8-15 December 1921, Rio & South Georgia

Thursday 8 December, 1921

The Woodville, carrying Douglas and Wilkins reaches South Georgia and docks at Port Olav Harbour, the Lever Bros whaling station, with assistance from Captain Lars Andersen (“catch” manager). Once on shore they meet Mr B R Bostock (chemist and factory manager), Mr Evans (accountant and store manager) and Dr Matheson of whom Wilkins remarks “a great tall grey-headed man that I once met in a flat in the West End of London. He doesn’t remember me and I am not going to mention it to him for I’m sure he would feel embarrassed.

Meanwhile, back at Rio de Janeiro, work continues on Quest at Wilson’s yards, Rio. It is still stifling hot and Shackleton declines offers of lunches, dinners and other public events.

Worsley checking work on Quest’s rigging at Wilson’s Yards

Saturday 10 December, 1921

Wilkins and Douglas explore the northern extremities of South Georgia, using the borrowed whaler Southern Breeze for transport.  The plan is to make a crossing of the northern end of island from Ice Bay on the west coast to Rosetta Harbour on the east coast.

In the morning, at Coaling Harbour, Wilkins photographs juvenile and nesting albatross, noting “The young bird would be – when finished moulting down – dark brown all over except the face and part of neck which is pure white, the white extending half way to crown of head above the eyes.”

After lunch they land at Ice Bay [Ice Fjord], south from Coaling Harbour, which Wilkins describes as a fairly narrow deep fiord with two immense glaciers emptying into it on either side of its base. He continues “We landed on a gravelly beach about 300 yards from the northern end of the glacier and proceeded to adjust our packs. I soon found that I had brought too much gear for collecting and that I could scarcely manage to get along even without any collected material. The climb to the hilltop about 800ft was rather stiff and when I had almost reached the top I noticed a number of sea elephants on the beach packed together like a lot of pigs.”

Sunday 11 December, 1921

Wilkins and Douglas, having slept out overnight inland from Ice Bay, struggle right across the island in dense fog and deep, soft snow heading towards Rosetta Bay, south of Cape Buller, to make a rendezvous with the Southern Breeze.

Monday 12 December, 1921

Douglas and Wilkins return to Price Olav Harbour aboard Southern Breeze.

Around this time, Christopher Naisbitt is taken on as Ship’s Clerk and Cook’s Mate. Naisbitt, from Cheshire, is working in Rio with an American shipping company, W R Grace, and attended the banquet given by the British Society on 29 November. Along with many others who heard Shackleton speak that evening, he applies to fill the vacancies advertised by the expedition. His 4 years’ experience in the Royal Navy and the fact that he is fond of sport seem to swing the decision of Shackleton and Worsley, who interview him, before a day’s trial working on board Quest.  Naisbitt’s administrative skills turn out to be of considerable value to the expedition.

Christopher Naisbitt

Tuesday 13 December, 1921

Wilkins spends the morning developing photographs and preserving specimens but by afternoon, with the weather clearing, he heads out to the Bay of Isles (north from Cape Buller), where he films and photographs Giant Petrels nesting as well as Skuas and other birds.

Wednesday 14 December, 1921

At Prince Olav Harbour, Wilkins develops some of the film he has taken and, with Douglas, plans the coming several days of surveying and research.

Thursday 15 December, 1921

Wilkins and Douglas head south along the coast to Leith Harbour, the Christian Salvesen whaling station, and meet Captain Hansen the station manager. They then go onward to nearby Stromness, where they meet Captain Sørlle (who, in 1916, had received Shackleton, Worsley and Crean after their epic journey in the James Caird). After lunch there they travel to Husvik and then finally they carry on southwards to Grytviken, in Cumberland East Bay, where they meet with the magistrate, Mr Binney. A small whaling boat, the Little Karl, is put at their disposal by the whaling station manager Mr Jacobsen, for Douglas to head to the south end of the island, and later use on short trips out of Grytviken. This leaves Wilkins free to return to the north of the island where albatross and petrels are found.