You are currently viewing 256. Tom Crean and His Peterson Pipes in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration

256. Tom Crean and His Peterson Pipes in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration

Tom Crean (1877-1938), known affectionately as “the Irish Giant” by his shipmates, was a member of three expeditions to Antarctica during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1897-1922), distinguishing himself on all three and awarded the Albert Medal for Lifesaving for his solitary 56 kilometer walk across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of Edward Evans.

Crean with an unbanded dublin,
possibly the Peterson 120 B Long,
on the
Endurance Expedition, February 1915

The iconic photograph of Crean seen above shows him with an unmounted dublin, and since the release of a Crean commemorative dublin in K&P’s Great Explorers Collection almost twenty years ago there’s been a growing conviction that he smoked a Peterson. The Crean commemorative seen below is the largest of all the dublin shapes in K&P’s catalog, and among my favorites for being so.

Being Irish and proud of being so, Crean must have smoked Peterson pipes—or so goes the story in my head. In fact, a close examination of the readily available photos of Crean smoking a pipe, it does seem probable that at least two of the pipes he was photographed with on his Antarctic travels were Petes.

Crean (age 25) smoking what may be a Peterson Coronation Cad
aboard the
Discovery, September 1902

Born in County Kerry, Crean was one of eleven children and enlisted in the Royal Navy at 16, where he went through the ranks to able seaman, when he volunteered to serve under Robert Falcon Scott on the Discovery Expedition of 1901-04. Scott’s second-in-command described Crean as having “a fund of wit with an even temper which nothing disturbed.” In the Discovery crew photo he’s seen smoking an incredible short bulldog which looks like nothing so much as K&P’s “Coronation Cad” from the 1906 catalog. This shape has been seen on the estate market a few times and always elicits gasps of awe–certainly a shape that deserves to be reinstated!

K&P’s Coronation Cad (1906 catalog),
the ultimate full-chamber Peterson P-Lip Nosewarmer

 

Crean’s attitude and work ethic was noticed by Scott as well as his peers, so that he was among the first recruited for the Terra Nova expedition of 1910-13. That expedition would see Crean win the Albert Medal and lose his friend and commander Scott, who didn’t survive their attempt to reach the pole. It’s also the first time he’s spotted with what looks like the Peterson 120 Long he’s almost certainly photographed with later on.

Crean (right) from a photo of of the Terra Nova crew, October 1911

In 1912, Crean single-handedly rescued two of his comrades, Lieutenant Evans and Bill Lashley, in an epic journey of 35 miles from the base camp at Cape Armitage on Ross Island to the Evans-Lashley campsite. Crean is seen in the photo below, taken shortly after his return, smoking a large bent billiard. I’d like to say it’s a Pete, but there’s no corresponding period shape I can find in the catalogs. It looks like nothing so much as the Giant discussed a few posts back. Certainly the massive shank is typical of the Peterson house style.

Crean with a large bent billiard, February 1912

The first really good look at Crean’s dublin shape comes in a portrait of him with his close mate Alf Cheetham. This pipe threw me for a long time. Angles in photos can distort a pipe’s shape and make it difficult to determine. The smoke issuing from the bowl doesn’t help matters. But after going through the catalog for the nth time, it struck me that this must be the 1906 120 B Long.

Alf Cheetham and Tom Crean, 1914:
I believe this is the Peterson 120 B Long

The 120 B Long Dublin (1906 catalog)

The most extraordinary event occurred in Crean’s third Antarctic adventure in the Imperial-Trans-Antarctic Expedition aboard the Endurance. After the ship had been stranded then lost in an icepack and the crew trekked overland then sailed to Elephant Island, Crean, Shackleton and Frank Worsley were given the task of effecting a rescue for the remaining 22-man crew by sailing 800 nautical miles in stormy winter seas using a 23 foot long open boat, the James Caird. The voyage began on Easter Monday, 1916, the same day as the Easter Rising against the British back in Ireland. In one of the greatest sailing feats of recorded history, they made it to South Georgia Island on May 10th only to face a 36-hour, 64 kilometer non-stop hike across the mountainous interior of the glacier-covered island to the whaling station.

“Mother” Crean with his pups and the Peterson 120 Long

For all his heroics, which Crean performed with a kind of quiet humility and nonchalance, what most reveals the heart of the man to me was his job as “Mother.” His crewmates gave him the nickname after he was assigned to take care of the sledding dogs. A dog-handler was supposed to have shipped with the crew but at the last minute failed to show, which would have dire consequences later on, as no one understood dog-sledding. Crean, however, took up the care of the ship’s dogs and became “foster father” to a litter of their pups, according to Shackleton, making sure they went out for exercise and training them in the rudiments of sled-pulling. After the Endurance dropped through the ice, the crew was forced to leave behind all inessentials, including the pups. Crean was ordered to shoot them. He felt it was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do, but somehow he did it.

