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Islands of Despair

Seventeen — Farewell to the Islands

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Farewell to the Islands

There was still some work to be done from Carnley Harbour, so I decided to move there while the ship visited Campbell Island. After seeing us established in the camp on Musgrave Peninsula, the Ranui sailed on 12th February for Perseverance Harbour.

It was necessary to carry out azimuth observations on Musgrave Peninsula, but during our previous stay at the camp there had never been a night that was both reasonably calm and clear. On 17th February, when we were about to retire at 10 p.m., I was surprised to see a clear sky. George and Tubby were immediately dispatched to fit an electric torch in the referring mark half a mile down the coast, while I got my observing equipment set up at the astronomical station. Although condensation of moisture on the lenses caused a great deal of trouble, it was a successful evening, and by 2 a.m. the job was finished. Curiously enough it was twelve months to the day since we had done similar work at Port Ross.

On the 20th Bob and I visited the Giant's Tomb and Cavern Peak to observe bearings to the new trigs we had recently erected near Tandy Inlet. It was an unusually good day, and we made the most of it. We did not get home till 8.30 p.m., but George and Tubby, who had been to Adams Island, were later still, and we dined at 10 p.m. The following day was also good, and we went to Wilkes Peak and Mt.

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D'Urville to do topographical work, while George and Tubby went to the Tower of Babel. Other excursions about this time took us to the eastern end of Adams Island and to the Lion Rock.

From 22nd February till the middle of April we had almost uninterrupted bad weather, with fierce gales and occasional snow. Fortunately, a very occasional reasonable sort of day enabled us to finish what field work remained to be done, and for the rest of the time George and I were occupied with our computations and plan work. It was a problem finding useful occupations for the other two men, and I am afraid they were left largely to their own devices. The occasional day of field work helped, and a stock job was the erection of a rock cairn on Flagstaff. The rocks had to be carried on our backs from the beach, a distance of over a mile and a climb of 700 feet. I don't know how many loads we took, but the job certainly provided a lot of useful exercise.

Bob was unlucky enough to twist his ankle badly when landing from the dinghy one day at a point well down the harbour. Since it was early in the morning he had to be left sitting in the boat all day, and he was unable to get about again for some time.

Towards the end of March we had completed the field work, and were just about finished all the office work that could be done at that stage. So all of us began to suffer from boredom, and everyone was making surreptitious trips to the lookout in the hopes of seeing the Ranui coming.

It was not until we had finished our evening meal on 10th April that we heard her siren, and everyone rushed for sea-boots and oilskins. It was as dark as pitch, blowing a gale, and raining in torrents, and I can still remember slithering down the steep track to the cave where we kept the boat, and arriving at the ship dripping with rain and spray. We had not had any contact whatever with the outside world for two months, and we wanted to hear the news and to see other faces. And to get our mail.

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The most important news to us was that the meteorological station at Port Ross was to be closed down immediately, and all personnel returned to New Zealand, with the exception of the radio operator. We had intended to reoccupy the camp at Chambres Inlet, but a change of plans was now necessary, as the radio man could not be left alone at Port Ross, It was therefore decided that only George and Tubby would go to the Chambres Inlet camp.

On 12th April we left Carnley Harbour for the last time— rather a sad farewell as I had always enjoyed staying there— and a few hours later we were ashore at Port Ross. On the 14th the ship took George and Tubby to Chambres Inlet, and then went on to Waterfall Inlet for fuel. She returned to Port Ross on the 16th, but it was not until the 20th that the weather moderated enough for us to be able to load her. This was quite a job, with over 300 cases to be carried to the landing, ferried out to the ship, and loaded into the hold by hand. More bad weather was to follow, and it was not until 9 p.m. on 26th April that the ship sailed for New Zealand.

George and Tubby arrived at the camp on 2nd May, and reported the completion of work at Chambres Inlet. Tubby had had a narrow escape on the rock ledges of the cliff path. He had missed his footing and fallen some distance, fortunately breaking his fall on a clump of scrub. He ricked his back, however, and was unable to get about for some days.

On 15th May the Ranui returned, and the following day she took George down the coast to carry out magnetic observations, and to collect the camping gear from Chambres Inlet. Having got George's field observations from Chambres Inlet I was meanwhile engaged on the final stages of the triangulation calculations and plan work.

When George returned on the 26th the only outstanding work to be done was a series of magnetic observations at Terror Cove and on Enderby Island. These were completed on the 29th and all hands turned to the task of packing stores and equipment in readiness for the evacuation of the islands. We page 164commenced loading the ship on 2nd June, and at 5 p.m. on Sunday, 3rd June, we sailed for Wellington.

By the time we were off the north-east cape it was completely dark, and nobody had either the pleasure or the sorrow of watching the islands disappear astern. A moderate north-westerly was blowing, and the Ranui was making a lively trip, so that one had to wedge oneself securely to be sure of not being thrown out of one's bunk. On the evening of the 5th we saw the miracle of the lights of Dunedin, and the following night we had a similar treat, as Christchurch was in sight. When we had rounded Banks Peninsula a north-wester made things uncomfortable, and although it did not last long we encountered such a heavy swell that Captain Worth had to heave-to for a while. Then when we were off Cape Campbell a violent south-westerly blew up, and created a most confused sea. The little ship was plunging and rolling all ways at once until sail was hoisted, and then she really flew along so that we entered Wellington Harbour with a flourish.

Then began the rather sad business of winding up the affairs of the expedition, and bidding farewell to those good companions who had shared solitude for so many months. Life in a place of extreme isolation does not suit everyone, and in fact did not suit some of those who went to the Auckland Islands. But those few were the exception, and the great majority of the expedition personnel adapted themselves splendidly to their unusual surroundings and duties, and it was with genuine regret that we had to go our various ways.