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Tom Crean - Kerry's legendary Polar Explorer

By rareAdmin, Tuesday, 2nd February 2021 | 0 comments
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Tom Crean - Kerry's legendary polar explorer.

Nicknamed "The Irish Giant", Tom Crean was a hardy seaman and Antarctic explorer from Annascaul, Co.Kerry. After an argument with his parents, he left his family home aged 15, lied about his age and joined the British Navy where he volunteered as an explorer in 1901. Crean was a member of three of the four major expeditions to Antarctica during this period.

During one of these expeditions, after man-hauling a sled 1500 miles for 100 days, Tom Crean made a lone 35 mile dash with only 3 crackers and a stick of chocolate (at -30c) across the Arctic’s Ross Ice Shelf to save two fallen comrades - Evans & Lashley.

On another trip, after his ship Endurance became beset in the pack ice and sank, he was a participant in a dramatic series of events including months spent drifting on the ice, a journey in lifeboats to Elephant Island, and an open boat journey of 800 nautical miles (1,500 km) from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Upon reaching South Georgia, Crean was one of the party of three which undertook the first land crossing of the island, without maps or proper mountaineering equipment to get aid.

During these expeditions, Tom sealed his reputation as a tough and dependable polar traveler, earning three Polar medals. He returned to the Navy for WW1 and when his naval career ended in 1920, he returned to Kerry.

In Annascaul, Crean married and opened a small pub called the "South Pole Inn". He was said to be an extremely modest man - putting his medals away, never talking about his achievements and never giving press interviews. "He put his medals and his sword in a box and that was that," one of his daughters, Eileen, said years later.

After enduring some of the harshest conditions known to man, Crean succumbed to appendicitis in 1938. He was 63. He was buried in a family plot in Ballynacourty. Until recent times, he was almost the forgotten man of the Antarctic expeditions. Yesterday, it was announced that the Marine Institute’s new €23m research vessel will be named in his honour. A fitting tribute to Kerry’s polar explorer.