Gulls tumbled inland over the old harbour buildings, banking and swooping in the south-easterly gusts. At Melbourne’s North Wharf a red ice-breaker slipped its moorings, its foredeck fringed with farewelling limbs. The peevish weather chopped froth-lines into the green surface of Port Phillip Bay and pummelled a small orange single-engine aeroplane circling the ship. The Beaver de Havilland DHC2, piloted by RAAF Squadron Leader Douglas Leckie and Pilot Officer John Seaton, was the largest of the two-plane Australian Antarctic Research Expedition fleet. The pilots and two diesel mechanics were on the first assignment of the newly formed RAAF ANARE Flight Division. Off Point Cook the plane landed on floats and was winched aboard. It was December 1955 and a significant component of journalists and photographers, along with the Minister for External Affairs, gathered with crowds of well-wishers to farewell the Antarctic Expeditioners.
The expeditioners were already coaxing uncooperative packages into awkward spaces. Up in the fo’castle, in the extreme flair of the bow, fourteen men were performing an impromptu conga as they jostled and wriggled into three cabins. Twelve were accommodated in two ten-foot-square rooms. Two height-challenged expeditioners, who had drawn the short straw, were warily re-approaching their converted paint locker in the diminishing hope that their navigational training had gone awry on the pitching ship. Pat Albion who had signed on as a radio operator found that he was obliged to sleep in a birthing position in the triangular space until he was rescued by the onset of sea sickness of such brutality that he risked being ANARE’s first burial at sea. He was transferred to the sick bay, a swap requiring another expeditioner to surrender horizontal repose for the rest of the voyage. The Kista Dan was taking twenty-six men to Mawson Station in East Antarctica where eighteen would stay through the dark winter and return to Australia in fifteen months. Eight others would return with the homecoming 1955 winterers in March.