Tom Crean was an Irishman from County Kerry, and a Royal Naval
petty officer. He was undeniably tough and determined. He
went to the Antarctic on Discovery,
and again with Scott
on his second expedition.
Crean's record in the Navy was not without blemish.
Disrated once or twice for drink and unbecoming behaviour,
when he joined the famous Shackleton
Endurance expedition (1914-16), he had received from
the Navy a less than satisfactory character.
Nonetheless, in the debacle of Scott's second expedition,
Crean had been involved in the one truly heroic episode.
On the return from supporting the polar pary, Lieutenant Teddy
Evans had collapsed with scurvy. Crean,
with another naval rating, William Lashly, saved his life by
dragging him home on a sledge for the last fifty miles.
It was Crean who made the final dash
for safety by walking twenty hours at a stretch -
without ski - to bring help from Hut Point at McMurdo Sound.
Whatever his failings, Crean was manifestly a man for a tight corner, and
Shackleton made him second officer on Endurance.
Crean didn't let Shackleton down. After the ship was lost,
and the expedition made for Elephant Island
in three lifeboats, Crean was one of the six men
that made the 800-mile trip to South Georgia
across the Southern Ocean in a 22-foot boat. Thereafter,
he was one of three men to cross the island's mountain ranges
to get help at a whaling station. He also returned with
Shackleton to Elephant Island to rescue the remaining men.
Upon his return he took part in the 1st World War. He retired
from the Navy in 1927 after 27 years.
In 1917 he married and had three daughters. He opened his own pub,
South Pole Inn, in Annascaul, Kerry County, Ireland. It still exists today and houses some great Antartic expedition memorabilia.
He died in 1938. He was 61.
Mount Crean in Victoria Land and
Crean Glacier in South Georgia are named in his honour.
Tom Crean: Unsung Hero of the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic Expeditions