In Antarctica (iii) - Bert Clive Burnell Lincoln
Diary from the SY Aurora, Australasian Antarctic Expedition
page 4 - Feb 3rd 1913 / Feb 14th 1913

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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?

Bert Clive Burnell Lincoln

Monday Feb 3rd 1913

We are still beating about in Commonwealth Bay, the wind is from the same direction only getting gradually stronger. It is now blowing a terrible hurricane and the ship bulwarks on the outside are covered about 10 inches thick with ice and from the boat skids, top-gallant sail, davits and such things the icicles are hanging like stalactites a foot long, the sailing around the forecastle head which are made of 1 inch thick iron are now four inches thick with ice, the rigging and backstays are bars of ice three inches to five inches in thickness and the rigging lanyards and every coil of rope are solid blocks of ice. The reel containing the four miles of wire rope for trawling is covered with canvas and that is covered again with a thick coating of ice so that it looks like a small iceberg on deck, as the top of the reel stands about six feet high. When our watch went on deck at 8 o'clock this morning one man had to grease and oil the steering gear while I had to break the ice out of the scupper holes which were all frozen up, as the maindeck had eight inches of water washing around it that could not escape, I had to wade in the water with a crowbar, and as soon as my seaboots went in the water I felt the cold through although the boots did not leak and when I cleared the scuppers and the water drained away I stamped my feet and a coating of ice fell off my boots so you can see how quick the water will freeze unless there is a big quantity of it. We did nothing only stand by and keep the scuppers free in our watches on deck today, and we notice that the mate stays in his bunk more now instead of nosing around forward on his watch below giving us unnecessary work to do, but in our dog watch he was having plenty of lung exercise with his whistle and the first time he wanted the end of a gasket tucked in on the upper topsail yard and another time he wanted a door shut that was slightly ajar. The gasket on the topsail yard was not adrift but an end about eighteen inches long was left after the gasket had been made fast some four weeks ago, and this end had been hanging down ever since and he now wanted it tucked in  the turn round the yard, so a man had to go up and do it in a wind that is enough to blow a man off the yard and half way to the horizon., and the rigging slippery and treacherous as it is covered so thick with ice. This chief mate must want a term of imprisonment for manslaughter I think judging from his orders when the weather is exceptionally bad. The crew would say nothing and do say nothing to orders for things to be done which are necessary to the good handling of and good looks of the vessel or to the saving of gear from damage even if the job is dangerous but they naturally grumble and curse at the job that is absolutely unnecessary and is yet saved for weeks till such time as it will be dangerous and then a sailor is ordered by the mate to do it at an imminent risk of being lost overboard, and we are now seven since we left Hobart, and we don't want to go home with less men just to satisfy the mates spite as that is all it really is. The mate is thoroughly disliked by every man in the ship both officer and sailor aft & forward on account of his dirty principles, but he had better be careful as in this ship the serious complaints of the A.B.'s are always paid heed to by the captain and rectified where possible, and the men forward. sailors, fireman, donkeyman, sailmaker and boatswain always stick to-gether now when a complaint is to be made and the old man knows we stick together too as in Hobart when things were unsatisfactory and one man who was grumbling the most was going to be paid off we all demanded our discharges making the old man's knees shake so much as to nearly collapse. I am putting rather too much in my diary according to the amount of paper I have so henceforth I must cut down a little and put things short and sweet.

Tuesday Feb 4th 1913

The wind is still blowing strong, in fact it is lifting the water up like smoke and when one gets in an exposed place it is like getting a smack with a whitewashed wall. We are doing nothing but take a wheel and keep the decks and scuppers clear and occasionally brace the yards when the ship can not bring his head up against it with the helm hard down. When our watch went on deck at midday I relieved the wheel and the helm was then hard down as the wind had forced her head away and the steersman was trying to get her up again and he warned me that she was jerking heavy on the wheel, and before he got away I got a hoist in the air and very near went over the wheel. After that I took good care she did not throw me. When my relief came along I warned him and when she jerked heavy he let the wheel go and it span round at the sort of rate of knots and the old man went sour and ordered us to rig a relieving tackle to take the jerk, after which it was much safer at the wheel. When I was relieved from the wheel I also warned everyone in the watch so they would know what to expect when their turns came. But the old chap belonging to Hobart who had third wheel suppose did not like a younger man giving him a tip as he thinks he knows everything, for he said "I'll be all right matey, she won't have me like that" so of course I said no more, but the big Dane told him that he had better be pretty careful all the same. When the old chap went to the wheel the relieving tackle was on, so she did not frisk nearly so hard but all the same he got a hoist in the air and clean up over the wheel on to the opposite side, and the "old man" (skipper) ran and held on to the wheel till he recovered himself. Of course I laughed at him as he deserved.

