Douglas Mawson (1882-1958) and his former university professor Tannatt Edgeworth David joined the Wimmera together in Sydney on Friday 20 December 1907. The pair were bound for Lyttelton where they were to join the Nimrod as members of Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition.

Of their voyage from Sydney to Lyttelton, under Captain Wylie, Mawson recorded the following in his notebook:

20 December 1907

Left Sydney by Huddard [sic] Parker S S Wimmera at 2 p m Friday 20th December. Professor David, Cotton, and self had a good send off by Sydney University men, a large body of whom had collected on prominent part of the wharf to sing parting songs. At the last farewell the Professor, with a set face, stated ‘Now boys we are in for it’ and disappeared below for a short while.

The ‘Blue Moon Dramatic Coy’ were (75 of them) fellow passengers to Wellington and though early in the voyage they did not obtrude themselves yet later on, as mal-de-mer wore off, they made the most of their opportunities to show what wondrous fellow feeling there is between the sexes.

At this stage thing might well be described as red hot even at midnight on the main deck. A climax in this direction was prevented by our arrival at 10 a m Tuesday, Xmas Eve at Wellington. Mr Hogben and others met us at the boat as Prof David’s friends.

24 December

We dined with Mr Hogben at one of the hotels. At 4 p m had afternoon tea at the Kiosk by invitation of a company of people, including Mr Hogben, (Curator of Museum), Mr Adams (Survey Department), Prof Kirk (Physiology) etc.
Saw Prof Easterfield (chemistry) before leaving by steamer at 11 45 p m
Weather a bit rough to Lyttelton, arriving 12.45 p m.’

As Mawson recorded, the Wimmera arrived in Wellington four days out from Sydney, on Christmas Eve. Whilst the Wimmera was in port that day, Mawson and Professor David went ashore and attended a reception. They re-boarded the ship which departed that same evening. She arrived in Lyttelton the following morning–Christmas day. Alongside at Lyttelton was Shackleton’s ship Nimrod.

Exactly one week later, on New Year’s Day 1908, the Nimrod departed Lyttelton on her journey to the Antarctic. By this time however the Wimmera had already departed the New Zealand port of Bluff en route Hobart.

[The Nimrod – Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic ship]
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

In a letter/article to the Sydney Morning Herald that was published in March the following year, Professor David wrote:

”Mr. Douglas Mawson, B.E., B.Sc., lecturer in mineralogy at Adelaide, and formerly of Sydney University, Mr. Leo A. Cotton, B.A., B.Sc., of Sydney University, and I left Sydney in the steamer Wimmera, bound for Lyttelton, on December 20. We had a beautiful voyage to Wellington, the “Blue Moon” Theatrical Company ministering much to our entertainment on the way. At Wellington a very kindly reception was given us by the local members of the New Zealand Institute and their wives, which did much to cheer us up at a time when we were all feeling very homesick. We left the same evening for Lyttelton, arriving after a good passage the following morning, Christmas Day.”

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021

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