A close reporting of the fate of the Ross Sea Party has been outside the scope of this narration, as I had no way of receiving news from them until some of our party had reached South Georgia, the telegraph office, and news, in 1916. The Aurora was the second ship of the Expedition, meant to sail to the Ross Sea on the other side of the continent, and to cache depots of supplies at calculated intervals between the Pole and the sea on that side. Thus (in the original plan) when the Endurance landed at Vahsel Bay and our shore party hiked to the Pole, we would only need to sledge supplies for half the voyage, and would retrieve the depots in sequence as we approached the full crossing.
As we know the full crossing did not happen, but the Aurora fulfilled her directive, and the sledging party laid depots as instructed well inland. But on their return to the shore, they found that the Aurora had been blown out to sea with most of the men, and stranded those remaining on the far side of the continent. The ship was solidly encased in a sturdy floe, which had detached from the pack and been blown far out to sea by a blizzard, and there drifted helplessly for almost 10 months. Finally it had broken free of the floe and managed to limp back to New Zealand. The shore party believed the Aurora lost at sea, and, after a second depot-laying journey, were themselves split between Hut Point and Cape Evans. Of that second foray, I wrote in my memoir South, “No more remarkable story of human endeavour has been revealed than the tale of that long march.” The survivors occupied themselves with their scientific studies, and settled in to wait for rescue from land or sea.
So after our return from Elephant Island on the Yelcho, and having arranged passage for the crew back to England and the war, I made my way with Worsley to San Francisco and from there straight to New Zealand, that I might join the Aurora before she left on the rescue mission; aboard the Aurora I reached McMurdo Sound and Cape Evans on Jan 10, 1917. There we found seven of our comrades in an even more fraught state than those on Elephant Island—although they did have a hut and supplies, they had not seen or heard anything from the outside world since December 1914. Three of the party had perished during that time: Arnold Spencer-Smith of scurvy after the second depot-laying journey, and Aeneas Mackintosh and Victor Hayward while attempting to cross from Hut Point to Cape Evans over thin ice. When we arrived we searched for another week for some trace of them, but found nothing. Spencer-Smith was interred in the ice.
Finally we headed back to New Zealand with the ten survivors—seven men and three dogs, whom the men credited with their survival. Only when this was accomplished did I make my way, via Australia, back to England and the war myself. It was 1917.
Additional information about the Ross Sea Party:
Wikipedia: Ross Sea Party
Wikipedia: Aeneas Mackintosh
NOVA: Shackleton: The Lost Men
The Scott Polar Research Institute
The Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party by Kelly Tyler-Lewis
And in chapters of South, Shackleton (Huntford), and other books and materials listed on the Resources page.