We have not been able to steer very good as we could not put our own faces to the wind as the fine spray, frozen would put our eyes out, and we could not see a thing further than a hundred yards away. everything was a blur, sea, sky, and smoky spray. the rigging decks and everything was covered with a thick coat of ice excepting the funnel. When each man came from the wheel his clothes were covered with ice although he would be warm enough as it was hard work.

Wednesday Feb 5th 1913

This morning between midnight and four o'clock the blizzard was  at its height and the ship had to steam to windward by tacks like a sailing vessel would sail to windward and the wind would force her to leeward so much that with the engines doing every ounce that was in them she was only keeping her place. The firemen say that they are burning over nine tons of coal a day on account of the speed the engines are working whereas usually travelling at full speed the firemen only use between four and five tons a day. The engineers practically sleep with their eyes on their engines and the captain looks as if he had been drunk for a month as he has had practically no sleep for two days and nights. We have been using every possible trick of seamanship to keep from being blown to leeward and to the open sea.

Thursday Feb 6th 1913

The wind and sea is still high although early this morning the wind died down a good lot and it began to look a bit more cheerful and we were waiting for it to moderate still more when we could pick up the motor launch from shore and the men who are going home and get away for the Gaussberg party but instead of moderating it blew the hardest we have had as the sun came. Having a warm sun today caused the thick ice which is covering everything to start thawing when the ship became in an awful state with loose pieces of ice and slush and water and everything being wet caused us to get soaked through and be in general discomfort while large lumps of ice would keep dropping from aloft, which would give one a sudden start as they whizzed past ones head. We also had to work hard shovelling the slush and soft ice overboard and sweeping the water through the scuppers. The kick at the wheel is no joke during this weather and the mate is the best officer to steer for. The second and third mates are arguing with us all the time when we aer doing our best as they think they know how much helm she wants better than we do who are always steering, naturally they don't get near such good steering during this weather as the mate does in his. The mate can see you are doing your best and he leaves it to you as he knows that you ought to know better than him the amount of helm to give seeing that you spend about four and a half to five hours at the wheel out of every 24 and the officer never steers of course. Every man while at the wheel gets innumerable sprays over him which freeze immediately so that when he comes from the wheel he is white all over and has to shake the ice off his clothes then dry them, but then the water does not get a chance to soak in much so it means that although the wheel is the heaviest work it is the driest job on board.

The captain put the sailmaker in the other watch the other day so that they would have the same number as our watch which have now four men, who all take a wheel, but although "Sails" has been doing some pretty tall skiting about his Arctic and Antarctic voyages (he says he has been eight times to the Arctic and this is the fourth voyage to the Antarctic) he is not game to take a wheel , and some of the chaps keep calling out to him that "The captain says you have to go to the wheel" thus putting Sails in a blue funk. Sailmaker does not do much skiting now by a long way.

The Hobart man has been in one watch one week and the other watch the next week, and this week it is his turn in our watch and that is the reason that we had a man more than them till "Sails" went in their watch, but as Sails does not take a wheel, I suppose him and "old George" will change over on Sunday and we will have "Sails" for an ornament for a week.

Friday Feb 7th 1913

The weather is very much the same but perhaps a trifle better. There is a rumour going round that we are leaving here tomorrow for Gaussberge, but I do not know whether it will prove true or not although we will have to go soon whether we get the launch and the party from shore or not as the people ashore here are safe for provisions etc. for a couple of years, but at Gausberge the people are only on an ice barrier and if that should break up they are lost, while here, they are on land with rocks showing all round about them. Today we were smashing ice off everything and shovelling it over board, and during our watch eight o'clock to midday I got wet through three times with sprays and dried again working. The ice was thawing again and a piece fell on the Dane's nose scratching it and causing it to bleed and he went and put a piece of paper on it to keep the cold from getting into the wound & when he came up again the boatswain growled at him and bullyragged him & then attempted to hit him for stopping working and they had a rough and tumble on the deck among the ice and slush and water, and the Dane had the best of it, easy so the mate came and stopped this. If the boatswain is not very careful what he does he may not go home from this trip as no-one likes him and he is getting a bit over the mark with some of the chaps, and every man jack vows that if the boatswain starts his trick with his fists, they won't take a doing from him so if starts bouncing some of the smaller chaps as he has a habit of doing it might end in his skull getting fractured.

Late tonight we heard that the captain said he would wait another twenty four hours if the weather continued bad and then he would leave for Gausberg with or without the launch and the returning party.

