Stepping the mast

The expedition was faced with a tough task — hauling wireless masts and equipment up the steep hill to its summit. For once, on this famously wet and windy island the weather was on their side — relatively dry and calm. They were fortunate also to find a dilapidated flying fox, or speed-line, which sealers had set up for hauling blubber. The repaired flying fox was used to drag heavy equipment and the mast spars to the hilltop.

There was, as Mawson wrote afterwards, ‘plenty of work for all’: ‘Here was as busy a scene as one could witness anywhere — some with the picks and shovels, others with hammers and nails, sailors splicing ropes and fitting masts, and a stream of men hauling the loads up from the sea-shore to their destination on the summit.’ As they worked, the men sang sea shanties.

Every day, two men stayed at the hut to cook and clean. The rest of the shore party climbed Wireless Hill and spent the day building huts, digging holes for the masts, anchoring stays and hauling gear to the top of the hill.

Within a week the men had erected the wireless hut, housing the transmission equipment and a place for the operator to sleep and were well under way to completing other wireless shelter — the wireless generator hut, built a little distance from the transmitter hut to keep down the noise.

For evening relaxation at the sealers’ hut on the south end of the isthmus, they sang and yarned. Much as they did throughout the AAE.