My first RTE Documentary on One; ‘In Tom Crean’s Footsteps’ will be aired on RTE Radio one on Saturday August 5th at 1pm with a repeat on Sunday 6th August at 7pm. It will be available to listen to online from Friday 4th August.
Tom Crean is an Irish hero. In 1916, he was part of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition to the Antarctic and one of the greatest adventure stories ever told. When the Endurance became trapped in pack ice and sank the crew piled into three small lifeboats and sailed to the unihabited Elephant Island. But rescue was 1500 kilomteres away, through some of the world’s roughest oceans and Crean, along with Shackleton and a small crew, somehow navigated a flimsy wooded boat through mountainous waves and freezing temperatures to the island of South Georgia. Exhausted and starving, the men then trekked 48km across sheer peaks and deep crevasses before raising the alarm and rescuing their crew.
One hundred years later their feat is still celebrated as one of the greatest survival stories.
Now, Tom’s granddaughter Aileen, her two sons and her partner will attempt to follow the men’s treacherous journey across South Georgia. Aileen Crean O’Brien grew up listening to the stories of her famous grandfather, Tom. He died before she was born, but her home was full of memorabilia from his expeditions, including his sailor’s ‘diddy box’ which she found as a child in her mother’s bedroom. It contained his Albert and polar medals and Aileen was determined to one day follow in his footsteps.
Aileen, Bill, Morgan and Cian have been training for the expedition for the last two years by dragging tires up and down the Kerry hills. To keep to the same route as Tom Crean on South Georgia they will have to drag heavy sleds called pulks around crevasses; deep cracks in the ice and across glaciers. They will encounter katabatic winds, sheer cliffs and some of the roughest seas in the world.
RTE Documentary On One follows the family from the Tom Crean Fish & Wine Restaurant in Kenmare, Co. Kerry to the Crean glacier, Crean Lake and Shackleton Waterfall of South Georgia.
Can Aileen honour Tom’s memory and complete the six day sea crossing and four day traverse of this isolated island at the bottom of the world?
*** Thanks to Aileen and family for letting me tell their story, Shona McCarthy for telling me about Aileen Crean’s granddaughter in Kenmare and Rob Mulhern from Doc on One for Production Supervision.