Yorkshire-born like Douglas Mawson, Frank Wild was an inveterate traveller who thrived in remote, rugged places. He enjoyed the company of other men, along with a pipe and the odd drop of grog. When he landed on Shackleton Ice Shelf late in February 1912, he was as keen as his seven companions to have a damn good adventure.
But Wild was no lightweight. He liked adventures with a purpose, and the aim here was to get results for the AAE. He was well-equipped; while he lacked scientific training he had acute observational skills, and had excellent scientific and technical expertise among his party. And he knew how to get the best out of his men.
Mawson knew the capabilities of his deputy, demonstrated through his exceptional work for the Scott and Shackleton expeditions. His orders to Wild were basic: to observe and record the lay of the land as far afield as possible.
Wild’s first aim was to reach land – that is, to traverse the floating ice shelf southward from the Hut (‘The Grottoes’) to the ice sheet proper – Antarctica’s continental ice, based on solid rock. From there, parties would venture in different directions to map and otherwise record the coast and hinterland.
Wild had wanted to make the most of autumn light to venture south and lay some food depots for the spring, but wind and driving snow kept the men indoors for the better part of a fortnight. Finally, on 13 March, calmer and clearer conditions allowed a sledging party to get away.
Map of the Western Party Base on the Shackleton Ice Shelf, and the tracks of the sledging parties [PDF], from AAE Report Series A Vol 1 © Australian Antarctic Division.