In the photo with the pups, the pipe still looks amazingly large, but I’m thinking it’s the angle it’s being photographed from. It’s certainly the same pipe he was seen with in the portrait with his pal Cheetham.

Elsewhere I’ve remarked that in Frank Hurley’s earlier photographs of Crean, his dublin hds a metal band while in the later photographs the dublin he smokes is unmounted. Keeping in mind that the Endurance and her crew spent 492 days on the ice, the pipe would have become more battered. Eventually it may have lost  its band, either to the sub-zero temperatures or in one of the many instances where Crean and others would appropriate bits and scraps of metal to refit them for survival needs. I believe the pipe seen in the iconic photograph at the top of the post is the identical pipe as the banded dublin, especially since the unbanded pipe photo was taken later on.

South Pole Inn, County Kerry (2019)

The director of the Kerry County Museum in Tralee, not far from Crean’s birthplace, told me the family did not forward any of Crean’s pipes with his other effects and memorabilia which make up the “Tom Crean Room” of museum’s amazing exhibition, which was remodeled and opened anew in February 2020. Some of Crean’s pipes, I’ve heard, were on display for years at the South Pole Inn, the pub Crean opened after retiring from the British navy. The director also said that the one thing the museum doesn’t have is the one thing every visitor wants to see who visits the exhibition: Crean’s pipe.

Tom Crean Room, remodeled in February 2020

At this point, there’s probably no way of documenting whether or not he smoked Peterson pipes, until and unless a fellow Pete-lover comes forward with photographs of the Inn from pre-nanny state Ireland with unmistakable proof of the P-Lips. But that doesn’t really deter me in my belief. Until then, I’ll take a straight dublin over a straight billiard any day of the week—that V-shaped chamber does wonderful things no other pipe chamber can do for my tobacco. You can’t get a more Irish straight pipe than a dublin, and if it’s not a K&P dublin, it’s not really Irish, is it? Sometimes, as we say in Narnia, believing is seeing.

Crean with the 120 B Long after resting up
from his trek to save Evans and Lashley, March 1912

Unlike the universally-acclaimed straight billiard, the straight dublin has always attracted a smaller number of smokers–which is fitting, given that K&P has always appealed to a different sort of pipeman. If you’ve ever companioned a straight Dublin, do let me know how it works, worked or didn’t work for you in the comments section. We’re unlikely to see any new straight dublins in the Peterson catalog until they hear from us.

 

 

PARTING SHOT

One of my favorite artists, Leslie Irwin, dropped by the other day. Looking through some of her recent work, I found this. She had no idea Crean was one of my great heroes! Thanks, Les.

 

 

eBAY’S UK GLOBAL SHIPPING PROGRAM UPDATE:
The Problem and the Solution

Fellow Pete Geek Scott sent me a message this week that everyone should be aware of regarding eBay’s UK Global Shipping Program: “I just had another Peterson meerschaum pipe swiped by GSP (the other five are currently for sale again on ebay – go figure).   Apparently no pipe is safe being shipped from the UK via GSP.” We need to be aware of the problem and how to work around it, so do read the letter from eBay to “Cecil” and the follow-up on how to keep our UK connection vital from Geoff Watson:

Here was eBay’s reply to Scott:

Dear Cecil,

Thank you for taking the time to contact the eBay Global Shipping Programme (GSP) Department. My name is Ailbhe and I am happy to help you today. I’m so sorry we have not been able to deliver ‘K&P Pipe’ (125012324703) you recently purchased through the Global Shipping Programme. Please allow me to explain what has happened as I understand your concern.

After talking to our third party distributor Pitney Bowes, we have been informed that the item could not be delivered because the shipment contained items that were found to be import restricted. Pipes are considered drug paraphernalia under 21 U.S.C. § 863.  While there are many uses for pipes,  we unfortunately cannot confirm what these will be used for.

So what happens next? If an item arrives to our GSP shipping hub and is found to be restricted for shipment, our hub will not proceed with the shipment and will “Liquidate” (i.e. sell – not destroy) the item and issue you with a refund. In situations like this we do not return the item to the seller as we have refunded you from eBay funds and will now liquidate the item to a specialist 3rd party liquidation company to re-coup some of our costs. eBay are not party to the liquidation process.

More information can be found in our UK Global Shipping Programme Terms and Conditions:

http://pages.ebay.co.uk/shipping/globalshipping/seller-tnc.html
http://pages.ebay.co.uk/shipping/globalshipping/buyer-tnc.html

You may also find the following link helpful:
https://sellercentre.ebay.co.uk/postage/global-shipping-programme

I trust I have explained this clearly to you Cecil. Believe me when I say if there was anything more I could do I would certainly do it.

