CIE TOURS - July 14, 2018
July 14, 2018
By Caroline Bartholomew
After an exciting day exploring the Dingle Peninsula by boat, bus and foot, we pulled up to a small, unassuming building called the South Pole Inn in the town of Annascaul. The pub was opened in 1927 by Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, who was born in nearby Gurtacurrane.
Tom Crean was born in 1877 and was one of ten children. He joined the British Navy in 1893 at age 15 after accidentally allowing the family’s cattle to wander into their potato field. Tom and his father then got into an argument, which led Tom to run away and join the Navy. In 1901, Tom volunteered to join the Discovery expedition, which attempted to reach the South Pole but was forced to stop 500 miles short. Between 1910 and 1913, he was invited by Robert Falcon Scott to join the Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica. Although the expedition was unsuccessful and Scott did not survive, Tom was awarded the Albert Medal for bravery.
The prospect of danger, however, did not stop Tom from embarking on another expedition to Antarctica. This time, Sir Ernest Shackleton invited Tom to join his attempt to be the first to walk across Antarctica from coast to coast. This expedition aboard the Endurance lasted between 1914 and 1916. The Endurance sank before they even reached land, and the crew was forced to set up camps on the ice. When ice beneath one of the camps began to break, Tom led the men on a seven-day trip to Elephant Island via lifeboats. Six of the crew, including Tom, then headed to South Georgia Island to get help from a Norwegian whaling station.
Unfortunately, they landed on the uninhabited side of the island and had to complete a grueling hike in unimaginable conditions to reach the whaling station. In August 1916 – three months after arriving at the whaling station – they were finally able to safely return to Elephant Island and rescue the remaining crew members. Despite the extremely harsh conditions, all of the men left on Elephant Island survived and returned home.
Unless you are familiar with these Antarctic expeditions, you might not even know the South Pole Inn is there, but just because it’s not in every guide book doesn’t mean it is any less important, especially to the town of Annascaul. When our group arrived at the South Pole Inn, we were greeted by locals who seemed surprise to see a tour group but they still welcomed us into the little pub. We sipped our Irish coffees and listened to the story of Tom Crean, while marveling at this intriguing history lesson that lies off of the beaten path.