We left on Sunday (20th), intending to call at Madeira, but the north-east trades proving too much for the Quest I adopted the sailing ship route and proceeded “full and by” in the direction of the Azores. Conditions were now more pleasant than we had had them since setting out from England at the commencement of our enterprise. The weather became daily cooler and the air fresher. The winds blew the dust and ashes away to leeward, and we were able to have a clean ship.
It was quite like the old days, the young, happy days of those fine old clipper ships of Messrs. Devitt and Moore:
Beating up for the western isles
Close hauled in the north-east trades.
Early in the morning of September 3rd we picked up the Azores, and about 5 p.m. entered the harbour of Ponta del Gada, in San Miguel. I was anxious to give the hull a coating of paint, but as it was Sunday, and a feast day, there was no hope of any work being done.
We stayed two days, the only incident of interest being a visit to the United States ship Wilmington, which had put in here with a broken crank shaft on her way home from Shanghai. The captain and some of his officers, in turn, visited us. 311
Our work done, we set out, and on a perfect evening proceeded along the coast of the island, which is very picturesque. The land is terraced, and there is evidently a considerable amount of intensive cultivation. Pretty little villages nestle in its hollows, and windmills are dotted all about the hills. The Quest proceeded smoothly. The sea was calm, and in the still air of this lovely summer evening one felt that nothing could be more perfect and that one could go on and on for ever. We had had so much bad weather and our trip throughout 312 had been so arduous that we felt this respite all the more.
I had hoped on leaving the Azores to run immediately into westerly winds, but for some days we had light north-easters. The wind finally came round to north-west and blew up strongly on our beam. The ocean gathered itself up for one more fling at us, but it was but a half-hearted one; we were homeward bound, and what did we care? In a few days we should be in England, and though I have experienced many goings and comings since those unforgettable first ones, the parting never seems to lose its hurt nor the home-coming its thrill.
God gave all men all earth to love,
But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved over all;…
On September 16th we entered Plymouth Sound and anchored in Cawsand Bay. As was fitting, the first man to join the ship was Mr. Rowett, who gave us the warmest of welcomes home. He was very interested in all I had to tell him, but was deeply touched when I spoke of our old “Boss” whom we had left “down there.”
So we returned, quietly, as was befitting. My task when the leadership fell on my shoulders was to “carry on.” This, with the aid of the men who gave me their unquestioning obedience and showed unswerving loyalty, I was able to do. It gave me great pleasure when Mr. Rowett, whose support and co-operation alone made the expedition possible, said, “Old man, you’ve done splendidly!”
We had made observations and brought back a mass 313 of data gathered through long days of hardship and bitter toil, and I hope, when all is sorted and fully worked up, that our efforts may prove of value in helping to solve the great natural problems that still perplex us.
I have taken part in five expeditions to the Antarctic, and though I think that my work there is done, I shall never cease to feel glad that it has fallen to my lot to pioneer and guide the groping fingers of Knowledge on the white edges of the world.