned with it about ten o'clock,
but they saw nothing of Dr. Mawson and his party, so it is very
likely that a search party will have to start out to find him
and take food etc. as he may be in a bad way.
Tuesday Jan 21st 1913
The weather is still fairly fine. the party ashore are still anxiously looking for Mawson's return. The motor launch is still kept plying between the ship and the shore, and every night she brings off four basket of ice for water. The mate and his two men have been ashore again today finishing off their job, and now it is finished they find that they want another separate mast erected, so a mast, that had formerly belonged to a vessel called the "Clyde"- which was wrecked at MacQuarrie Is and is stowed down in our tween decks has to be dug out of the coal to-morrow and floated ashore and there to be erected.
Wednesday Jan 22nd 1913
This morning we have been getting the "Clyde's" topmast up from below, and it was towed ashore this afternoon but the launch.
We are having better times this week, as now there is not much to be done and the mate is ashore all day so he is not running round the deck getting excited in his endeavours to find a job for us, we are just doing necessary work and keeping the decks a bit tidy.
The motor-launch came off at six o'clock this evening with some cases and 2 baskets of ice and I went ashore in her for a look round. The men here have got a pretty comfortable hut. Their beds are arranged round the sides as the bunks in a ship's forecastle, and all have a lot of heavy clothes hanging up around their bunks. They take it in turns to be cook and sculleryman etc. The stove is a nice looking one, and they have been blackleading it.
I went and remembered myself to the dogs which we brought
down this trip and when I left them they did set up a howling.
I got some small stones and brought off in remembrance of Adelie
Land, Antarctica, and I had a look at the motor sledge. It is
made from an aeroplane. The planes are taken off and a pair
of steel rails bent up-wards at the fore ends are fastened underneath
the machine as runners, The propeller works it as it would the
aeroplane by drawing it forwards and the same steering gear
works the sledge as when it was an aeroplane, and although it
looks rather a clumsy contrivance for a sledge the men here
say it travelled up the hill behind their hut at a rate of forty
miles per hour. The temperature tonight is 27° that means 5°
Thursday Jan 23rd 1913
The wind was blowing pretty strongly today and the launch did not go ashore till 4.30 this afternoon and the tide was very low it could not get alongside to take any ice, Tonight it is taking barrels of dried barcouta ashore for the dogs. This afternoon our watch was busy in the chain lockers taking turns out of the port cable which got terribly kinked & turned when we were manoeuvring with it on Sunday, this job was pretty tough work as the cable is fairly heavy and the turns were very numerous. A search party of three men set out today in search of Dr. Mawson. They left the camp about midday. I hope Mawson gets back safe and decides to go back home to Australia this summer and not, as many here seem to expect, stay here until next summer, when the ship would of course have to proceed to Adelie Land again. It has been fairly cold today the thermometer registering 30°. A big fall of ice from the glacier occurred about six o'clock this evening causing a veritable ice-field around the ship and one miniature iceberg with about 9ft of ice showing above the water drifted fairly on to our stern and pulverised itself into small lumps like an ice cart delivers round in Australia, and we in the forecastle could here the crunching and grinding going on and only separated from our heads by four or five feet of wood, but we take such matters without concern although such usage would send an iron or steel ship to the bottom very quickly.
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