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In the footsteps of my Grandfather

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By: Aileen Crean O'Brien | Posted on: 17 Aug 2017

In the Footsteps of My Grandfather Tom Crean – Aileen Crean O’Brien

I finally embarked on a childhood dream in September 2016. My grandfather Tom Crean went on three expeditions to Antarctica. As a child, we were surrounded by his memorabilia. I was fascinated as to why someone would go to such a cold continent once not to mind three times. This made me even more curious and determined to get there someday and get a sense of what he experienced, albeit in a far more comfortable and safe situation. I invited my two sons Cian & Morgan and my partner Bill to join me in reenacting his traverse of South Georgia. After numerous flights we finally boarded the 55’ boat in the Falklands. We sailed 800 nautical miles to South Georgia. Bill called me for the first sighting at 4am, after a blank canvass of sea and waves for 5 days this was spectacular. It was like someone had dropped Switzerland into the ocean. Majestic snowcapped mountains emerged from the sea like giants, this is where my grandfather traversed with Shackleton and Worsley with no map and no one has done it to this day in 36hours. It was very emotional sailing into Grytviken, imagining my grandfather here 100 years ago. The boat gently broke through the iced sea, the stillness and quiet was deafening interrupted only by sounds of the abundant wildlife. Finally, here, nervous, excited, disbelief, curious, yes all of those welled up inside me. A bit like the Endurance expedition mine didn’t go according to plan either. I broke my leg on Crean Glacier, Bill had to do 1st aid, there was nothing in the guides 1st aid kit bar a 1” bandage. We camped out for 2 nights and I was man hauled for 2 days, secured in the rib to bring me to the boat and sail around to Grytviken. The doctor from the Antarctic Research Center called in and fitted a brace for my seriously swollen leg, gave me injections for clotting and exercises to check for withering of the foot. Lucky for me the Royal Navy, captained by Conor O’Neill, took me to the Falklands. After a few days, my insurance was sorted and I was medevacked to Santiago in Chile. I was operated on 15 days after my accident, a metal plate inserted and stapled up. I wrecked my tibia and plateau. I eventually arrived home 1st November and what better place to recuperate than Kenmare.

Kind regards,

Aileen Crean O’Brien


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