The Voyage to South Georgia.
Endurance Expedition (1914 – 1917).
They had waited months for the drifting ice floes, they were stranded on to finally break up, and afford them passage through the Weddell Sea. It had then taken them seven wretched days, voyaging in the ship’s three lifeboats to reach Elephant Island. They slept that night, where they had landed, at Providence Beach. They named it so, as they were quite entitled to, being the first humans to ever set foot on the island. The following morning they had to set sail again, to find a safer place to establish their camp. Westwards along the perilously rocky fringes they travelled, and landed on a thin sandy spit. This place, they named Cape Wild, after Frank Wild, who had earlier that day discovered the place with Crean, Marston, Vincent and McCarthy, in the Stancomb Wills. Finally, after spending 497 days, drifting on ice, the 28 men could, at last entrench their living quarters, on land. And then? Then they had to get of that godforsaken rock, as quickly as possible.
Though they had some garrison from the harsh environment, they had no hope of being rescued, from Elephant Island. The isolated outcrop was nowhere near any shipping lanes, and no-one knew they were there. They would have to save themselves. Shackleton deliberated with Wild and Worsley, and it was decided that another boat journey was their only option. South Georgia, which lay 800 miles away, was the chosen destination, as the voyagers could harness the persistent north westerly winds. Though the Falkland Islands lay 300 miles closer to them, they would have had to sail directly into those winds, which effectively ruled it out as a feasible option.
This was not a journey that could be undertaken by all 28 men, when all was considered. Firstly, all of the boats were simply not up to such a journey, through one of the most turbulent expanses of ocean on the planet. Secondly, they did not possess enough food to sustain such a number, over such a distance. And most crucially many of the men were undisputedly unfit for the task ahead. It was settled upon that six men would sail, whilst 22 remained behind, to survive on rations, and hopefully supplement their diets, with a few fresh kills. The largest of the boats, the James Caird, was the obvious choice of vessel.
Anchor From The Aurora.
Picture Of The Day.
The Ross Sea Party had been tasked with laying the supply depots, that Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic team would avail of, having come through the Pole from the Weddell Sea. Of course this would never happen as the Endurance was held fast in the ice of the Weddell, and never even made landfall on Antarctica.
As the expeditions second ship, the Aurora sailed to the other side of the continent, through the Ross Sea, and made landfall at McMurdo Sound. They followed in the footsteps of Scott, and laid supply depots across the Ross Ice Shelf all the way to the foot of the Beardmore Glacier.
Scott’s Ponies and Amundsen’s Dogs Immortalized.
Southern Aeronautical Waypoints named in their honour.
The names of the many great Antarctic explorers of the Heroic Age, are well known, widely documented and duly remembered. The feats of Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Worsley, Crean and Wild, to mention but a few, still evoke passion, admiration, pride and indeed much discussion and debate.
The map of Antarctica is very much comprised of landmarks and features named by, or in honour of these great pioneers. As was the wont of the great explorers who first tread unseen lands, they named every natural anomaly they discovered, as they so wished. The names chosen tended to stem from the royalty of the day, expedition sponsors, previous expeditions, explorers and crew, and of course those near and dear to them.
But nowhere, or no place on the vast white continent was named after the animals that played such a crucial role in each and every southern expedition.
Nowhere that is, until one man decided to address the issue, and have the contributions of the canine and equine contingents remembered. Because international rules prohibits the naming of Antarctic landmarks after animals, Col. Ronnie Smith of the US Air Force, turned to an area of Antarctica that he was very familiar with – the skies above.
Ronnie J. Smith was born of U.S. Air Force parents in Udine, Italy, and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Loyola College (B.A.) and the University of Maryland. Ron entered the U.S. Air Force in 1983 to fly C-130 aircraft and has traveled the world as a professional aviator. After many years flying in the polar regions, he was selected to be the in-theater commander of Operation DEEP FREEZE, the DoD logistics support to the U.S. Antarctic Program from 2005-2008.
“I can tell you that these men were quite an inspiration to me and many others who lived and worked in both north and south polar climes. We walk on their shoulders.” That was Ronnie’s thought on the men of the heroic age, in a correspondence, earlier this year. Of the animals that toiled alongside these men, Ronnie said in an article for Equus Magazine, “The animals never got their due credit. There’s a statue around here and there. And as a poet, I saw this as not just a heroic/romantic period of history, but one of neglect for the animals who made it possible for the success of the brave men. They literally could not have done it without the animals. They did not have the technology.” Continue Reading →
On This Day – October 24th 1911.
The Terra Nova Expedition.Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s assault on the South Pole was finally set in motion on October 24th 1911, when the “Motor Party’ rolled out of Cape Evans with two motorised sledges, which carried vast quantities of supplies, including fuel, food and vital equipment.
Scott’s order, issued to Lt. Edward Evans was that the motors should proceed to Corner Camp, then onward beyond One Ton Depot, hauling the cargo to latitude 80° 30′ S, where they would wait for the rest of the party to catch up with them at that point.
The entire Southern Party consisted of a total of 16 men. Lieutenant Evans, William (Bill) Lashly, Bernard Day and F.J. Hooper comprised the Motor Party, which took the first tentative trundles towards the South Pole, on that October 24th.
