Ernest Joyce | imperial trans-antarctic expedition, 1914–17
In February 1914 Joyce, still in Australia, was contacted by Shackleton. who outlined plans for his
The task of the Ross Sea party, under the command of another Nimrod veteran,
Aurora's departure from Australia was delayed by a series of organisational and financial setbacks, and the party did not arrive in McMurdo Sound until 16 January 1915—very late in the season for depot-laying work. Mackintosh, who believed that Shackleton might attempt to cross the continent in that first season, insisted that sledging work should begin without delay, with a view to laying down supply depots at 79° and 80°S. Joyce opposed this; more time, he maintained, should be set aside to acclimatise and train men and dogs. However he was over-ruled by Mackintosh, who was unaware that Shackleton had ruled out a crossing that season. Joyce's diary notes of January the 24th detail his frustrations:
"After breakfast Skipper + I discussed several details. I could not get him to see that we were jeopardizing the dogs + I cannot quite understand why Shacks should alter his plan of campaign. As for wintering the ship - this to my mind is the silliest damn rot that could have possibly occurred. The wintering of the Discovery was quite alright in its way, but then we had no experience of Antarctic conditions. If I had Shacks here I would make him see my way of arguing.
Anyway Mack is my Boss + I must uphold him until I find that he is not fit to carry out the hard tedious work that is in front of us. Having one eye will play merry hell with him in the extreme temperatures. As he will not take my advice about the dogs I must let him have his way.''" 
Mackintosh further vexed Joyce by deciding to lead this depot-laying party himself, unmoved by Joyce's claim to have independent authority over this area. The party was divided into two teams, and the journey began on 24 January, in an atmosphere of muddle. Initial attempts at travelling on the Barrier were thwarted by the condition of the surface, and Mackintosh's team got lost on the sea ice between Cape Evans and Hut Point. Joyce privately gloated over this evidence of the captain's inexperience. The teams eventually reached the 79° mark, and laid the "Bluff depot" there (
By this time men and dogs were worn out. On the return journey, in appalling Barrier weather,[n 1] all the dogs perished, as Joyce had predicted, and the party returned to Hut Point on 24 March exhausted and severely frostbitten. After being delayed for ten weeks at Hut Point by the condition of the sea ice, the party finally got back to their base at Cape Evans on 2 June. They then learned that Aurora, with most of the shore party's stores and equipment still aboard, had been torn from its moorings in a gale, and blown far out to sea with no prospect of swift return. Fortunately, the rations for the next season's depot-laying had been landed before the ship's involuntary departure. However, the shore party's own food, fuel, clothing and equipment had been largely carried away; replacements would have to be improvised from supplies left at Cape Evans after Scott's 1910–13 Terra Nova expedition, augmented by
The party set out on 1 September 1915. The men were under-trained and half-fit, in primitive clothing and with home-made equipment. With only five dogs remaining from the previous season's debacle, the task would mostly be one of
The weaker members of the party—
"Good going passed Smith’s grave 10.45 + had lunch at Depot. Saw Skippers camp just after + looking through the glasses found him outside the tent much to the joy of all hands as we expected him to be down."  The five survivors were all back at Hut Point on 18 March 1916.
All five men were showing symptoms of scurvy with varying severity. However, a diet of fresh seal meat, rich in
Joyce tested the sea-ice on 18 April and found it firm, but the following day a blizzard from the south swept all the ice away. The ambience at Hut Point was gloomy, and the unrelieved diet of seal was depressing. This seemed particularly to affect Mackintosh, and on 8 May, despite the urgent pleadings of Joyce, Richards and Ernest Wild, he decided to risk the re-formed ice and walk to Cape Evans. Victor Hayward volunteered to accompany him. Joyce recorded in his diary: "I fail to understand how these people are so anxious to risk their lives again". Shortly after their departure a blizzard descended, and the two were never seen again.
Joyce and the others learned the fate of Mackintosh and Hayward only when they were finally able to reach Cape Evans in July. Joyce immediately set about organising searches for traces of the missing men; in the subsequent months parties were sent to search the coasts and the islands in McMurdo Sound, but to no avail. Joyce also organised journeys to recover geological samples left on the Barrier and to visit the grave of Spencer-Smith, where a large cross was erected. In the absence of the ship, the seven remaining survivors lived quietly, until on 10 January 1917, the refitted Aurora arrived with Shackleton aboard to take them home. They learned then that their depot-laying efforts had been futile, Shackleton's ship