Bad news – and a breakthrough

The news from Antarctica made it necessary to plan for another year at Cape Denison. This raised the prospect of a second year for the Macquarie Island party — not well received by Sawyer, who wrote in his diary: ‘This is not a bit reassuring as I do not want [to be] a bit longer here than I can keep in the present company.’

Then on 8 February came a second signal from Antarctica — an intercepted message from Cape Denison to Aurora asking that the ship return to collect the rest of the party as Mawson had returned but Ninnis and Mertz were dead. The Macquarie party was shocked at the news, wrote Ainsworth – compounded the next day when news came from Australia of the loss of Robert Scott’s South Pole party.

Mawson’s pioneering effort to bring Antarctica into the radio age finally bore fruit on 20 February 1913, when Macquarie Island finally established two-way communication with Cape Denison. From Antarctica came Mawson’s confirmation of the deaths of Ninnis and Mertz and that some of the Cape Denison party would be remaining behind another year.

Ainsworth reported a ‘short talk’ between Sawyer and the Cape Denison wireless operator, Sydney Jeffryes, in which Sawyer ‘among other scraps of news told him we were all well.’