Saturday Feb 8th 1913

When our watch came on deck at four oclock this morning we found there was a great improvement in the weather since midnight and about 5.30 the mate set us to work to dig the ice away from the no.1 winch ready for hoisting the launch aboard should the weather moderate a little more.

By eight oclock this morning it had fallen almost calm and the sea had gone down too. We had the eight to twelve watch below and we turned in about nine o'clock after having breakfast. The launch came off about 9.30 and returned once or twice to bring off men and their belongings. and at 10.30 we were called on deck again to help hoist the launch as the winches were still frozen up and useless. We had the launch on the chocks and were off to sea by eleven o'clock. The weather was dead calm by this time. We had our ensign at the gaff as we steamed up the bay to the open sea, and the men we left here were up on the hill by the camp waving farewell to us. We had nice warm sunshine all day and were busy breaking off ice from the rigging and wherever it was overhead so that it should not fall on anyone and hurt then. I had the wheel from seven till eight o'clock in the evening and the ship steered good in the calm, in fact she only needed one spoke of the wheel in either direction to keep her perfectly steady. I was relieved from the wheel at 8 bells (eight o'clock) and went below. Our watch was just turning in when a man of the watch on deck came and told us that the operator had just received a message from the mainbase saying "Mawson arrived Metz and Ninnis (Mawson's two companions) dead"  Mertz was a native of Switzerland and Ninnis was an Englishman and a lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards. The message was faint but was continually repeated in the hope of it reaching us which it did in spite of its being sent in the daytime when wireless does not travel so good. On receiving the message the ship was immediately put about and headed for the base again. The ship was then heading from East to South dodging among bergs and making for the coast and it started snowing and as we got back towards the coast the wind rose and the weather got worse.

Sunday Feb 9th 1913

The ship was near to the bay at four o'clock this morning. weather is very cold and windy and we are in doubt as to whether it will be calm enough to allow us to launch the motor when we arrive off the base, although the watch on deck from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. are getting the gear ready which is necessary. The boat has to be shifted from chocks on the forecastlehead and launched from these with the trawl boom and wire. We expect to be here some days now as most likely everything and everybody will be going to Australia now that Mawson is back.

8.30 p.m. We arrived off the base about 1 p.m. but as the sea was rather rough we did not attempt to launch the motor boat but got the whole boat ready to launch instead. Whilst near the base all the afternoon we were speaking with them by signals and this evening at 6.30 p.m. as it was our watch on deck the mate called me aft and him and I hoisted our ensign at the gaff and dipped it three times to the people ashore and steamed off or the open sea. I heard the mate tell one of the men from ashore  "that we know all the people who are left here in the Commonwealth Bay base (main base) are safe enough for twelvemonths or two years if necessary, but that Mr. Wild and his party at the second base at Gausberg are in a very precarious position and that we are going to Gausberg without delaying here waiting for fine weather to get them on board, before it is too late in the season". When we left here yesterday we saw a large ice-pack away on our starboard bow and beam and as there is more ice at this time of the year, to the westward we might get frozen in a pack if it is too heavy to smash through and be hundreds of miles away from the second base whilst they might be adrift on icebergs if the ice barrier where their camp is has broken up, or they may be dead by now.

There was a large ice-barrier close to this base when the ship was here last year, which has all broken up and drifted away before the ship arrived here this year. Whilst the weather was so bad here wind was blowing at a velocity of from 50 miles up to 132 miles an hour and some very large icebergs broke off the glacier and drifted out to sea. One night three broke off.

Monday Feb 10th 1913

We have been steering N. by E. and N 1/2 E. since leaving the base thus passing to the eastward of the ice pack which we passed on Saturday when we steered N. by W. and then N. by W. 3/4 W.

As soon as we were away from the base for a couple of hours the weather got calmer and this morning the sea only had little ripples on it. We pounded through several small patches of drift ice early this morning and at 6.30 there were many large bergs around us. I counted 37 of varying sizes within a radius of about six miles. Some of these bergs were only about a couple of hundred yards long whilst others were 6 and 7 miles in length. We have to keep look-out again now as we have three or four hours of darkness during the night and sometimes a fog and other times falls of snow. About 10 o'clock this morning we entered an ice pack. it was about two miles through at its narrowest part whereof course we went but it took us until one o'clock to break through. The engines were going full speed, and the old ship would give the ice a smack and if it was too solid she would bounce back with her masts shivering and the rigging clattering and then at it again and after a while a piece perhaps half an acre in size, would slowly glide aside with much grinding and smashing and allow her to creep a few yards ahead when the same performance would again take place. We had watch below from 10 to 12 (midday) and as soon she entered the pack it woke us up and we were very  nearly hoisted from our bunks with the force of her impacts many a time. We have been put on a very low whack of water from yesterday. One bucketful per day for seven men from which all our cocoa and coffee has to be made, and what is left we can use to wash in. We had no tea at dinnertime today and very little at breakfast tea-time. The heavy ice-pack today was composed of fresh-water ice, but the captain of course does not want to delay it all on the way to Gausberg, as the party there may be lost through us delaying, even if they are not already gone out.

