DISCOVERY EXPEDITION 1901-1904
In February 1900,
Tom Crean was posted to the torpedo vessel Ringarooma, which was part of the Royal Navy's New Zealand Squadron. In December 1901, the Ringarooma was ordered to assist Robert Falcon Scott's ship Discovery when it was docked at Lyttelton Harbour prior to departure to Antarctica. When an able seaman of Scott's ship deserted after striking a petty officer, a replacement was required; Tom Crean volunteered, and was accepted.
Sailed for the Antarctic on 21 December 1901, and seven weeks later, on 8 February 1902, arrived in McMurdo Sound, where she anchored at a spot which was later designated "Hut Point". Here the men established the base from which they would launch scientific and exploratory sledging journeys. Tom Crean proved to be one of the most efficient man-haulers in the party; over the expedition as a whole, only seven of the 48-member party logged more time in harness than Tom Crean's 149 days. Tom Crean had a good sense of humour and was well liked by his companions. Scott's second-in-command, Albert Armitage, wrote in his book Two Years in the Antarctic that "Crean was an Irishman with a fund of wit and an even temper which nothing disturbed."
Accompanied Lieutenant Michael Barne on three sledging trips across the Ross Ice Shelf, then known as the "Great Ice Barrier". These included the 12-man party led by Barne which set out on 30 October 1902 to lay depots in support of the main southern journey undertaken by Scott, Shackleton and Edward Wilson. On 11 November the Barne party passed the previous furthest south mark, a record which they held briefly until the southern party itself passed it on its way to an eventual 82°17'S.
The Antarctic winter
The Antarctic winter of 1902 Discovery became locked in the ice. Efforts to free her during the summer of 1902–03 failed, and although some of the expedition's members (including Ernest Shackleton) returned in a relief ship, Tom Crean and the majority of the party remained in the Antarctic until the ship was finally freed in February 1904. After returning to regular naval duty, Tom Crean was promoted to petty officer, first class, on Scott's recommendation.