Take care and stay safe.

Kind Regards
Ailbhe
eBay Global Shipping

 

Geoff Watson, an outstanding pipe restorationist who lives in the UK, supplied this very important rejoinder to eBay–do read this if you (like most of us) look to the UK to find our beloved estate Petes:

If I may, I would like to expand on your comments regarding ebay’s GSP. Brits who rely on pipe sales to put food on tables and roofs over heads, have had a dire couple of years resulting from the loss of the EU markets. Whilst I absolutely agree that this information needs to be out there, incidents presented carelessly without proper context will inevitably lead to an internet conspiracy-led conclusion that all pipe sales from the UK are unsafe. That is absolutely not the case.

Every pipe seller in the UK worth their salt (and many who aren’t) knows not to send GSP. I never have, and never will, and I have never lost a pipe sent to the US. I strongly advise that US buyers NOT buy from sellers who use GSP for pipes, but please don’t tar us all with the same brush – just add it to your pre-purchase due diligence (like seller feedback etc.). It is also worth mentioning that buyers receive a refund – sellers lose the lot (ergo, pipe sellers don’t use it).

 

 

 

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Paul Schmolke
Paul Schmolke
2 years ago

What an incredible story about an incredible man. The photos are priceless…old but in great condition. There should be a commemorative for him that we ordinary guys could afford. I’d have one in a flash. As it stands, I have several straight Aran 120’s acquired over time, when I saw one with extra nice wood. They’re good smokers, lightweight, clenchable and sharp looking. Fine article, thanks for making the effort.

James Walsh
James Walsh
2 years ago

The GSP is a travesty and a racket! I know fellow Pete geeks that have lost a number of sweet Petes to this scam. I myself lost a near mint Made in Eire 314 to the GSP. I made multiple attempts at getting the pipe back but to no avail. It’s theft as far as I’m concerned.

Martin
Martin
2 years ago

Wow great story what a heroic figure. Cant see a softened modern guy are capable of such things (my self included). Sad part with the dogs he have to shoot, another thing I cant definitve not do. The Coronation Cad is a great shape I am interested in, when they bring it back I buy one.
Great read on a sunday morning Thaks Mark for sharing.

Martin
Martin
2 years ago

I don´t own a straight Dublin yet but in the near future i love to purchase one.
When my budget and wife allowed it. Still waiting for the POTY.

Erik Millqvist
Erik Millqvist
2 years ago

Hello fellow petes! I just love those old pictures, thanks for sharing them with us!

William Auld
William Auld
2 years ago

Perhaps my favourite photo in the “book” is the one of Crean. I’ve returned to it over and over as it speaks simple courage. Yes, a Kerryman but even more he was from the Dingle peninsula, a world unto its own. May I recommend books about the Blaskets for insights into these hardy, brave people. I’ve been eyeing the 120s for months now with little hope the Crean would be reissued in some form. It would be wonderful if Peterson would surprise us all. Certainly he smoked a Peterson – how could he otherwise? It says it right there on… Read more »

William Auld
William Auld
2 years ago

Mark –

I want to separately thank you for yet another amazing post. They are much appreciated and always a highlight of the week.

Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
2 years ago

Brave, courageous people, with bodies and minds like flint, I imagine, to endure those awful conditions. A pipe would have been a constant companion and strength and, to judge by the photographs, indeed was.
Fine images from the archives, too. A good testament to both the men and their pipes.
Thank you.
S

Geoff Watson
Geoff Watson
2 years ago

Fascinating read again Mark, as always. A wonderful surprise to go with my Sunday morning coffee. If I may, I would like to expand on your comments regarding ebay’s GSP. Brits who rely on pipe sales to put food on tables and roofs over heads, have had a dire couple of years resulting from the loss of the EU markets. Whilst I absolutely agree that this information needs to be out there, incidents presented carelessly without proper context will inevitably lead to an internet conspiracy-led conclusion that all pipe sales from the UK are unsafe. That is absolutely not the… Read more »

Al Jones
Al Jones
2 years ago

That global shipping option is a mess and makes little sense. It’s useless to fight it,I simply limit my offerings to the US only.
Great blog entry – the tale of the Endurance and their crew is one of my favorites. It is odd that no one bothered to set aside any of his pipes.