We have a good fair wind but we dare not use it while there is so much ice about, so we have not set any sails, but are only under steam.

We sight very many "right whales" also "fin-backs". "sulphur bottoms" but time is too precious for us to stop to do any whaling. While in the icepack we passed a great lot of seals sunning themselves on the ice and we were clearing the remains of the ice off our decks and rigging so we would occasionally throw a piece of ice at them which landing close to them would cause them great alarm. We passed within a few feet of a penguin and her one chick the chick was more comical than his mother, to look at and also about twice the size.

Tuesday Feb 11th 1913

Early this morning the course was altered to  W.N.W. as we are getting pretty clear of the ice. At 8 o'clock p.m. there were only three or four large bergs in sight. Later on in the morning the course was altered to W. by N 1/2 N. This brought the wind on our port bow and then being a cross sea on makes the ship roll a bit while I was at the wheel in first dog-watch 7-8 the indicator registered the heaviest roll that hour as 25 degrees from perpendicular. The ship is getting light now so she heaves, pitches and rolls more than she would in the same sea if she was deep loaded. The weather is warm now as we are north of the Antarctic Circle about one and a half days steaming. The temperature now is at 32° in the day and about 30° to-night. It is also getting darker at nights. We have had to use binnacle lamps since leaving Adelie Land and at night we had to light them as early as 9.30. This is partly due to the ship being further north but also to the fact that the sun is drawing to a close now and winter is coming along. It is doubtful whether we will get back this Autumn or get frozen in and have to wait till next summer to get home.

Mr. Hannam the wireless operator got a faint and indistinct message last night from the main base, which he understood to be that the two companions of Mawson, viz Mertz and Ninnis lost their lives falling down a crevasse, but he could not get all the message, and he could not ask for it again as our wireless gear only allows us to receive messages and not to send any away from the ship which is a thing I call ridiculous seeing that all that is wanted is one little instrument besides those we have . But I suppose the captain does not want news to be sent on ahead of him when going back to Australia so that he can have all the "swank" to himself. He is welcome to it. There are no great happenings these last couple of days, and I think the officers are hard put to it to invent work to make us keep busy. Why they don't let us have a good spell before reaching Gaussberg I don't know because when we are taking the party and their gear aboard, if all is safe and well, we will have a pretty hard time of it again. Perhaps they keep us working just to keep our muscles and to keep us in good hard condition.

Wednesday Feb 12th 1913

Early this morning in the 12 to 4 o'clock watch I steered the (Australian) "Aurora" close past a large iceberg by the light of the "Aurora Australis". We see the "Aurora Australis" occasionally but not every night, although I expect we shall see it more frequently as winter approaches nearer. The illumination this morning was to the north of us reaching from N.W. to N.E. at its strongest part. This is only about the fifth or sixth time I have seen the Aurora Australis plainly since I have been in the ship although I was in her all last winter cruising around Macquarrie & Auckland Islands which are what is called Sub-Antarctica.

Thursday Feb 13th 1913

The weather still continues fine. the temperature averaging 30° with bright sunshine and the wind on the port bow and just enough sea on to keep the ship gently heaving as if she is nodding and bowing to something.

We are only 300 miles from the main-base at noon today so we still have 1000 miles to do to reach Gaussberg.

When we were travelling at our top speed we were using 8 or 9 tons of coal per day so we want to have enough left to take us to Australia, the captain ordered that they were not to use more than 5 tons per day so there is not so much speed as there is less steam now.

The fireman pitched a tale to the chief mate, that they did not have enough time to trim their own coal so that one of the sailors has now to go trimming for them while they sit in the stokehold reading and amusing themselves, they have four hours on duty and eight off, working only eight hours out of twenty-four while our side work twelve out of twenty-four and then has to do their work while they have a right good sort of time of it. Passed the edge of an ice pack today.

Friday Feb 14th 1913

The wind has been very light today but dead fair so we got the sails ready and about five o'clock this afternoon when the wind freshened a bit we set the upper and lower topsails and reefed the foresail, the reef is so that the officers can see under the foot of the sail, from the bridge.  started doing about seven knots, but tonight the wind having freshened still more, she is doing about ten-knots and a big sea is climbing up. The wind is still dead-fair.

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