HMNZS Endeavour’s Antarctic Voyage 1971

Read about the ship Endeavour and its operations in 1971, including a Personal Reminiscence from Rob Smith.


Ship Details:

Pennant Number:  A184 (In USN service AOG53) – as it is a naval vessel there is no Maritime New Zealand number

Service History: Commissioned 5 October 1962, Paid off 30 June 1971

Tonnages – standard: 1850

– fully loaded: 4335

– in RNZN service: 2000 fuel plus dry cargo

Dimensions: 94.7 x 89 w/l x 14.8 x 4.8m

Machinery: 2-shaft GM diesel-electric, bhp 3300 (2440 kW) = 14 knots

Armament: Was not armed whilst in RNZN service

Complement: 68 plus up to 14 scientists

Builder: Cargill Inc Savage Minnesota USA

Laid down 1 August 1944

Launched 14 November 1944

Completed as USS Namakagon June 1945

Class: One of 23 Patapsco-class gasoline tankers built between 1942-1945 for the United States Navy. Namakagon was commissioned on 18 June 1945. Placed in reserve 20 September 1957.

Operational Details:

From Reports of Proceedings for February and March 1971

1-6 February 1971 Endeavour voyages southwards to Antarctica

4 February 1971 first iceberg spotted

6 February 1971 – magnetometer recovered to avoid loss – levels of brash and ice cake increasing forced a reduction in speed.

6-10 February 1971 pack ice traversed and course altered to find easier conditions

11 February 1971 Endeavour berths port side to Number One Elliot Quay 2204 – unloading cargo begins – McMurdo Sound

12 February 1971 unloading completed by 0800 – ship stands off while the tanker USS Maumee unloads. Endeavour rebirths at Number Four. It took most of the afternoon and early evening to rig a brow from the forecastle.

12-13 February Endeavour berthed. Also present in harbour are USS Maumee, Wyandot, Burton Island, and Staten Island

 14 February 1971 sail from McMurdo Sound 1600 – due to threat of ice at night speed is reduced.

15-24 February 1971 Passage to Campbell Island

25 February 1971 Arrives at Campbell Island – anchors off meteorological station 1053 – departs for Lyttelton 1130

27 February 1971 Arrives at Lyttelton – berth port side to Number 4 East 1015

1 March 1971 Endeavour Lyttelton for Bluff at 1900 for second trip to Campbell Island

2 March 1971 Ashes of Edward Bray scattered on the water

3 March 1971 Endeavour arrives at Bluff 0700

3-8 March 1971 Berthed at Bluff

8 March 1971 departs Bluff 1130 for Campbell Island – winds are at 40knots

10 March 1971 reaches islands and anchors off meteorological station 0855 – at 1800 the ship proceeds to Lyttleton – at this time the ship is ordered to collect a party from the Snares

11 March 1971 Endeavour arrives at the Snares at 1545 – party is retrieved and the ship sets sail for Lyttelton at 1736

13 March 1971 Ship arrives at Lyttelton at 0936

15 March 1971 departs for Auckland 1130

18 March 1971 arrives at Auckland – berths port side to Calliope Far West 0900

Personal Reminiscence from Rob Smith

I don’t recall anything about the Avgas but it wouldn’t surprise me if the US used it to keep ice at bay. Things were pretty “Heath Robinson” back then – for example urinals were simply a funnel in a wall with a hose leading outside to mounds of green snow and toilets flushed straight into a hole the shale on which the base was built!! I guess it all melted during warmer periods and soaked away into the ocean. I thought they had a small atomic power plant over the hill from McMurdo but didn’t see it – it could well have been a ship though.

It was a very rough trip but, as a young sea cadet who fortunately didn’t suffer from sea sickness, it was all exciting stuff. I won’t forget the ship almost surfing down some colossal waves, nor the poor scientists who were “green” most of the time. The best thing about being a cadet on board was having [sic] to sleep in a hammock while everyone else was regularly tossed out of their bunks! Mind you, being in an unheated space (Electrics area under the bridge next to the hold) it was pretty cold. At times it was magically flat calm and even warmish. Normally only when moving through the ice-pack though.

Doing look out duty (spotting icebergs and “growlers”) on the open bridge wings or the fly bridge was the coldest I think I have ever been. We only did 10-15 minutes at a time but even that was almost too much especially at night. There was a large pot full of bubbling “Kai” (about the consistency of thick porridge) in the pilot house behind the bridge which would bring back the circulation within half an hour or so. The Kai was made from dark bricks of chocolate and Anchor unsweetened condensed milk and nothing else. I’ve tried it since but it’s really only something you can drink when you are virtually frozen solid!!

The damage was starboard side aft and a bulkhead between the tank deck waist and forward end of the mess split across the bottom from the almost continuous waves that would come racing down the tank deck and come to an abrupt halt against the mess bulkhead. One of the rare occasions we were allowed to wear our outdoor boots in the mess. The noise was amazing.

I recall having to time my runs along the tank deck catwalk to avoid getting washed off or at best, drenched from head to foot. It was a bit of an act because you not only had to run the distance but also unclip the watertight door leap inside, then close it and relock all the clips before the wave crashed into it!

I was given a two metre long framed photograph of a naked lady in repose by a US CeeBee [sic] finishing his tour of duty on the ice. We hung this in the mess and I left it onboard when I departed. I always wondered what happened to that – probably ended up in a mess at Philomel or Tamaki.

Food onboard was in very short supply as our freezers were loaded with supplies for Scot Base. We were given a crate of steak by the US for our return trip as we were down to bacon, potatoes and corn on the cob with the odd canned vegetable. Unfortunately, the steak we were given was the “preserved” variety and so heavily garlic flavoured no one could eat it. The chefs made sausages, croquets, patties and other things out of minced steak but it seemed no matter what you did to disguise the flavour, nothing worked. I believe most of it ended up being dumped over the side. The end result was the canteen very quickly ran out of anything edible.

The food was doubly missed because we had had a few days sampling the mess-halls of the Americans – no chef standing over you ladling out the rations (on the basis of young chap = less food) in their establishments, and their buffet selection had to be seen to be believed. Steaks (unadulterated) of various types cooked rare, medium and well done, fish, crayfish, chicken etc, with fresh vegetables, various salads and followed by as much pudding and ice cream as one could fit in. Being 17 years of age, I had a huge appetite (doesn’t everyone at that age?) so I really appreciated the Americans catering philosophy and did it really hard back onboard on the journey home.

[Loading the Snocat] I think it took most about 18 hours to load as we first had to take the track assemblies off! That was quite an act as it had to go in the forward hold and had to be dropped in nose first being too long to be lowered in horizontally