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ALL ABOARD: THE RETURN TO NEW ZEALAND
An Oar Breaks: Disaster Averted: Last View of Winter Quarters: Supplies left at Cape Royds: New Coast-line: Anchored at Mouth of Lord's River, Stewart Island, March 22: Arrived Lyttelton, March 25, 1909
THE Nimrod, with the members of the Northern Party aboard, got back to the winter quarters on February 11 and landed Mawson. The hut party at this period consisted of Murray, Priestley, Mawson, Day, and Roberts. No news had been heard of the Southern Party, and the depot party, commanded by Joyce, was still out. The ship lay under Glacier Tongue most of the time, making occasional visits to Hut Point in case some sf the men should have returned. On February 20 it was found that the depot party had reached Hut Point, and had not seen th.e Southern Party. The temperature was becoming lower, arid the blizzards were more frequent.
The instructions left by me had provided that if we had not returned by February 25, a party was to be landed at Hut Point, with a team of dogs, and on March 1 a search-party was to go south. In connection with landing party, Murray showed Captain Evans my full instructions that the party was to be landed on the 25th, and on this being understood the Nimrod left Cape Royds on the 21st with the party, whilst Murray remained in charge at Cape Royds, which was now cut off by sea from Hut Point. Murray was in no way responsible for the failure of that party to be landed, and this is a point I did not make clear in the first edition of my book; it is therefore due to Murray to make this explanation. All arrangements being completed, most of the members of the expedition then on board went ashore at Cape Royds to get the last of their property packed ready for departure. The ship was lying under Glacier Tongue when I arrived at Hut Point with Wild on February 28 and after I had been landed with the relief party in order to bring in Adams and Marshall, it proceeded to Cape Royds in order to take on board the remaining members of the shore-party and some specimens and stores.
The Nimrod anchored a short distance from the shore, and two boats were launched. The only spot convenient for embarkation near the ship's anchorage was at a low ice cliff in Backdoor Bay. Everything had to be lowered by ropes over the cliff into the boats. Some hours were spent in taking on board the last of the collections, the private property, and various stores.
A stiff breeze was blowing, making work with the boats difficult, but by 6 A.M. on March 2 there remained to be taken on board only the men and dogs. The operation of lowering the dogs one by one into the boats was necessarily slow, and while it was in progress the wind freshened to blizzard force, and the sea began to run dangerously. The waves had deeply undercut the ice-cliff, leaving a projecting shelf. One boat, in charge of Davis, succeeded in reaching the ship, but a second boat, commanded by Harbord, was less fortunate. It was heavily loaded with twelve men and a number of dogs, and before it had proceeded many yards from the shore an oar broke. The Nimrod was forced to slip her moorings and steam out of the bay, as the storm had become so severe that she was in danger of dragging her anchors and going on the rocks. An attempt to float a buoy to the boat was not successful, and for some time Harbord and the men with him were in danger. They could not get out of the bay owing to the force of the sea, and the projecting shelf of ice threatened disaster if they approached the shore. The flying spray had encased the men in ice, and their hands were numb and hall-frozen. At the end of an hour they managed to make fast to a line stretched from an anchor a few yards from the cliff, the men who had remained on shore pulling this line taut. The position was still dangerous, but all the men and dogs were hauled up the slippery ice-face into safety before the boat sank. Hot drinks were soon ready in the hut, and the men dried their clothes as best they could before the fire. Nearly all the bedding had been sent on board, and the temperature was low, but they were thankful to have escaped with their lives.
The weather was bitter on the following morning (March 3), and the Nimrod, which had been sheltering under Glacier Tongue, came back to Cape Royds. A heavy sea was still running, but a new landing-place was selected in the shelter of the cape, and all the men and dogs were got aboard. The ship went back to the Glacier Tongue anchorage to wait for the relief party.
READY TO START HOME
About ten o'clock that night Mackintosh was walking the deck engaged in conversation with some other members of the expedition. Suddenly he became excited and said, " I feel that Shackleton has arrived at Hut Point." He was very anxious that the ship should go up to the Point, but nobody gave much attention to him. Then Dunlop advised him to go up to the crow's-nest if he was sure about it, and look for a signal. Mackintosh went aloft, and immediately saw our flare at Hut Point. The ship at once left for Hut Point, reaching it at midnight, and by 2 A.M. on March 4 the entire expedition was safe on board.
