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Captain John King Davis on F.I.S. Endeavour: Preparing for Oceanographic Work in the Southern Ocean

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 07:47 authored by Lucas, A, Kriwoken, L, Elizabeth LeaneElizabeth Leane
John King Davis captained S.Y. Aurora on three voyages to Antarctica and on other sub-Antarctic cruises for Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) 1911–1914. Between the first and second Antarctic trips, he made a short return cruise in 1912 from Melbourne to Eden in southeastern Australia with the Director of Commonwealth Fisheries, on the fisheries investigation steamship, F.I.S. Endeavour. This cruise was a milestone in his continuing training for the AAE’s oceanographic work. Davis went not as captain, but as an observer. His aim was to gain greater knowledge of operating techniques when using oceanographic research equipment and to apply that knowledge to observations on forthcoming voyages with Aurora. He kept abbreviated notes of the research conducted on Endeavour, and of his visit to Eden, in a small pocket notebook. These informal observations, apparently made just for his own future reference, give us a glimpse of the 28 year old Davis. He has often been portrayed in a negative light, but here his personal notes reveal an experienced seaman, temporarily freed from responsibilities of captaincy and navigation, hard working, keen to acquire new skills on board and sociable when ashore. His subsequent work on Aurora, using the skills he acquired on this trip, resulted in significant contributions to the scientific reports of the AAE, including the discovery of an extensive elevation in the sea floor south of Tasmania, now known as the South Tasman Rise.


Publication title

Polar Record










School of Humanities


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright © 2011 Cambridge University Press

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding Australia’s past

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