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Scotland and the Antarctic

Section 3: Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen ... Shackleton's Imperial Transantarctic Expedition

Aurora

Aurora - 386-ton barquentine
Aurora was a Newfoundland sealer built in Dundee. She had been used by Douglas Mawson on his Antarctic expedition.

The transantarctic expedition was a tale of two ships. Aurora had sailed from Hobart, Tasmania on 24 December 1914. This was six weeks late. Very little money had been allowed for this part of the expedition and it was only with the help of the Australian government that she was refitted and able to sail south. On the 8 January 1915 she reached Hut Point on McMurdo Sound. She was very ill-equipped and the main stores were those left aboard by Mawson along with those stores left on Ross Island by Scott's expedition. Supply dumps were laid to 80S before the Antarctic winter set in. The party were back at Hut Point on 24 February. They got back to their base at Cape Evans on 2 June only to discover that Aurora had snapped her moorings on 6 May 1915 and had been blown out to sea with many stores still aboard. She was trapped in the ice for nine months and only arrived back at McMurdo Sound in January 1917.

image from Voyage of the Scotia

Shackleton, meanwhile, was making every effort to maintain the morale on Endurance. He was still hoping for an Antarctic crossing the following year. Football matches on the ice, exercising the dogs (who were staying on the ice in 'dogloos'), games and lectures on board Endurance all helped to boost morale onboard.

From July to October 1915 Endurance was hit by several pressure ridges. Endurance was no Fram and did not lift with the ice, but the ship creaked and groaned and withstood the onslaught. On 23 October Endurance sprang a leak and, despite efforts by McNeish the carpenter, the ship was abandoned on 27 October. Stores were unloaded on to the ice as the stern post of the ship broke and the keel was torn off . Ocean Camp was set up on the ice which continued to drift north.

On Aurora they still expected Shackleton to complete his Antarctic crossing and plans were made to lay the depot at the foot of the Beardmore Glacier at 8330'S. Aurora had broken her mooring and had been blown out to sea to be beset in the ice for 11 months. Four men were left at Cape Evans. The rest of the party left for the south. Twelve of their 18 dogs had died on the previous depot-laying. The party reported: 'Whatever the cost, the depot had to be laid.'

Endurance had drifted 2,000km (1,300 miles) in ten months. She was abandoned at 6905'S 5130'W. Shackleton had placed three of the ship's boats on the ice. He had hoped to drag them to the open sea but the effort was too much and the crew set up camp on the ice and decided to drift north. The dogs which were not required were killed along with the ship's cat. As the ship drifted north, plans were made to go to Snow Hill Island and then Paulet Island where there were supply depots, but neither the weather nor the sea-ice was suitable. Shackleton and his men drifted north for six months after Endurance sank. Then they took to the boats.

Meanwhile the men from Aurora left Hut Point on 12 December 1915 and reached 83S on 26 January 1916. This party had been ill-equipped, as many of their stores were on Aurora. They made new clothes from old tents and used many items found in Scott's hut (including foodstuffs). On the return journey one of the party died after having been hauled 500km (300 miles) on one of the sledges. The rest of the party were suffering from scurvy. Two more of the men ended up being pulled on the sledges. The weather was atrocious and the party were well aware of the fate of Scott. It was an appalling journey. They reached Hut Point on 18 March 1916.

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