The SY Aurora was a barque-rigged steam yacht built in Scotland in 1876. Launched originally as a whaler, it was purchased in 1910 by Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson for his Australasia Antarctic Expedition. Thereafter, the Aurora became arguably the most reliable ship during the golden age of Antarctic exploration.
Between 1911 and 1917, it made five trips to the continent, four under the command of Captain John King “Gloomy” Davis. The only Antarctic voyage not under his command almost ended in disaster after the ship got caught in pack ice supporting the Ross Sea Party of Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition. King returned to command for the subsequent rescue mission of the ill-fated party. The Aurora disappeared in 1917 on a cargo run delivering coal to Chile. It is suspected that the ship was a late casualty of World War I.
My presentation of the Aurora is a tribute to Captain Davis and Sir Douglas Mawson for their extraordinary leadership and heroism during the Australasia Antarctic Expedition. It highlights the ship and the treacherous pack ice that Captain Davis’ navigated as well as the man-hauling sledges that Mawson and team used during their multi-hundred mile exploratory treks across sastrugi.