Missing friends

Memorial cross to Mertz and Ninnis
Memorial cross to Mertz and Ninnis, constructed by Bickerton during the winter from the Oregon beams of the broken wireless mast and erected at Cape Denison. Photographed December 1913. (Photo: Frank Hurley)
The plaque placed below the memorial cross at Cape Denison, carved by Hodgeman and made from part of the dining table

That was Mawson the organiser, focusing on what he knew best. But he knew the chores would not be enough. The final item on his list of positive elements for the year ahead was ‘our comradeship, most enduring of all.’ It would need to be enduring if these men, having to face the permanent loss of two friends and another year’s separation from the others – and from the world – were to keep in check the almost inevitable feelings of sadness and resentment.

The bunks of Madigan, Bickerton, Mertz and Ninnis had occupied a happy corner of the Hut, full of cheerful chatter which had earned them the moniker ‘Hyde Park Corner’. Now it was a sad remnant of its former self. Four days after the final departure of Aurora, on 13 February 1913, Madigan wrote in his diary:

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 – and their terrible end, I cannot write of it.

In a 1927 radio broadcast, Frank Bickerton recalled a less cold, less crowded hut through the 1913 winter, – ‘but the wind was as unvarying as ever, the food we knew too well in every possible combination, and we felt badly the need of occasional entertainment with people not subject to our routine or monotonous climate’. He added that they grew so used to their Antarctic life that ‘an effort of the imagination was needed to see oneself in a world supplied with grass and friendly weather and modern plumbing.’

This page was last modified on July 2, 2014.