There was now no time to be lost if we were to attempt to complete our work. The season was far advanced, and the condition of the ice was a matter for anxiety, but I was most anxious to undertake exploration with the ship to the westward, towards Adelie Land, with the idea of mapping the coast-line in that direction. As soon as all the members of the expedition were on board the Nimrod, therefore, I gave orders to steam north, and in a very short time we were under way. It was evident that the sea in our neighbourhood would be frozen over before many hours had passed, and although I had foreseen the possibility of having to spend a second winter in the Antarctic when making my arrangements, we were all very much disinclined to face the long wait if it could be avoided. I wished first to round Cape Armitage and pick up the geological specimens and gear that had been left at Pram Point, but there was heavy ice coining out from the south, and this meant imminent risk of the ship being caught and perhaps "nipped." I decided to go into shelter under Glacier Tongue in the little inlet on the north side for a few hours, in the hope that the southern wind, that was bringing out the ice, would cease and that we would then be able to return and secure the specimens and gear. This was about two o'clock on the morning of March 4, and we members of the Southern Party turned in for a much-needed rest.
At eight o'clock on the morning of the 4th we again went down the sound. Young ice was forming over the sea, which was now calm, the wind having entirely dropped, and it was evident that we must be very quick if we were to escape that year. We brought the Nimrod right alongside the pressure ice at Pram Point, and I pointed out the little depot on the hillside. Mackintosh at once went off with a party of men to bring the gear and specimens down, while another party went out to the seal rookery to see if they could find a peculiar seal that we had noticed on our way to the hut on the previous night. The seal was either a new species or the female of the Ross seal. It was a small animal, about four feet six inches long, with a broad white band from its throat right down to its tail on the underside. If we had been equipped with knives on the previous night we would have despatched it, but we had no knives and were, moreover, very tired, and we therefore left it. The search for the seal proved fruitless, and as the sea was freezing over behind us I ordered all the men on board directly the stuff from the depot had been got on to the deck, and the Nimrod once more steamed north. The breeze soon began to freshen, and it was blowing hard from the south when we passed the winter quarters at Cape Royds. We all turned out to give three cheers and to take a last look at the place where we had spent so many happy days. The hut was not exactly a palatial residence, and during our period of residence in it we had suffered many discomforts, not to say hardships, but, on the other hand, it had been our home for a year that would always live in our memories. We had been a very happy little party within its walls, and often when we were far away from even its measure of civilisation it had been the Mecca of all our hopes and dreams. We watched the little hut fade away in the distance with feelings almost of sadness, and there were few men aboard who did not cherish a hope that some day they would once more live strenuous days under the shadow of mighty Erebus.
I left at the winter quarters on Cape Royds a supply of stores sufficient to last fifteen men for one year. The vicissitudes of life in the Antarctic are such that such a supply might prove of the greatest value to some future expedition. The hut was locked up and the key hung up outside where it would be easily found, and we readjusted the lashing of the hut so that it might be able to withstand the attacks of the blizzards during the years to come. Inside the hut I left a letter stating what had been accomplished by the expedition, and giving some other information that might be useful to a future party of explorers. The stores left in the hut included oil, flour, jams, dried vegetables, biscuits, pemmican, plasmon, matches, and various tinned meats, as well as tea, cocoa, and necessary articles of equipment. If any party has to make use of our hut in the future, it will find there everything required to sustain life.
The wind was still freshening as we went north under steam and sail on March 4, and it was fortunate for us that this was so, for the ice that had formed on the sea water in the sound was thickening rapidly, assisted by the old pack, of which a large amount lay across our course. I was anxious to pick up a depot of geological specimens on Depot Island, left there by the Northern Party, and with this end in view the Nimrod was taken on a more westerly course than would otherwise have been the case. The wind, however, was freshening to a gale, and we were passing through streams of ice, which seemed to thicken as we neared the shore. I decided that it would be too risky to send a party off for the specimens, as there was no proper lee to this small island, and the consequences of even a short delay might be serious. I therefore gave instructions that the courso should be altered to due north. The following wind helped us, and on the morning of March 6 we were off Cape Adare. I wanted to push between the Balleny Islands and the mainland, and make an attempt to follow the coast-line from Cape North westward, so as to link it up with Adelie Land. No ship had ever succeeded in penetrating to the westward of Cape North, heavy pack having been encountered on the occasion of each attempt. The Discovery had passed through the Balleny Islands and sailed over part of the so-called Wilkes Land of the maps, but the question of the existence of this land in any other position had been left open.
