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Safe at Last

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Dr. Macklin's Journal

September 1st [1916] My 27th birthday.

On Wednesday last [yesterday], spend morning digging away the snow from round the hut, with Wild, McIlroy and Rickinson. Most, of the others were in different gangs doing similar work. Some had had orders to collect limpets for the evening hoosh which was to consist of limpets [snails], dulse [a red, edible seaweed] and seal meat. The digging finished at 12.0, when most of us went to assist in getting the limpets and dulse. The limpets here do not come above low water mark on account of the frost, and we have to put our arms as far as the elbow into the water to get them out, pretty cold work.


We were called in to lunch at 1.0 p.m. (hoosh of boiled seal carcass) and this was just about to be served when Marston burst in asking if it would not be a good thing to send up smoke. Wild called out to know what was the matter, and Marston replied with the magic words "A ship, and she looks as if she is going past." We all rushed out: I took my Burberry Vasca [a vest], and running up the slope fastened it to the flag halliards and hoisted it. When I turned round I saw that the ship had turned and was coming slowly into the Bay.

(Continued from here on SEPTEMBER 2nd.) Others ran out, in a state of great excitement, to the rocks. When we saw a boat, being lowered we returned to the Hut, and got what gear we wished to take off. I unfortunately packed mind into my sleeping-bag, for finally I had to leave it and some gear I wished to save was thus lost. I packed carefully medical gear and instruments, and this was safely put aboard. When the boat came nearer we saw Sir E, & Crean aboard - the boat's crew were foreigners - and the ship coming close in we saw that she was flying the flag of Chile. Needless to say, our seal meat lunch was untouched. Howe, who was cook for the week, opened a tin of our precious biscuits, and offered them round, but no one cared about anything but getting off and escaping this hateful spit. Blackboro, our invalid, was brought out, and I carried him on my shoulders to the rocks where Wild was signalling for the boat to come in.

Wild was very anxious for Sir E. to come ashore and see the hut, but this he would not do, being desperately anxious to get us away with a moment's wait. Half the party were taken off - I went with the second lot. We had drawn off and were on our way to the ship when we saw Lees (true to his nature) emerging from the hut and running along loaded with his personal gear. We turned back and picked him up. Usually there is a big surf and wash along our Spit, but to-day with the Westerly wind the sea was in good condition for landing, indeed we have had few better days. As it was, owing to the ice foot, there was no place for the boat to lie alongside, and we had to take our chance and jump when the occasion offered.

Sir E. and Crean were looking very well, and to our eyes very clean. ...

We came alongside the "Yelcho" (as the ship was called) - an ocean-going tug which had been sold to the Chilian Government and used by them for Trinity service [navigational aid]. As we came alongside, the crew were all looking at us over the side. We did not take long to clamber aboard - we pulled up the boat - and immediately Sir E. started her off, on the first stage of our journey HOME. The Captain and Mate of the "Yelcho" gave us a good welcome, and they seemed nice, pleasant people: all the crew were uniformly kind in making us as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. We had lots of news. We learned that Sir E. had made 3 previous attempts; we were appalled at the extend, of the War, but felt glad that we might be able to do a small part in the country's struggle.

There were biscuits and cheese, Port Wine and whisky set out for us in the cabin I had some biscuits and cheese, and they did taste good.

I stayed on deck to watch Elephant Island recede in the distance. I must confess that I did not have any great feelings of regret at leaving it. I could still see my Burberry waistcoat flapping in the breeze on the hillside - no doubt it will flap there to the wonderment of gulls and penguins till one of our familiar S.W. willy-waughs blows it all to ribbons.

Fortunately the ice was well away to the W, and we ran N, meeting with nothing but a little very loose brash. We discovered Worsley aboard the ship and I went on the bridge and heard the story of the "James Caird's" journey, the trip across Georgia, and the previous attempts to reach us.

We had supper about 6.0 p.m. and enjoyed the change from meat to a mixed diet. Needless to say the meat portions were left severely alone. ...

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