Sledging Party 1912

From 10 November 1912 to 10 January 1913, Frank Hurley, Bob Bage and Eric Webb, took sledges up onto the continent and travelled across the unexplored plateau to get as near as they could to the South Magnetic Pole. The object of the journey was to travel towards the South Magnetic Pole, taking magnetic observations. The party was supported by Herbert Murphy, John Hunter and Charles Laseron as far as possible. The support party turned back on 22 November, after helping build a large depot of supplies.

The Southern supporting party photographed at the Southern Cross Depot, 1912 

The Southern Supporting Party photographed at the Southern Cross Depot, 1912,  by Frank Hurley
Photo ON 144/Q788

The three remaining men hauled a heavily loaded sledge for nine weeks, covering over 960 kilometres, mostly in the teeth of blizzards which raged at up to 129 kilometres an hour. Much of the outward journey was uphill to an altitude of 1,830 metres. Throughout the journey Webb, assisted by others, made a complete set of magnetic observations entailing up to two and a half hours work each time.

Fierce winds hampered their efforts on their way up the plateau. However when these dropped the weather became quieter. On 16 December Hurley wrote:

‘It was hard to imagine we were on the plateau with nearly 250 miles of ice separating us from the hut. There was not even enough wind to stir the tent and although zero, it was warm. I thought it seemed as if camped in the Australian bush and was only brought back to Antarctica by the vigorous boiling of the cooker.’

On their return trip the three ran into horrific weather conditions that delayed progress. Food rations were shortened and the three men struggled with the bad weather before finding their way back to the Main Base.

Camp on the plateau; southern journey, 1912, by Frank Hurley ON 144/H615

 Camp on the plateau; southern journey, 1912, by Frank Hurley
Photo ON 144/H615

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