Waiting for Aurora

The sledging parties were all back at the Grottoes by the third week of January. With their exploration tasks complete, it only remained now to wait for the ship’s arrival. They worked out they would have enough supplies for another year — except for meat, which they would have to acquire from the summer influx of seals and penguins.

As the days turned into weeks with still no ship, they began to wonder. JK Davis had reminded Wild on their separating a year earlier that if Aurora failed to make the return voyage no-one would know where the Western Party had landed, making a rescue a very unlikely prospect. Sobering thoughts.

The men set to work to lay in a store of seal flesh and blubber — the latter to augment the reasonable supply of coal briquettes to see them out another year. Every fine day a party headed out with a sledge on to the sea ice. Open water, where most of the animals could be found, was more than three kilometres away across the ice, making the return journey with the load of carcases a tedious affair.

‘No sign of Aurora yet,’ wrote Harrisson on 16 February, ‘& most fervent are the wishes that she would show up.’

Fellows say that they are sick of laying about all day, reading twice read novels — & poor ones too! And it must be slow, for they go out so little. We surmise that one of the first base parties have been late returning — hence ship delayed at Adelie Land. Of course it may be that she cannot get this pack off N end of barrier — but there’s time yet & we hope for the best. But it makes me anxious when the thought of another year without seeing, without a word from wife or children — & such thoughts will haunt one. We can only see a little strip of sea & no regular lookout kept, altho no one goes up without a look to that water. Its quite possible she may come down along barrier unseen & the first we know of her arrival will be a hail from outside, or someone walking to the hut.

By 21 February, with no sign of Aurora, they were beginning to get seriously worried: ‘Trust nothing has happened to her. Her name constantly heard this day, & twice George gave false alarm this morning,’ wrote Harrisson.