Dashed hopes

On 12 July the men were told Rachel Cohen had sailed on 7 July, news which was ‘joyfully received’, wrote Ainsworth. Expecting the boat to arrive in little more than a week, ‘on the 18th we used the last ounce of flour in a small batch of bread … Next day Bauer (the leader of the sealing crew) lent us 10 pounds of oatmeal and showed us how to make oatmeal cakes.’

Rachel Cohen did not arrive when expected, nor the week after that. By 22 July the men were at the end of their ‘civilised’ meat supply, which had been rationed for special occasions. ‘We now had to subsist upon what we managed to catch,’ wrote Ainsworth. ‘We found ourselves running short of some commodity each day, and after the 23rd [July] reckoned to be without bread and biscuit.’

The next day ferocious winds and seas gave them faint hope of Rachel Cohen reaching the island. ‘We had not been able to catch any fish for some days as the weather had been too rough, and, further, they appeared to leave the coasts during the very cold weather,’ said Ainsworth.

Sea elephants were very scarce, and we invariably had to walk some distance in order to get one; each man taking it in turn to go out with a companion and carry home enough meat for our requirements. We were now eating sea elephant meat three times a day (all the penguins having migrated) and our appetites were very keen. The routine work was carried on, though a great deal of time was occupied in getting food.

On 6 August the men finally got the news that Rachel Cohen had been blown off-course and badly damaged in a storm, and had headed to New Zealand for repairs. Ainsworth told Conrad Eitel, AAE secretary in Hobart, that ‘our food-supply was done, but that otherwise we were all right and no uneasiness need be felt, though we wished to be relieved as soon as possible.’