Signs of civilisation

On 21 February 1914, under the sun of a bright summer morning, the sails of a large, full-rigged vessel rose spectacularly over the horizon, an encounter which Mawson recorded in Home of the Blizzard:

It might have been an iceberg, the sails flashed so white in the morning sun. But onward it came with a strong south-wester, overhauled and passed us, signalling ‘Archibald Russell, 54 days out from Buenos Ayres, bound for Cape Borda’.

It was too magical to believe.

The sight no doubt delighted Aurora’s second officer, Percy Gray, who had served his apprenticeship aboard Archibald Russell. Still less than a decade old, the sleek, steel-hulled barque quickly overtook the cumbersome polar vessel on its way to Port Lincoln to load a cargo of South Australian wheat.

A few days later Aurora herself reached Kangaroo Island before sailing northeast across the shimmering waters of the Gulf of St Vincent. Nearing Port Adelaide on 26 February, the ship was met offshore by a pilot boat carrying a congratulatory telegram from South Australia’s Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Samuel Way. Aboard as passengers, Davis later recalled, were a trio who had given their utmost to the enormous effort of organising the expedition: Edgeworth David from Sydney, Orme Masson from Melbourne and George Henderson from Adelaide. There was a happy reunion on Aurora’s main deck.