Western Party: Introduction

Mawson's sketch of suggestions for Western Party base
Sketch prepared by Mawson and given to Wild at Cape Denison. It shows Mawson's suggestions for depots and for the location of the Western Party base. Mawson Antarctic Collection, South Australian Museum

The Establishment of the Western Base Station

As the Aurora receded in the distance; the men of Wild's party ceased gazing hypnotically after her and turned their faces cheerfully and hopefully towards the shelf-ice where they were to be domiciled for good or ill for at least a twelve-month period before any relief could arrive. On that morning, the twenty-first of February, 1912, with their private luggage and some essential articles, they sledged from the brink of the ice precipice across some 640 yards to the site, selected as reasonably free from small crevasses, whereon the Hut was to be built. The job of erecting the structure was then immediately undertaken. The weather remained good but the temperature fell to 5°F during the night …

– Douglas Mawson, AAE Scientific Reports Series A Vol 1, Narrative and Cartography

On the 21st (February 1913) a number of boxes packed ready to go on board the Aurora were sledged from the Hut to the edge of the shelf-ice. Then Wild and Hoadley went north to the edge of the fast-ice. There they found Emperor Penguins, Weddell Seals and a Crab-eater. Harrisson skinned another Emperor and found it also infested with tape worms.

When attempting to haul up the fish-trap on the 22nd, Harrisson lost the lot, the copper wire parting at the sheeve of the derrick at the third turn of the winding. With all the copper wire lost, this work came to an end. Adelie Penguins, Weddell Seals, Wilson Petrels and Skuas were in evidence on the sea-ice.

The wind increased during the day and in the afternoon was blowing hard and snow was falling.

The morning of Sunday, February 23rd, opened fine. The fast-ice had by then broken out to the lead where Harrisson had his sounding machine: Wild and Jones had gone down to visit the fast-ice when Jones soon returned with the news that the Aurora was in sight. Wild cheers followed. Then off they went with a sledge load of boxes for the sea-front. Their troubles were over.

– Douglas Mawson, AAE Scientific Reports Series A Vol 1, Narrative and Cartography

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