Tom Crean with puppies
Roger, Nell, Toby and Nelson
Tom Crean on the
Tom Crean (right)
with Alf Cheetham, on the Endurance, 1914
Tom Crean served both Scott and Shackleton
and outlived them both.
He was what is often described as "hardbitten"
tough, and determined, he had been disrated in the Navy for
drunken and inappropriate behaviour for his station and had
a less than satisfactory character reference from the Navy.
He frequently came across as heavy handed and tactless - forthright
- to be more charitable.
His first encounter with Antarctic exploration
came with Scott's expedition on the Terra Nova and was a
somewhat opportunistic accident. Crean was in Christchurch,
New Zealand serving aboard HMS Ringarooma when Scott's "Discovery"
was also in port and was in need of an extra crewmember. It
was December 1901 and Tom left his own ship to join as a volunteer
able seaman. He played a full role in activities ashore including
several sledging journey's.
Scott was impressed with Crean's performance,
he was promoted to Petty Officer 1st class on his return. Five
years later, when Scott was assembling a crew for what was to
become his last expedition aboard the Terra Nova, Crean was
one of the men he chose first and was appointed as an expert
sledger and pony handler.
Tom Crean had thought that he might have been
chosen as one of Scott's party to make the final push to
the South Pole, but was overlooked in favour of Bowers, a great
disappointment to him. As it was, Crean was one of the last
men to Scott alive and he was one of those who buried him and
his companions in the snow a month later. He accompanied the
polar party up the Beardmore Glacier, on the return journey
he walked the last difficult 35 miles alone for 20 hours in
appalling conditions to get help for a companion (Teddy Evans).
For this life saving feat he was awarded the Albert Medal on
return to England.
On return from the Terra Nova expedition,
he resumed his Naval duties at Chatham, Kent until Shackleton
began to recruit for his attempt to cross the continent of Antarctica
from coast to coast via the South Pole. Shackleton knew Crean
from the Discovery expedition and had no hesitation in taking
him south with the expedition. He selected Crean to be one of
the party of 6 to make the crossing, it looked like Crean was
going to have a chance to reach the pole after all after his
disappointment at not being selected by Scott.
The crossing was never to be however, in fact,
like Shackleton, Crean was not to even set foot on Antarctica
again. The Endurance was trapped in sea-ice and sank leading
to the crew needing to reach safety which they did so partly
when they arrived at Elephant Island. Crean was one of the men
Shackleton selected for the epic boat journey to South Georgia
and also to accompany him and Worsley across South Georgia to
the whaling station from where the alarm could raised and help
begun to be organized for the men trapped on Elephant Island.
Tom Crean and the pony "Bones",
just before his 400 mile march
across the Great
Scott's Terra Nova Expedition
Tom was one of ten children,
he was born on the family farm at Annascaul on the Dingle Peninsula,
County Kerry, Ireland. Life was hard and so Tom joined the Royal
Navy at the age of 15, by the age of 22 in 1899, he had worked
his way up to the rank of Petty Officer.
Once again on his return
to England, Crean resumed his naval career at Chatham. He married
Nell Herlihy in 1917 back in his home town of Anascaul, Nell
had been his childhood sweetheart, though they were aged 40
and 36 by the time they married. For the rest of the First World
War, Crean served in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Colleen. Shortly
after the war ended, Crean was given early retirement at the
age of just 42 in 1920 following a bad fall on his ship.
Shackleton wanted Crean
to return to Antarctica with him once again on the Quest expedition,
but the offer was declined and Tom settled down to married life
and raising his family of four daughters.
In 1927 Tom opened a pub
in Annascaul that he called "The South Pole Inn",
he ran the pub with Nell until 1938 when after falling ill with
stomach pains, he was admitted to hospital in nearby Tralee.
Acute appendicitis was diagnosed, but no one was available for
the simple routine appendectomy and he was transferred to hospital
in Cork 80 miles away. The delay led to infection setting in
and he died a week later on 27th July 1938 at the age of 61.
