Page 518
Previous/Next Page
Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
Table of Contents

Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology


Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1929–1946 by Allan Cornish
Chapter 1: My Early Days in the Bureau
Chapter 2: Some New Vistas
Chapter 3: The RAAF Measures Upper Air Temperatures
Chapter 4: The Bureau Begins to Grow
Chapter 5: My Voyage in Discovery II
Chapter 6: The Birth of the Instrument Section
Chapter 7: Darwin Days
Chapter 8: I Leave the Bureau

History of Major Meteorological Installation in Australia from 1945 to 1981 by Reg Stout

Four Years in the RAAF Meteorological Service by Keith Swan

The Bureau of Meteorology in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s by Col Glendinning


Contact us

Chapter 5: My Voyage in Discovery II

In late 1935, Casey, Minister of External Affairs, was in London and the English were eager to have the Dominions share some of the cost of showing the Union Jack in the Antarctic area because the Australian Government had claimed dependency of a large sector. New Zealand had claimed a dependency in the Ross Sea sector and South Africa had also made a claim. At that time the Dominions had no program of Antarctic exploration but the English were operating two ships in the Southern Ocean, Discovery II and William Scoresby. They cruised around the Antarctic coast, mapping and making oceanographic observations.

Discovery I was a windjammer with auxiliary steam and, I believe, is still moored in the Thames as a museum. Discovery II was an entirely different vessel. Steam driven and launched in 1929, it was, I believe, the first steel ice-breaker ever constructed. Earlier, all icebreakers had been made of timber because steel would corrugate under the pressure of ice.

Discovery II had a rather unique construction having no cross bulkheads. The hull of a steel ship with cross bulkheads could corrugate very easily if trapped in thick pack-ice. Without cross bulkheads the hull of Discovery II under pressure of pack-ice would bow and spring but wouldn't corrugate. It was considered impossible to capsize because its metacentric height (the difference in height between the centre of gravity and the centre of buoyancy) was about 9 feet which gave it an enormous recovery rate. A ship like Queen Mary had a metacentric height of about 5 inches.

The rate of recovery of Discovery II from a roll, 40 seconds for a full 360 degrees, was very rapid. The stress on anything not bolted down was enormous. The biggest roll I ever experienced was 47 degrees either side. It was necessary to have a very firm grip on a strong support to prevent being thrown off your feet by the recovery from that sort of roll.

The Wyatt Earp (a small vessel used by US Antarctic explorer Lincoln Ellsworth) was for sale in about 1936 and I think Casey arranged for its purchase for Antarctic research. About that time I was asked, out of the blue, whether I was interested in making a voyage to the Antarctic on Discovery II. I said yes but heard no more until about September 1937 when I happened to be in hospital with appendicitis.

People in Bright Sparcs - Casey, Richard Gardiner; Cornish, Allan William

Previous Page Bureau of Meteorology Next Page

Cornish, A., Stout, R., Swan, K and Glendinning, C. 1996 'Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology', Metarch Papers, No. 8 February 1996, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher