20-25 October, 1921

Thursday 20 October, 1921

Quest’s engines are knocking badly again. There is much debate as to what to do.

Friday 21 October, 1921

8 am: Quest is passed by the Royal Mail ship RMSP Araguaya, a few hundred miles south of Madeira

Photographs taken of Quest from RMSP Aruguaya are published in The Times of 8 November

Wilkins writes in his diary: “The Boss came along and said that he had considered giving me full time [pay] for my work but would not do it for each of the others would want it too. He went on with a lot of rot about doing scientific work. He didn’t care a damn about all the scientific work that ever was done or could be, and doesn’t mind if we do any or not but every effort must be made to get a popular lecture for the public. He is interested solely in the adventure and geographical discoveries, all else can go to hell for all he cares. This shows now more his incompetence and inability than many other happenings on the trip to start out on geographical exploration with a boat of this speed and [this state of] repair. …. Sheer madness. He doesn’t know anything about engines etc but a kid could have made a better showing than this selection.”

Saturday 22 October, 1921

Wilkins photographs the crew having lunch on deck.

Meanwhile, also today, Scout Norman Mooney and John Bee Mason arrive back at Southampton on the Royal Mail Steam Packet Avon (formerly HMS Avoca), under the command of Captain W G Mason.

Monday 24 October, 1921

Quest progresses in “gentle trades and clear weather”. Wild notes in the Deck Log “Dog Query secured 1 flying fish”.

Tuesday 25 October, 1921

It is by now becoming clear to Shackleton that, with all the delays and the engine problems, the expedition’s original plans to go to Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha, Cape Town, on to Enderby Land, and back to Cape Town before heading to the South Pacific, completely circumnavigating the Antarctic, will all have to be completely revised. Shackleton tells the crew that he has decided to head for Rio de Janeiro for more comprehensive repairs. Shackleton wants Douglas, the geologist, and Wilkins, the naturalist, to go on ahead to South Georgia. Wilkins is not keen on that idea as “it has been done so often”.

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Going to Rio instead of Cape Town will have serious consequences. Quest will not now be able to collect all its specialist polar equipment, including clothing, or the AVRO Baby seaplane , which have all been sent ahead to Cape Town separately for collection later.

The crew, mostly, cope with these new circumstances with good humour:

Now Roddy Carr is a man of the air.
His hobbies are Scotch and there’s oil on his hair.
He’s lost the wings of his aeroplane
But intends to fly it just the same