The granddaughter of Irish explorer Tom Crean has broken her leg in an attempt to recreate one of his most famous exploits.
Aileen Crean O’Brien, 55, was attempting the expedition alongside her partner Bill Sheppard and her two sons Cian, 27 and Morgan, 24.
The group had set out to mark the 100-year-anniversary of one of Crean’s best-known feats – the 48km crossing of the sub-Antartic island of South Georgia.
An update posted yesterday to the group’s Facebook page - South Georgia Centenary Traverse 1916-2016 with Tom Crean's Family – said Ms Crean O’Brien had shattered her knee on the final descent into the Glacier named for her ancestor.
“Second day had to descend about 1,000 feet to the Crean Glacier. First crevasse about 100 feet deep with a 2 meter snow bridge,” said the post.
“Got three quarters of the way down and Bill tumbled off an ice cliff fell about 20 feet into snow and managed to get his ice axe in to stop his descent.
“Last belay point Cian and Bill had to dodge two rock falls that whizzed past. On final descent Aileen did a brilliant descent guiding her sledge.
“At the end of the rope she was told to use the sledge like a toboggan for the final run in. By the time I got to her she was sitting on her sledge with a bloody face, a shattered knee, possible fractured lower leg... and a broken heart.”
A later post told of how the crew had successfully delivered Ms Crean O’Brien back to camp and provided her with basic first aid and “worked out how to get her to safety.”
The update said the stricken Ms O’Brien Crean had been “brilliant” with “not a moan all day” and said the crew was eventually able to get her back to expedition’s boat The Pelegiac.
According to the update her leg is now in a splint with plans to sail to the Falklands on hold due to high winds.
“Priority is to stabilize Aileen prior to the sail back to the Falklands, Skipper Alec thinks it could be a ‘tea and toast run.’
“There's a gale sweeping down at the moment so we need to let it pass. Looks like we start out on Monday. Keep us in your prayers. Team Tom Crean.”
The South Georgia Crossing
Tom Crean originally made the crossing alongside Ernest Shackleton and four other crew members when the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition met with disaster.
The main expedition was an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antartic; however when the ship The Endeavour was crushed in pack ice, the small group put to sea in a lifeboat to seek help – leaving the rest of the crew camped out on the inhospitable and uninhabited, Elephant Island.
The navigation of the small boat 1,500km across towering seas to South Georgia is regarded as one of the greatest-ever feats of navigation with the subsequent crossing of the island’s unmapped mountains held in equally high esteem by mountaineers around the world.
Crean, Shackleton and a further crew man, Tom Worsley trekked 48km across the mountainous island to reach the nearest whaling station from where they were able to mount a rescue of their crew members on Elephant Island and bring them home without any loss of life.