The Endurance of one man's legacy: New research vessel to be named after explorer Tom Crean

Written on 02/03/2021
Ciarán Mather

A new vessel named after the Irish Antarctic explorer Tom Crean is set to be constructed for the Marine Institute based in County Galway.

It has also been reported that funding for the project has been provided by the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The vessel, titled the RV Tom Crean, will cost around €25 million to make and will replace the Institute's Celtic Voyager research vessel.

It will be constructed in Vigo, Spain and will be designed by a Norwegian construction company.

Project manager at the Marine Institute, Aodhán Fitzgerald said about the planned vessel: 'It will bring a whole new level of marine science to the nation.' 

'It's a bigger and more capable vessel than the smaller Celtic Voyager that it's replacing, so it will be able to handle bigger seas and operate year-round off the west coast.'

'This vessel will be able to accommodate more scientists as well as newer and more specialised equipment and technology.'

Tom Crean is a well-renowned seaman and explorer from County Kerry in the early 20th Century.

He was a member of one of three expeditions during the Heroic Age of Antarctica Exploration, most notably the Terra Nova Exploration from 1911 to 1913.

Crean's third and final Antarctic venture was as second officer on Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, where after the Endurance ship he was on sank, he and the ship's company spent a total of 492 days drifting on the ice before undertaking a journey in the ship's lifeboats to Elephant Island. 

He and his crew made a small-boat journey of 800 nautical miles (1,500 km) from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island to seek aid for the stranded party.

Sadly, Crean died at the age of 61 at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork from an infection following an operation on his appendix.

The RV Tom Crean is expected to be around 52.8 metres (just over 173 feet) long and will be based in Galway, where it will undertake duties such as servicing the Irish weather buoy network and will provide training for third-level students of marine science and other related studies.

The Marine Institute hopes to have the vessel fully-fitted and operational by summer 2022.