Thomas Crean collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of letters by Crean regarding his two later Antarctic expeditions (1910-1913 and 1914-1916) and general correspondence with polar explorers and their families.

Administrative / Biographical History

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 survivorby Michael Smith, Headline, London (2001) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Crean]


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 'Profile, Thomas Crean' by J L Hallock in The Polar Record, (September 1985) volume 22, number 141, p665-678 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.

Related Material

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, some of which covers the expeditions Crean was a member of. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.