Frantic last days

Aurora had arrived in Hobart — the AAE’s Australian headquarters, on 2 November 1911. When he stepped ashore, Davis found ‘a shed full of stores of every description and of formidable proportions’. Some items, including the air tractor and wireless masts, had to be stowed on ‘already heavily encumbered decks’.

‘A truly appalling amount of work’ had to be done in the four weeks available before final departure, Mawson later wrote. Aurora’s London cargo was unloaded, sorted and piled high in the dockside sheds together with locally procured supplies. The men of the assembling shore parties were set to work ‘sorting and checking the thousands of packages … and wheeling them to the ship where they were taken on board’, Charles Laseron recalled. The weight of each case was limited to between about 20 and 30 kg.

Much of the cargo had to be divided into four parts, colour-coded according to destination and stowed aboard ship to enable easy unloading at the appropriate location. (At that time Mawson’s ambitious plan was for three Antarctic bases in addition to Macquarie Island. It was only after he arrived in Antarctic waters that he decided to amalgamate two parties at Cape Denison.)