Report on Tom Crean
By Lucy Johnson, Laura Wiley and Leona Delaney from Fourth Class.
Today, in school, Aileen Crean O’Brien and her partner Bill, came to speak to us about the legendary Tom Crean and their journey to complete the last treacherous leg of Aileen’s Grandfather Tom’s journey across the peaks and glaciers of South Georgia.
Tom Crean was born in 1877. When he was a 15 years old, he borrowed a suit and some money and joined the Royal British Navy under-age. He was a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica. His first expedition was called ‘The Discovery’ and was led by Robert Falcon Scott (also known as Scott of the Antarctic).
On their second expedition to Terra Nova from 1911-1913, Robert Scott decided that when they were nearly at the South Pole, he would only send four men on with him and sent Tom Crean, Bill Lashly and Taff Evans back to base camp. On his way back, Taff Evans suddenly collapsed as he was weak and had frost bite. Tom Crean bravely chose to carry on back to base camp to get help. Bill Lashly stayed with Evans. Tom only had two biscuits and a bar of chocolate left and no water. He had to climb mountains and go across treacherous frozen lakes for 56 kilometres. He got help and saved the life of Evans which led him to receive the Albert Medal for Lifesaving.
His third expedition was on a three-masted ship called ‘Endurance’ which sank and Tom and the crew spent 492 days drifting on the ice before a journey to Elephant Island. He, then made a 1500km journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia to find help for the stranded party. Tom Crean died in 1938.
Tom Crean’s granddaughter Aileen decided she wanted to follow Tom’s footsteps and try and complete the last treacherous leg of Tom’s journey to South Georgia. In 2016, Aileen, Bill and son’s Morgan and Cian set off on their journey. It took them a year to train which included going to Poland skiing. Bill didn’t know how to ski so he had to learn. They built up their core strength by pulling tyres, hiking up mountains, learning how to use ropes, tie knots, learned how to pull each other out of crevasses and learned about all the gear and how to use it.
Five weeks into their journey, Aileen broke her leg tobogganing down a mountain. She put out her foot to slow herself down and hit a rock. They tied her to a sledge and brought her to the beach. The Navy came and brought her away but she wanted her sons to finish with Bill so they went on and she went to hospital. She gave it her best shot. They are back home now and they have written a book about their journey.
Thank you Aileen and Bill for sharing your story with us today.