Thomas Crean was born in Ireland in 1877. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1893 and was serving in New Zealand when he volunteered to join the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott) as an Able Seaman. On his return to the Navy, he became a Petty Officer and was subsequently selected to join the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott) as an expert sledger and pony handler. As a member of the final support party, he accompanied Scott's polar party as far as the Beardmore Glacier. On the return journey with Lieutenant Edward R.G.R Evans and William Lashly, he walked the last 35 miles alone with very few rations to summon help for Evans who was dangerously ill. For his role in rescuing Evans, Crean received the Albert medal for bravery and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer.
After returning to Britain, Crean was selected as second officer of the Endurance for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition,[Weddell Sea Party] 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton). After the Endurance was crushed in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea, the company escaped in boats to Elephant Island. Crean was a member of the party of six selected by Shackleton to make the epic journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia to seek help from the Stromness whaling station.
After the expedition, Crean served in the First World War, retiring from the Navy in 1920. His remaining years were spent in Ireland where he ran a pub named the South Polar Inn. He died on 27 July 1938.
Published works, Biography, An unsung hero - Tom Crean, Antarctic survivor by Michael Smith, Headline, London (2001) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Crean]
From the guide to the Thomas Crean collection, 1905 - 1920, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)