Castaways

The 'Lucky Ones' - AAE Members that departed Cape Denison on the SY Aurora, February 10th, 1913
The 'Lucky Ones' - AAE Members that departed Cape Denison on the SY Aurora, February 10th, 1913.

‘We tried to be patient,’ Bickerton said later of the trying hours waiting for the wind to drop so the ship could take them off. ‘We looked at the sea, the wind instruments and the barometer and the ship. Every lull brought hope and every gust might be the last… In the evening the barometer began to fall and we knew the captain would notice it too, and a little later the wind increased and the ship left and we were left to ourselves.’

Mawson acknowledged Davis’s quandary and knew the potential plight of Wild’s men. (Late in his life he said he probably would have died had he made the ship voyage.) He kept his disappointment to himself, as did the others. But to have ‘missed the boat’ by a few hours, to face another year in their windswept refuge, made for some private misery.

Madigan, appointed to lead the group in Mawson’s absence, recorded his unhappiness in his diary a few days after the ship’s departure: ‘Of the four happy members of the Hyde Park Corner … only two remain. Bickerton and I sleep in the old corner – how desolate it seems – I have heard Bick sobbing under his blankets.’

Under McLean’s tender care, Mawson made a steady recovery from his ordeal. Six weeks after the ship’s departure he sent a wireless message to his betrothed, Paquita Delprat: ‘Deeply regret delay. Only just managed to reach hut. Effects now gone but lost most my hair. You are free to consider your contract but trust you will not abandon your second hand Douglas.’

For her part, Paquita (who did not abandon her Douglas) could feel only ‘love and gratitude’ toward Mawson’s companions for their kindness in staying and their nursing back to health this ‘emaciated, worn and sorrowing shadow of his former energetic and inspiring self’. Much later, she recalled them having told her that ‘for the first few weeks he would follow them round, not so much to talk to them as just to be with them.’

This page was last modified on August 5, 2015.