The final voyage

In their own words

At 2.30 PM the launch was hoisted over and the mail was taken ashore, with sundry specimens of Australian fruit as ‘refreshment’ for the shore-party. The boat harbour was reached before any one ashore had seen the Aurora. At the landing-place we were greeted most warmly by nine wild-looking men; some with beards bleached by the weather. They all looked healthy and in very fair condition, after the severe winter, as they danced about in joyous excitement.

— JK Davis in Home of the Blizzard

Descending the long blue slopes of the glacier just before midnight on December 12, from an outlook of a thousand feet above the Hut, I sighted a faint black bar on the seaward horizon; with the aid of glasses a black speck was discernible at the windward extremity of the bar — and it could be nothing but the smoke of the Aurora! The moment of which we had dreamt for months had assuredly come. The ship was in sight!

— Douglas Mawson, The Home of the Blizzard, describing Aurora’s arrival at Cape Denison to bring the last of the AAE men home.

After having a new tail-shaft fitted at Williamstown, Victoria, Aurora left Hobart on 19 November 1913 for Macquarie Island to collect the long-suffering five-man wireless relay party and deploy three Weather Bureau observers. Frank Hurley and his new understudy, Percy Correll, undertook to make a photographic and movie film record of the island.

A straightforward passage through pack ice saw the ship off Cape Denison around midnight on 12 December 1913. After spending several days exploring offshore islands and dredging the offshore seafloor using Aurora’s motor launch, the ship departed Cape Denison on Christmas Eve — but not before losing its anchor in a storm.

Mawson was fully recovered from his ordeal of 12 months earlier. He had no intention of departing Antarctic waters without a personal look at the territory previously covered by Davis and the Western Party. After dredging along the Mertz Glacier, the ship headed west. Coastal charting and marine studies were the main activity in a journey of nearly 2,000 km, as far west as Drygalski Island. On 5 February 1914 Aurora finally turned for home.

From Adelaide, Davis returned Aurora to Hobart, where the ship was laid up in the Derwent River. But it had not seen the last of Antarctic ice.