ABOUT TOM CREAN - ANTARCTIC EXPLORER

1877 - Born in Ireland

Tom Crean, son of a small farmer, is born near Annascaul, Co. Kerry on 20th July 1877. After a fight with his father, at age of fifteen he decides to leave home. He signs up to join the Royal Navy and with borrowed train fare heads for the port of Cobh, Co. Cork to begin his first adventure into the unknown.

1901 - Meets Captain Scott

For the next eight years, Tom Crean travels the world as a Royal Navy sailor. He is in New Zealand when he has a chance encounter with Robert Falcon Scott, a Royal Navy officer and commander of a major Polar expedition. Scott is on his way to the Antarctic on his vessel Discovery. One of his men has gotten into some trouble and fled, so he's a sailor short. Tom Crean volunteers to take his place. Stepping aboard the Discovery life would never be the same for the young Kerryman. Also on board is a young Irish merchant office, Ernest Shackleton, who would go on to figure greatly in Crean's life in later years.

1902 - 1904 - Crean's First Antarctic Expedition

The 'Discovery Expedition' marks Tom Crean's first experience of the hostile conditions and vastness of Antarctica. His first steps on the ice are anything but promising but he soon finds his feet and takes part in some of man's very first journeys into the continent. On that expedition, Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Dr. Edward "Bill" Wilson reach 82 17' degrees (about 480 miles from the South Pole), the most southerly point ever reached by any human at that time.

1910 - 1913 - Crean's Second Antarctic Expedition

After returning to Britain, Crean continues to serve in the Royal Navy. Captain Scott is made commander of a second Antarctic Expedition and asks Crean to join him again. Their goal to be the first men to reach the South Pole. Aboard their ship, the Terra Nova, the expedition reaches Antarctica in January 1911, builds a hut and settles in for the long dark winter. In Spring they will march to the South Pole.

February 1912 - Crean's Impossible March

Barely 150 miles from the South Pole, Captain Scott splits his team and decides not to bring Crean. Instead the Kerryman must return to base with Bill Lashly and Teddy Evans. After walking for 750 miles and on the cusp of historic success, the three men must now turn and walk the 750 miles home. Soon Teddy Evans starts to deteriorate and his two companions struggle to keep him alive.

Seven weeks later, they are just thirty-four miles from Base and safety. Evans is on the verge of death and cannot move a step. Crean decides to risk everything and carry on alone. His clothes battered and thin, on the verge of starvation, he has only a scrap of chocolate & two biscuits. The survival of his friends depends on Crean completing an impossible solo run.

But Crean does survive and after 18 hours reaches base and a rescue team leave to bring home his two companions. Crean's solo journey is regarded as one of the most remarkable personal exploits in the history of polar exploration. Crean receives a medal from King George for his heroism.

Scott reaches the South Pole

In January 1912 Captain Scott and his four companions reach the South Pole but are bitterly disappointed to find a Norwegian flag and dog tracks there evidence that Roald Amundsen and his team have beaten them to it. On the return journey, tragically all five men perish.

Later the same year, Crean returns towards the Pole with a team to search for Scott and his men. They find a tent buried under a mound of snow. Inside Captain Robert Scott and two of his companions lie frozen in defeat. Crean and the team bury the bodies of their stricken comrades where they lie.

1914 - 1915 - Crean's Historic Adventure with Shackleton

Crean joins Ernest Shackleton on his 'Endurance Expedition'. The Endurance gets trapped in the heavy ice of the Weddell Sea and eventually has to be abandoned as it starts to sink. All hands take to the lifeboats and reach Elephant Island.

1916 - Crean's Impossible Voyage - Elephant Island to South Georgia

In order to get rescue Crean, Shackleton and four companions begin an 800 mile voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia in the largest of the open lifeboats, the James Caird. In winter and on the world's most perilous seas they finally manage to make land. A Norwegian whaling station is located on one side of the Island but they have made landing on the uninhabited southern side and with a broken rudder have no way of sailing around. They must take on the daunting task of the first ever crossing of South Georgia's frozen mountains to reach the whaling station and safety. They succeed and over four months after they had set out, Crean and Shackleton finally return to Elephant Island and all 22 castaways from Endurance are rescued.

1917 - 1938 - A Quiet Return to Kerry

Tom Crean marries Eileen Herlihy on 5th September 1917 and they go on to have three children together. In 1920, after 27 years of service Crean retires from the Royal Navy and in 1927, in his hometown of Annascaul, he opens a pub called the South Pole Inn. He lives a quiet life until his death from a burst appendix in 1938, just shortly after his 61st birthday. He is buried in Ballynacourty in the family tomb Crean built with his own hands.