Scott and nine of the other men selected, followed in the wake of the motor tracks on November 1st 1911, with each man tasked with navigating a pony and sledge through the icy, inhospitable landscape. The complement of 16 would be completed by Meares and Demetri, who would follow them, with 23 dogs pulling two sledge loads of supplies.
For a brief while the Southern Party gained a 17th member, when Demetri took the expedition’s photographer Herbert Ponting, to the Barrier’s edge, to enable him to capture cinematograph film of the group as they ventured south with the ponies.
Unbeknownst to Scott, Roald Amundsen’s team had been to, and passed their own supply cache at 81º S on the very same day, having begun their outward quest on October 19th. Amundsen had every confidence in his planning, his dog teams and his ability to beat Scott to the accolade of being first to stand at the South Pole. He was perplexed by Scott’s insistence on using ponies to haul supplies, instead of more efficient dog teams. Amundsen had set off with over 50 dogs, the weakest of which would be fed to the other beasts, to sustain them along the route. Continue Reading →
The Iconic Tom Crean Portrait
The Endurance Expedition 1914 – 1917
It is just over 100 years , since Frank Hurley took his iconic photograph of Tom Crean, on the Endurance Expedition. It is, above all other photographs of Crean, the one image that has become synonymous with his immense strength, courage and character.
Frank Hurley, the expeditions photographer, captured hundreds of images that would provide the world with a visual account, of the remarkable ordeal that unfolded when the Endurance became trapped, and eventually crushed, by the ice of the Weddell Sea.
The photo of Tom Crean was taken in the early stages of the Edurance entrapment, on February 7th 1915, and unbeknown to the men at this time, they faced more than two years of extreme survival, on ice, sea and land, and Crean would play a central role in the safe rescue of all the crew.
The Tom Crean Show by Aidan Dooley
The Source Theatre Thurles – 30 April 2015
The standing ovation at the end of last nights performance, at the Source Theatre in Thurles, was testament to the spellbinding act, we had just witnessed. Now, I am no theatre critic, and will not endeavour to be one, but I can state with absolute certainty that Aidan Dooley’s portrayal of Tom Crean was simply staggering.
Telling the epic tale of the Irish Giant’s heroic exploits is no easy task, and delivering that story in the guise of the great man, makes it even more difficult, but not only does Aidan Dooley bring the narrative to life, he also inspirits Tom Crean on the stage. Continue Reading →
Olaf Pirlo was not the first man to disappear in Antarctica on a quest to reach the South Pole, but his attempt did have many unique elements, which had become necessary in order to capture the public imagination. Ever since Roald Amundsen reached the Pole in December 1911 and Scott and his team perished on their return journey having arrived there a month later, the South Pole had been considered well and truly conquered. For men who still yearned to take up the challenge and raise the funds to do so, there had to be some new slant to the journey, to afford it the title of some form of First.
Tom Crean by GTV
Good Time Villains or GTV for short, are a Dublin based band playing indie folk music. The band originally formed in Perth Australia, when Richie and Mick met and started playing together, then later came back home to Ireland to form the full band with bassist Stephen Caulfield and drummer Carl O Connor.
The band are awaiting the launch of their upcoming EP, which will be entitled GTV, and among the six tracks is the song ‘Tom Crean’. The launch date for the EP is April 17th, and the group have decided to host the event in” The Strawberry Hall Bar”, which is located in the Strawberry Beds in Dublin. The pub is favored by the band due to its renowned reputation for music artists in Dublin. It is not unheard of for some of Ireland’s other finest musicians to be heard playing there and Damien Dempsey, Glen Hansard, Declan O Rourke and the Riptide Movement have all been said to play a couple of tunes in the Strawberry Hall at one time or another.
Listen to ‘Tom Crean’ by Good Time Villains
Only a matter of days before I launched this website in December 2014, Tim Foley from the Kerry Airport Should Be Renamed Tom Crean Airport campaign group, contacted me with a surprising piece of information, regarding Tom Crean’s date of birth.
On the websites Tom Crean page I had stated that Tom was born on July 20th 1877, and should you pick up any publication, relating to the Unsung Hero, it will no doubt quote the same date, as it was always assumed that this was his birthday.
That is until Aileen O Brien d’Arcy – Tom Crean’s granddaughter, contacted Kay Caball of Find Your Kerry Ancestors, and tasked her with tracing Toms ancestors.
Calculate Your Distance From The South Pole
Simply enter the name of your county, or nearest large town or city, to calculate how far away the South Pole is from you.
Tom Crean & The South Pole
Despite his heroics in Antarctic climes, Tom Crean never actually made it to the South Pole. On January 3rd 1912, Tom was only 150 miles from the Pole, when Captain Robert Falcon Scott opted to send him back to base as part of the last support party. Scott’s Polar Party did succeed in reaching The South Pole, but tragically all five men would perish on the gruelling return journey.
As perhaps the fittest and strongest of the eight men who stood within 150 miles of The Pole on the morning of January 4th, before the parties went their separate ways, it is a certainty that Tom Crean would also have made it to the Pole.
The questions are, could he have survived the trek back to base, that claimed the lives of his five comrades, and whether or not he could have done anything to save them? Bearing in mind that the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers were found in their tent, only around 11 miles from a huge, and potentially life saving supply cache, the question is a justified one.
Roald Amundsen had of course beaten Scott and his Polar Party to the South Pole, arriving there on December 14th 1911, around five weeks before Scott. Amundsen and his men were the first humans to stand at The South Pole.