Marlowe
Marlowe
2 years ago

Hi Mark, Thanks for that great article, one of my favourites as it sparks my own fantasies of exploration and walking the path less travelled. I will spend some time this afternoon researching more about Crean in between mugs of tea and Sunday snoozing! As far as owning a Peterson straight Dublin, the closest I can come to that is an 1/8 bent Shamrock Dublin that I won off eBay a year ago, had refreshed by Charles Lemon but have yet to smoke. I don’t know why I haven’t smoked it as I handle it frequently as it sits in… Read more »

Marlowe
Marlowe
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Hi Mark, I sent an email today, I’ll send a second with a photo. Let me know if you receive it

Stephen Wilson
Stephen Wilson
2 years ago

Hi Mark, Thanks for this article on one of my heroes! When I was young and foolish I joined the Navy and was posted to a ship that traveled in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Several trips to Iceland, Norway, and as far north as Spitzbergen convinced me that I hated being cold. We were even trapped in the ice for three weeks. In a steel ship, with heaters, hot water, and hot food, it was miserable. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for those men with no heat, no food, melting snow for water, in… Read more »

Stephen
Stephen
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Mark, I have lived in SATX for 30 years, enjoying the heat. Imaging our dismay last winter. Never again, I hope!

Douglas Owen
Douglas Owen
2 years ago

Hi Mark, Crean is one of history’s great heroes and of course, very few people could identify him by name. The photographic history of the Endurance expedition in hardback is out of print but the few copies I have seen on ebay are in fairly good shape, the book has numerous pictures of Crean and his shipmates smoking pipes and of course all of the dogs and is a great memento of one of the most amazing escapes from harm in world history. Love that last photo of the banded Dublin. I am always on the lookout for that particular… Read more »

Jack
2 years ago

Thank you for the great article! I’ll need to read up on this as I’ve read brief posts like this one and it always piques my curiosity (i.e., the Trans-Atlantic expeditions.

About the pipe, though, there are several Peterson 120’s at Smokingpipes; am I missing something?

Chris Streeper
Chris Streeper
2 years ago

Fascinating and well written article per usual Mark. I very much enjoyed reading about Crean’s exploits as well as his love of Peterson pipes.

Like many others who have previously commented, I too am very fond of that Coronation Cad nosewarmer bulldog. Certainly a shape that Peterson should give serious consideration to resurrecting, even for a short or limited special run. Laudisi, are you listening?

Alexander Goad
Alexander Goad
2 years ago

Great article , Mark . Like many , I’m fascinated with these stories of hardship and endurance from another age . Whether Scott’s party would have survived had Crean been chosen instead of Taff Evans or Oates is still being argued over today . Seeing the toughness of the man in the photos and the determination in his eyes inclines me to believe they would have made it back . Reading this prompted me to watch again “Scott of the Antarctic” from 1948 starring John Mills . While there’s a fair bit of pipe action , Wilson smokes I think… Read more »

Alexander Goad
Alexander Goad
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

I hope you enjoy the film and find it of some interest , Mark . The pipe smoked by John Mills is similar to this one , recently sold on ebay uk – https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1909-PETERSONS-PATENT-BRIAR-PIPE-STERLING-SILVER-BAND-DUBLIN-1909-/175051595209?mkpid=0&emsid=e11010.m1951.l7533&mkcid=7&ch=osgood&euid=b771c1a2e4514036b834970291a9759c&bu=43089757250&ut=RU&osub=-1%7E1&crd=20211212072104&segname=11010&sojTags=ch%3Dch%2Cbu%3Dbu%2Cut%3Dut%2Cosub%3Dosub%2Ccrd%3Dcrd%2Csegname%3Dsegname%2Cchnl%3Dmkcid&nma=true&si=l5GGfnY%252F7AzPKUS26cDmPeYnMEk%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557 . I was watching but not bidding . I’m sure I’ve seen pictures of Scott smoking a similar pipe . Perhaps there was an attempt at authenticity at least where Scott was concerned , so maybe Scott was a Pete smoker too ! .

Alexander Goad
Alexander Goad
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Re. Petes in the movies , I’d like to think Stan has one of those long-stemmed house pipes in the opening scene of “Blotto” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtCyqTpIczo . At the start of the talkie era , they were using different actresses for Spanish and French versions while Stan and Ollie read their lines from cards , astonishing really ! .

Alexander Goad
Alexander Goad
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

that’s interesting Mark , a new name for me . Looks like they had some version of a P-lip too ? . L&H are the best for me , they’ve given me so much fun over the years .

Chris Tarman
Chris Tarman
1 year ago

Tom,

On this hot (90° F), windy afternoon, I’ve loaded up the 2001 House with some Orlik Golden Sliced while I knock out the last chapter of a biography of Ernest Shackleton. A flake seemed appropriate. It would be more appropriate if I had a Peterson Tom Crean, and if it was about 100° colder. Can you guess which of those two things I’d prefer to have?