An extraordinary Irishman who didn’t like to boast of his extraordinary feats, it is perhaps no surprise that there are many facts about Tom Crean that you may not know.
As a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica which occurred through what was referred to as the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’, Tom Crean built his legend through his heroic actions and the extraordinary feats that he completed on them.
Tom Crean became famous in particular for his roles in the Terra Nova and Discovery expeditions which were led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole and also on Ernest Shackleton’s mission onboard the ship Endurance.
The most famous expedition of the three that Tom Crean was involved in was the infamous Terra Nova Expedition (1911-1913) which was led by Robert Falcon Scott. In this article, we will list 10 facts about Tom Crean that you most likely didn’t know.
10. The Albert Medal for Lifesaving – for his role in extraordinary expeditions
Thanks to the miraculous and heroic feats completed by Tom Crean on the three major expeditions he took part in, he was awarded the Albert Medal for Lifesaving.
9. He was a Kerryman – from the Kingdom and proud
Tom Crean was born in Annascaul in County Kerry, the earliest documented date of his birth is 16th February 1877.
8. He was an avid animal lover – one of the best facts about Tom Crean
Tom Crean was an avid animal lover, there is a famous picture of him on one of his expeditions with a clutch of husky pups in his hands and a smile on his face. He even snuck in a pet rabbit with him on the Terra Nova expedition.
7. He never lied about his age to join the navy – a fallacy proven beyond doubt
It was a common misbelief that Tom Crean lied about his age to join the navy when he was around 15 years old but it has now become an indisputable fact that he joined the navy when he was closer to 16½-years-old.
The confusion is believed to have occurred because of a naval error which recorded an incorrect date of birth.
6. He had a huge family – coming from good stock
Tom Crean was born one of eleven children to Catherine Crean née Courtney. He had seven brothers and three sisters.
5. He later owned a pub in Kerry – pouring pints for fellow Kerry men and women
Tom Crean returned to his native Kerry after his Antarctic expeditions and in 1916 he purchased a building that would later go on to be transformed into the famous pub “The South Pole Inn” after he was granted a publican’s licence in 1917. The pub is still open to this day and is a big tourist attraction in Annascaul.
4. He was also prevalent during the North Russian Expedition – more than just Antarctic exploration
Besides being an integral part of three major Antarctic expeditions, Tom Crean also played a very important and active role as a Boatswain Warrant Officer during HMS Fox’s role in the North Russian Expedition.
3. He passed away aged 61 – a long and eventful life
Tom Crean died on 27th July 1938 at the age of 61 years old. His cause of death was an infection which developed as a result of an operation a week earlier. He was buried in his family’s tomb at the cemetery in Ballynacourty, Corkaguiney, County Kerry.
2. He spent more time in the ice and snow than his more famous explorers – he also outlived them
Tom Crean spent time with both world-famous explorers Captain Robert Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton during his Antarctic expeditions and while not being remembered as famous as them he did spend more time in the ice and snow than either of them, he also went on to outlive both of them.
1. The greatest act of bravery in the history of Antarctic exploration – a legendary Irish explorer
Number one on our list of facts about Tom Crean is that he performed what many say was the greatest single-handed act of bravery in the history of Antarctic exploration when one of his companions, Lt Evans, collapsed 35 miles from safety.
In search of help, Crean courageously volunteered to undertake a hazardous journey across treacherous terrain in sub-zero temperatures with virtually no food and no sleeping bag or tent. His trek for help lasted over 18 hours but was successful and Lt Evans was saved.
That concludes our list of 10 facts about Tom Crean that you most likely didn’t know. Did you happen to know any of them already?
We’d like to give a big thanks to the following excellent resources for their information about Tom Crean:
- Tom Crean – Ice Man: The Adventures of an Irish Antarctic Hero by Michael Smith