He was interred in a tomb
he had built himself in the village of Ballynacourty near where
he was born. Almost the entire population of Annascaul turned
out to show their respect for one of their most famous sons.
The South Pole Inn is
still in business as an inn, it is decorated inside with Shackleton
and Crean memorabilia. It can be found in the village of Annascaul,
County Kerry on the main road between Tralee & Dingle.
to Tom Crean in Shackleton's book "South!"
Later in the day
Crean and two other
men were over the side on a stage chipping at a large
piece of ice that had got under the ship and appeared
to be impeding her movement. The ice broke away suddenly,
shot upward and overturned, pinning Crean between the
stage and the haft of the heavy 11-ft. iron pincher.
He was in danger for a few moments, but we got him clear,
suffering merely from a few bad bruises. The thick iron
bar had been bent against him to an angle of 45 degrees.
On February 24 we ceased
to observe ship routine, and the Endurance became
a winter station. All hands were on duty during the
day and slept at night, except a watchman who looked
after the dogs and watched for any sign of movement
in the ice. We cleared a space of 10 ft. by 20 ft. round
the rudder and propeller, sawing through ice 2 ft. thick,
and lifting the blocks with a pair of tongs made by
the carpenter. Crean
used the blocks to make an ice-house for the dog Sally,
which had added a little litter of pups to the strength
of the expedition.
The new quarters became
known as "The Ritz," and meals were served
there instead of in the ward room. Breakfast was at
9 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., tea at 4 p.m., and dinner at
6 p.m. Wild, Marston, Crean,
and Worsley established themselves in cubicles in the
wardroom, and by the middle of the month all hands had
settled down to the winter routine.
The dogs had been divided
into six teams of nine dogs each. Wild,
McIlroy, Marston, and Hurley each had charge of a team,
and were fully responsible for the exercising, training,
and feeding of their own dogs.
had started to take the pups out for runs, and it was
very amusing to see them with their rolling canter just
managing to keep abreast by the sledge and occasionally
cocking an eye with an appealing look in the hope of
being taken aboard for a ride. As an addition to their
the pups had adopted Amundsen. They tyrannized over
him most unmercifully. It was a common sight to see
him, the biggest dog in the pack, sitting out in the
cold with an air of philosophic resignation while a
corpulent pup occupied the entrance to his "dogloo."
The intruder was generally the pup Nelson, who just
showed his forepaws and face, and one was fairly sure
to find Nelly, Roger, and Toby coiled up comfortably
behind him. At hoosh-time Crean
had to stand by Amundsen's food, since otherwise the
pups would eat the big dog's ration while he stood back
to give them fair play. Sometimes their consciences
would smite them and they would drag round a seal's
head, half a penguin, or a large lump of frozen meat
or blubber to Amundsen's kennel for rent. It was interesting
to watch the big dog play with them, seizing them by
throat or neck in what appeared to be a fierce fashion,
while really quite gentle with them, and all the time
teaching them how to hold their own in the world and
putting them up to all the tricks of dog life.
I was appointed starter, Worsley was
judge, and James was timekeeper. The bos'n, with a straw
hat added to his usual Antarctic attire, stood on a
box near the winning-post, and was assisted by a couple
of shady characters to shout the odds, which were displayed
on a board hung around his neck6 to 4 on Wild, "evens"
on Crean, 2 to 1
against Hurley, 6 to 1 against Macklin, and 8 to 1 against
"This afternoon Sallie's three youngest
pups, Sue's Sirius, and Mrs. Chippy, the carpenter's
cat, have to be shot. We could not undertake the maintenance
of weaklings under the new conditions. Macklin,
Crean, and the carpenter
seemed to feel the loss of their friends rather badly.
We propose making a short trial journey to-morrow, starting
with two of the boats and the ten sledges. The number
of dog teams has been increased to seven, Greenstreet
taking charge of the new additional team, consisting
of Snapper and Sallie's four oldest pups. We have ten
working sledges to relay with five teams. Wild's and
Hurley's teams will haul the cutter with the assistance
of four men. The whaler and the other boats will follow,
and the men who are hauling them will be able to help
with the cutter at the rough places. We cannot hope
to make rapid progress, but each mile counts.
