Granddaughter breaks leg on glacier during bid to retrace Tom Crean mission

The granddaughter of Antarctic explorer Tom Crean has broken her leg on the glacier which bears his name as she sought to recreate his famous trip on the Endurance mission a century ago.

Granddaughter breaks leg on glacier during bid to retrace Tom Crean mission

Aileen Crean-O’Brien, 55, left her Kenmare residence on September 21 and was due to return to the Kerry town on November 1, having retraced her grandfather’s steps.

She embarked on the trip along with her two sons, Cian and Morgan, and partner, Bill Sheppard, but the team accompanying her yesterday posted updates on the official Facebook page, detailing how the Kerrywoman sustained “a shattered knee, and ankle and fractured lower leg”.

Ms Crean-O’Brien undertook the expedition with the team from the Pelagic sailing vessel, and yesterday a crew member posted the “bad news” regarding Aileen’s injuries.

“The first two days are the toughest,” it said, detailing a first-day climb of 568m up to the Trident and camping in night temperature down to -15C. On day two they had to descend about 1,000ft to the Crean Glacier, avoiding a 100ft deep crevasse and lowering themselves and their sledges onto ice ledges cut with axes and shovels. At one point Bill Sheppard tumbled off an ice cliff and used his ice axe to stop his descent, while he and Cian later had to dodge two rock falls.

“On final descent Aileen did a brilliant descent guiding her sledge,” the update said.

“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.”

Morgan D’Arcy, Aileen Crean O’Brien, Cian D’Arcy, and Bill Sheppard training for the Centenary Crean expedition in Kerry.
Morgan D’Arcy, Aileen Crean O’Brien, Cian D’Arcy, and Bill Sheppard training for the Centenary Crean expedition in Kerry.

According to a later update: “Got Aileen to our camp on the Crean Glacier, did basic first aid and worked out how to get her to safety.”

Two members of the expedition team took turns to haul Aileen, on a converted sledge, north of Cornwall Peaks to Fortuna Glacier, before finding a suitable place to camp.

“Aileen was brilliant — not a moan all day,” it said.

“Next morning some snowfall overnight and had to dig the tents out a bit. Then the final descent down to Anchorage Bay in Fortuna Bay, which was a bit hairy at times.”

In what was described as “a decent sea swell” the team managed to transfer Aileen onto the Pelagic, where she was examined by a doctor at Grytviken in South Georgia.

According to the update her leg is now in a splint, but plans to sail to the Falklands are on hold due to the weather.

“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.”

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