Famous climber backs bid for polar memorabilia

AN Irish group has issued an urgent appeal for donations to help it bid for memorabilia associated with one of the great pioneers of polar exploration.

The Irish Explorers Trust, a group based in Dingle, Co Kerry, said it wants to bid for three key artifacts belonging to Patrick Keohane at the auction in Christie’s of London on Wednesday and bring them back to the country.

Internationally renowned mountaineer Joe Simpson said it is vital Ireland secures such items. “Private contributions, little and large, are essential for our efforts to secure the memorabilia of the great Irish polar explorers,” he said.

The trust was established to help ensure Irish explorers’ memorabilia is held in Irish possession and exhibited here. It has already amassed a significant collection of artifacts linked to other famous Antarctic explorers, including Ernest Shackleton’s ration bag and holly sprig. Though they are relatively small items, they are considered hugely important item in terms of polar history.

Now the group has set its sights on items associated with Petty Officer Keohane – a Courtmacsherry, Co Cork-born member of Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition of the Antarctic from 1910-1913.

Keohane was among a small group which found the frozen bodies of Scott’s team on November 12, 1912. After his return to Wales in 1913, he joined the Coast Guard service and served as the district officer for the Isle of Man. He also served in the Royal Navy in WWII. He died in Plymouth in 1950, aged 71.

The trust has already secured his sledding suit, sledding harness and a number of personal effects, including a cruet set from the Terra Nova, invitations to events, and Keohane’s handwritten diary.

On Wednesday, Mike O’Shea said he hopes to bid by phone for Keohane’s perfectly preserved chart which maps his journey between 1911 and 1912, a model he made of a loaded Antarctic sled, and his sledding flag.

Kerry County Museum curator Helen O’Carroll, said the flags were a very public means of expressing an explorers’ nationality.

Neither of the original flags owned by Irish polar explorer Tom Crean, nor Robert Forde, survive. Ms O’Carroll said Keohane’s surviving flag is “an important reminder of the contribution Irishmen made to Antarctic exploration”.

* Donations can be made at www.irishexplorerstrust.ie or on its Facebook page.

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