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Discovery Expedition – Tom Crean enters the record books

On 11th November 1902, while serving on the Discovery Expedition, Tom Crean, part of a depot-laying group under the command of Lieutenant Michael Barne achieved the prized record  of reaching ‘farthest south.” The sledging team passed the 78°50’S latitude previously reached by the Norwegian explorer, Carsten Borchgrevink, on 16th February 1900.

However, it was a short-lived achievement because, just over a month later, his Captain, (Robert F. Scott), Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson extended the record to 82°11’S.

Discovery returned to England in September 1904 and as well as enjoying a brief spell as a record breaker, Tom Crean had established himself as a valued member on his first expedition to Antarctica.

Crean returned to duty at the shore-based navy barracks HMS Pembroke at Chatham, during which time he was rewarded with the rating Petty Officer 1st Class on 10th September 1904, thanks to the recommendation of Scott.
His upgrade in naval status was notable as being the most significant upgrade of the returning crew members and was a reflection of his growing reputation as a highly valued member of the expedition.

Upon his return, the navy that Crean had joined some eleven years earlier was undergoing wholesale change under the stewardship of Admiral John Fisher. Fisher’s reforms were considered revolutionary for the period as he quickly set about modernising the navy and its ‘Man O’ Wars’ (battleships). HMS Dreadnought would set the standard in terms of speed and strength and, after its completion in1906, a whole suite of new ships in her class became known as the ‘Dreadnoughts.’ These heavily armoured giants, and those built by other nations in response, would meet at the cost of thousands of lives in the First World War eight years later. It is hard to imagine a man whose reputation would be that of saving lives having to serve out a career doing the polar opposite.

To learn more about Tom Crean’s time on the Discovery Expedition check out this blog post I wrote for the Royal Society

To read Tom Crean’s full biography the book can be purchased at the following link.

Biography of Tom Crean – Crean – The Extraordinary Life of an Irish Hero

Discovery Expedition - Tom Crean enters the record books Tom Crean Book

Discovery Expedition - Tom Crean enters the record books Tom Crean Book