Tom Crean

A True Irish Hero

An Inspiration

Tom Crean – 25 February 1877 – 27 July 1938

In 1912, during Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s fateful expedition to the South Pole, one legendary Irishman marched alone across 35 miles of hostile Antarctic terrain in treacherous conditions. Enduring bitter cold and painful exhaustion, with practically no food and nothing to guide him only his bravery and determination, he marched non-stop for 18 gruelling hours. All to save the lives of his comrades…  His name was … Tom Crean … and he is our inspiration.

Antarctic Explorer

Born on a small farm in Annascaul, County Kerry, Tom Crean left home to join the Navy at only 15 years of age. Little did he know then that he would one day become one of the world’s most renowned Polar  explorers. Tom Crean went on to become a key member of three of the most renowned and most heroic expeditions to the Antarctic.

By the age of 19 he was serving as an able seaman. Having proven himself on Robert Falcon Scott’s ‘Discovery’ expedition (1901-1904), he was one of the first men to be recruited by Scott for his attempt on the South Pole, the famous ‘Terra Nova’ expedition (1910-1913).

Though he was bitterly disappointed to be told that he would not be accompanying Scott on the final push to the South Pole in 1912, Tom Crean’s journey back to base camp became the stuff of legend …

 A True Irish Hero

One of the team, Evans, had collapsed and his other comrade, Lashly, was in very poor health. Food rations were very low and carrying Evans was proving difficult.  Tom Crean bravely decided to make the journey back on his own to get help. This was to go down in history as Crean’s ‘lone march of bravery’.

With only a stick of chocolate and two biscuits to sustain him, enduring 18 hours and 35 miles of Antarctic conditions, Crean successfully reached base to get help … and collapsed on arrival. A day and a half later, Evans and Lashly were brought back alive.

Later that same year, Tom was part of the search party that discovered Scott and his team frozen to death in their tent, and it was his sad duty to help bury his Captain at the southern-most tip of the world.

And yet, the best of Tom Crean was still to come …

Endurance Expedition

Never was an expedition more aptly named. When Earnest Shackleton set off on his renowned expedition to cross the Antarctic, he had by his side one man in whom he had absolute faith, fellow Irishman, Tom Crean.

In 1915, when the expedition’s ship, Endurance, was crushed by ice, the only hope of salvation was for a small crew of six to both sail and row a tiny lifeboat 800 nautical miles from Elephant Island to South Georgia and fetch help. In the face of a mountainous westerly swell, their incredible journey has been described as one of the most extraordinary feats of seamanship and navigation in maritime history. Yet, no matter what nature hurled at him – be it icy rain or blinding sleet – Tom could be heard singing as he held fast to the tiller with frozen hands.

Upon reaching South Georgia, hungry, frostbitten and soaking wet, Tom along with Shackleton and Worsley realised that they were on the uninhabited side of the island.

Undaunted, they then marched, without maps or mountaineering equipment across glaciers, mountains and snowdrifts to miraculously make the first land-crossing of the island and reach sanctuary, where they raised help for their fellow expedition members.


When he returned Tom Crean was awarded the Albert Medal for saving the lives of his comrades. Crean’s contributions to these expeditions sealed his reputation as a tough and dependable polar traveller, and earned him a total of three Polar Medals.

In 1920 he retired from the navy and moved back to County Kerry. In his home town of Annascaul, Crean and his wife Ellen opened a Public House called the ‘South Pole Inn’. He lived there humble and unassuming until his death in 1938.