An Unsung Hero by Michael Smith tells the life story of a young County Kerry man, Tom Crean, and his extraordinary adventures in Antarctica. He was an early conqueror of that vast land and lived to tell about it. How he survived and even seemed to flourish in such a place is the focus of this book. I read this book in front of a raging fire or wrapped in quilts in my bed. I was freezing as I read this book and it wasn’t that cold outside. I’m a wimp compared to this man. These adventures happened before WW I and the third and most impressive of trips to the frozen land was during the battles of WW I. They were not equipped for their ordeal with proper clothing as we are today. He was the first to go where he went and do the things he did. Studying Antarctica is so commonplace today because of his exploits. He did this to survive and to assist scientists and explorers, and eventually save those men around him, a rare trait in a man today. He was selfless and humble.
Crean joined the British Navy at sixteen in 1893 to escape the harrowing life as a farmer in his County Clair. The life he was about to begin made his farmer future in Ireland seem an idyllic life. It was the calm and the songs he learned on that farm saved him and many others on his three heroic trips to the frozen continent, which has honored him by having his name affixed to a couple of landmarks down there.
I’ve camped all my life. I’ve done solos as a hiker, in a canoe, and now in my Scamp trailer. I pride myself on being a survivalist of sorts and have often surprised myself about myself when I have been alone in nature or with others. Story of Tom Cream I was amazed at skills and his fortitude. Considering his equipment and the times, I was constantly in awe considering the improvement in equipment we now have that has allowed more of us to be like Crean and his comrades. I know I would have had a hard time surviving in his realm. I’m sure I would have, but I don’t want to test that theory. This is a most inspiring story of an unsung hero with a happy ending, unlike Krakauer’s Into the Wild.