Crean this afternoon
has a bad attack of snow-blindness."
I had decided to take the
James Caird myself, with Wild and eleven men.
This was the largest of our boats, and in addition to
her human complement she carried the major portion of
the stores. Worsley had charge of the Dudley Docker
with nine men, and Hudson and
Crean were the senior men on the Stancomb
Most of the people were
frost-bitten to some extent, and it was interesting
to notice that the "oldtimers," Wild,
Crean, Hurley, and
I, were all right. Apparently we were acclimatized to
ordinary Antarctic temperature, though we learned later
that we were not immune.
Four other men would be
required, and I decided to call for volunteers, although,
as a matter of fact, I pretty well knew which of the
people I would select. Crean
I proposed to leave on the island as a right-hand man
for Wild, but he begged so hard to be allowed to come
in the boat that, after consultation with Wild, I promised
to take him.
One of the memories that
comes to me from those days is of
Crean singing at
the tiller. He always sang while he was steering, and
nobody ever discovered what the song was. It was devoid
of tune and as monotonous as the chanting of a Buddhist
monk at his prayers; yet somehow it was cheerful. In
moments of inspiration Crean
would attempt "The Wearing of the Green."
After 1 a.m. we cut a pit
in the snow, piled up loose snow around it, and started
the Primus again. The hot food gave us another renewal
of energy. Worsley and Crean
sang their old songs when the Primus was going merrily.
Laughter was in our hearts, though not on our parched
and cracked lips.
My examination of the country
from a higher point had not provided definite information,
and after descending I put the situation before Worsley
and Crean. Our obvious
course lay down a snow-slope in the direction of Husvik. "Boys,"
I said, "this snow-slope seems to end in a precipice,
but perhaps there is no precipice. If we don't go down
we shall have to make a detour of at least five miles
before we reach level going What shall it be?"
They both replied at once, "Try the slope."
So we started away again downwards.
To go up again was scarcely
thinkable in our utterly wearied condition. The way
down was through the waterfall itself. We made fast
one end of our rope to a boulder with some difficulty,
due to the fact that the rocks had been worn smooth
by the running water. Then Worsley and I lowered
Crean, who was the
heaviest man. He disappeared altogether in the falling
water and came out gasping at the bottom.
When I look back at those days I have
no doubt that Providence guided us, not only across
those snowfields, but across the storm-white sea that
separated Elephant Island from our landing-place on
South Georgia. I know that during that long and racking
march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains
and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often
that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions
on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me, "Boss,
I had a curious feeling on the march that there was
another person with us."
Crean confessed to the same idea. One
feels "the dearth of human words, the roughness
of mortal speech" in trying to describe things
intangible, but a record of our journeys would be incomplete
without a reference to a subject very near to our hearts.
Our first night at the whaling-station
was blissful. Crean
and I shared a beautiful room in Mr. Sorlle's house,
with electric light and two beds, warm and soft. We
were so comfortable that we were unable to sleep.
Landmarks named after Thomas Crean
Description: Glacier 4 mi long,
flowing NW from Wilckens Peaks to the head of Antarctic Bay
on the N coast of South Georgia. Surveyed by the SGS in the
period 1951-57 and named by the UK-APC. This glacier lies on
the route of the overland crossing from King Haakon Bay, to
Stromness, South Georgia.
Feature Type: summit
Description: Massive, rocky mountain, 2,550
m, forming the central and highest summit of the Lashly Mountains,
in Victoria Land. Named by the NZ-APC.
Clark, Robert S.
Green, Charles J.
Hudson, Hubert T.
Hurley, James F. (Frank)
Hussey, Leonard D. A.
James, Reginald W.
Kerr, A. J.
Macklin, Dr. Alexander H.
Marston, George E.
McIlroy, Dr. James A.
Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Shackleton, Ernest H.
Second in Command
Wordie, James M.