On 12 December 1913, McLean’s diary took a distinctly optimistic tone. ‘Our troubles, anxieties, worries are over at last’, he wrote; ‘we should be the happiest fellows on earth.’ Aurora had arrived to take them home.
The ‘indescribable moment’, as Mawson wrote in The Home of the Blizzard, ‘was when Davis came ashore in the whale-boat, manned by two of the Macquarie Islanders (Hamilton and Blake), Hurley and Hunter.’ Frank Hurley later recalled:
We landed and tramped towards the hut. To our relief the door opened and Dr Mawson strolled out and saw us. Nothing ever astonished Mawson; he just grinned at us with a sparkling eye. There was no rhetorical flourish in his greeting. ‘Halloa,’ he said. ‘Back again’ – as casually as if we had merely returned from an excursion between breakfast and dinner.
When the party arrived at the hut, said Mawson, ‘we tried to tell the story of a year in a few minutes’. Aboard the ship they greeted other old comrades, including the remainder of the Macquarie Island party. ‘So many people’ was Mawson’s first impression, then ‘the fusillade of letters, magazines and “mysterious” parcels and boxes. And then the first memorable meal, replete with ‘white tablecloth, Australian mutton, fresh vegetables, fruit and cigars’.
And that was it:
The two long years were over – for the moment they were to be effaced in the glorious present. We were to live in a land where drift and wind were unknown, where rain fell in mild, refreshing showers, where the sky was blue for long weeks, and where the memories of the past were to fade into a dream – a nightmare?