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Tom Crean’s journey to the Americas

On the 19th December 1894, 17-year-old Tom Crean, fresh out of a rigorous and strict training regime, walked up the gangway of HMS Wild Swan for his first seagoing assignment. Now classified as a Boy 1st Class, his journey would be a long one that took him to the Americas on the other side of the world. At a time long before the Panama Canal allowed ships a quicker passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, he would have to suffer the fear of travelling around the notoriously difficult Cape Horn.

The ship to which Tom Crean had been assigned had raised concerns among the naval establishment and journalists as to its suitability for service on what was considered among the most vital of the Royal Navy’s squadrons.

Tom Crean's journey to the Americas Tom Crean Book
The former British Navy Base at Valparaiso in Chile.

In March 1895 Crean would be transferred to the ship HMS Royal Arthur after Wild Swan had reached the port of Valparaiso in Chile. This was the same port that his fellow Irishman Edward Bransfield had set out from over 170 years earlier in what would lead to him being the discoverer of Antarctica.

Tom Crean’s period of service in the Americas would be a time he would witness and partake in a number of events and missions that would make him regret his decision to join the Navy.



However, the needs of his family back home in Ireland, outweighed his feelings at a time when evictions were rife and when families relied upon the income of their sons and daughters to help keep a roof above their heads.