We got to Wilkes Station that night and anchored out. It reminded me a lot of Palmer Station where we were last year. I was hoping we‘d hit another rock so we could go home early.
The normal unloading of the Thala Dan was suppose to take 21-days, but we had to leave by the 20th, so we had to help.
15 February to 20 February1969 Wilkes Station, Antarctica
We commenced unloading and down into the dungeons, fell into the normal routing of watches and keeping the mains warmed up.
The only casualty we had was YN2 Odom. He was ashore helping to unload some heavy timbers when the whole works fell on him and crushed his chest. For awhile the Doc didn‘t know it he‘d make it or not, but the dude is from N.C. so he pulled through okay. A couple days before we reached the Thala Dan one of their men was killed. They put him in their reefers until they got to a port.
The last day we were there they had a dedication of a new station, and had a big beer and wine party afterwards. I just stayed on the ship.
20 February to 27 February 1969 Wilkes Station, Antarctica to Perth, Australia
We left Wilkes the night of the 19th, and I mean it was night. The land of the midnight sun had ceased to be, and it was pitch dark outside, plus it was snowing and foggy.
The electricians manned the 24-inch search lights on the Flying Bridge, and we started through the ice with the Thala Dan behind us.
For some reason we didn‘t go out the way we came in. I recon the Captain wanted to find a quicker way out. I was on the 4-8 (watch) the morning of the 20th, and we came so close to running smack into the biggest iceberg I‘ve ever seen since I‘ve been on here. The visibility was about 50 yards, and the OOD saw it at the last minute.
I saw it the next morning, and with the visibility it looked like it stood 150 feet out of the ice. We stayed around it all day, with the Thala Dan getting stuck and we getting stuck ourselves.
We made about 1,200 yards in 12-hours. About 8 that night it cleared up, and the ice we just came through looked like a range of mountains. It‘s a wonder we didn‘t hit any icebergs.
Finally that night we found a lead in the ice, and the next morning we were in open water waving bye-bye to the Thala Dan. On coming out of the ice #2 Main Engine ran away, lost lube oil pressure, and wiped out the bearings.
The trip to Perth was routine underway with everyone welcoming the warm weather. Even the seas seemed to get calm. We pulled into Freemantle, the seaport for Perth, on the morning of the 27th and tied up in front of an Australian Navy aircraft carrier. Mail was brought onboard and liberty was granted.