We steamed along the pack-ice, which was beginning to thicken, and although we did not manage to do all that I had hoped, we had the satisfaction of pushing our little vessel along that coast to longitude 166° 14' East, latitude 69° 47' South, a point further west than had been reached by any previous expedition. On the morning of March 8 we saw, beyond Cape North, a new coast-line extending first to the southwards and then to the west for a distance of over forty-five miles. We took angles and bearings, and Marston sketched the main outlines. We were too far away to take any photographs that would have been of value, but the sketches show very clearly the type of the land. Professor David was of opinion that it was the northern edge of the polar plateau. The coast seemed to consist of cliffs, with a few bays in the distance. We would all have been glad of an opportunity to explore the coast thoroughly, but that was out of the question; the ice was getting thicker all the time, and it was becoming imperative that we should escape to clear water without further delay. There was no chance of getting farther west at that point, and as the new ice was forming between the old pack of the previous year and the land, we were in serious danger of being frozen in for the winter at a place where we could not have done any geological work of importance. We therefore moved north along the edge of the pack, making as much westing as possible, in the direction of the Balleny Islands. I still hoped that it might be possible to skirt them and find Wilkes Land. It was awkward work, and at times the ship could hardly move at all.
Finally, about midnight on March 9, I saw that we must go north, and the course was set in that direction. We were almost too late, for the ice was closing in and before long we were held up, the ship being unable to move at all. The situation looked black, but we discovered a lane through which progress could be made, and in the afternoon of the 10th we were in fairly open water, passing through occasional lines of pack. Our troubles were over, for we had a good voyage up to New Zealand, and on March 22 dropped anchor at the mouth of Lord's river, on the south side of Stewart Island. I did not go to a port because I wished to get the news of the expedition's work through to London before we faced the energetic newspaper men.
That was a wonderful day to all of us. For over a year we had seen nothing but rocks, ice, snow, and sea. There had been no colour and no softness in the scenery of the Antarctic; no green growth had gladdened our eyes, no musical notes of birds had come to our ears. We had had our work, but we had been cut off from most of the lesser things that go to make life worth while. No person who has not spent a period of his life in those "stark and sullen solitudes that sentinel the Pole" will understand fully what trees_ and flowers, sun-flecked turf and running streams mean to the soul of a man. We landed on the stretch of beach that separated the sea from the luxuriant growth of the forest, and scampered about like children in the sheer joy of being alive. I did not wish to despatch my cablegrams from Half Moon Bay until an hour previously arranged, and in the meantime we revelled in the warm sand on the beach, bathed in the sea, and climbed amongst the trees. We lit a fire and made tea on the beach, and while we were having our meal the wekas, the remarkable flightless birds found only in New Zealand, came out from the bush for their share of the good things. These quaint birds, with their long bills, brown plumage and quick, inquisitive eyes, have no fear of men, and their friendliness seemed to us like a welcome from that sunny land that had always treated us with such open-hearted kindliness. The clear, musical notes of other birds came to us from the trees, and we felt that we needed only good news from home to make our happiness and contentment absolutely complete. One of the scientific men found a cave showing signs of native occupation in some period of the past, and was fortunate enough to discover a stone adze made of the rare pounamu, or greenstone.
Early next morning we hove up the anchor, and at 10 A.M. we entered Half Moon Bay. I went ashore to despatch my cablegrams, and it was strange to see new faces on the wharf after fifteen months during which we had met no one outside the oircle of our own little party. There were girls on the wharf, too, and every one was glad to see us in the hearty New Zealand way. I despatched my cablegrams from the little office, and then went on board again and ordered the course to be set for Lyttelton, the port from which we had sailed on the first day of the previous year. We arrived there on March 25 late in the afternoon.
The people of New Zealand would have welcomed us, I think, whatever had been the result of our efforts, for their keen interest in Antarctic exploration has never faltered since the early days of the Discovery expedition, and their attitude towards us was always that of warm personal friendship. But the news of the measure of success we had achieved had been published in London and flashed back to the southern countries, and we were met out in the harbour and on the wharves by oheering crowds. Enthusiastic friends boarded the Nimrod almost as soon as she entered the heads, and when our little vessel came alongside the quay, the crowd on deck became so great that movement was almost impossible. Then I was handed great bundles of letters and cablegrams. The loved ones at home were well, the world was pleased with our work, and it seemed as though nothing but happiness could ever enter life again.
THE SPECIAL SURCHARGED EXPEDITIOR STAMP, WITH POSTMARK
A VIEW OF THE HUT IN SUMMER. THE METEOROLOGICAL STATION CAN BE SEEN ON THE EXTREME RIGHT