Remembering Patrick Keohane and the Terra Nova Expedition

PatrickKeohane

Posted on: 8th February, 2016

Category: The History Corner

Contributor: Patrick J. Mahoney

Patrick J. Mahoney studied cultural history at NUI Galway's Centre for Irish Studies, and now teaches in the department of history at Sacred Heart University, Connecticut. He is interested in the study of emigrant narratives, and the Irish historical experience as it relates to those in the United States and Britain. This column will highlight the stories of significant people and places with West Cork connections, throughout the world.

Last month, the Royal Navy ship ‘HMS Protector’ made its first official visit to East Antarctic, during which it became the first Navy vessel to sail below 77 degrees latitude since before the Second World War. While taking a break from their mission of inspecting fisheries in the area, the 88-member crew trekked across the snowy and icy terrain to visit ‘Scott’s Hut’, a small building located on the north shore of Cape Evans. Drawing its name from Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the hut once served as the ill-fated explorer’s headquarters before his fatal expedition to the South Pole in 1912. Despite the comforts of modern technology, the crew of the 5,000 tonne ice patrol vessel was still in awe of the unforgiving environment in which Scott and four of his companions had met their demise. WO Jimmy Stuart, the ‘Protector’s’ deputy marine engineering officer, noted after making a visit to the nearby Antarctic research station, “This was my first station visit and it was fascinating to see how the team supported themselves in such an inhospitable environment…While it was a bright sunny day when we visited, we have become all too aware of how quickly the weather can turn nasty down here.” Amongst the 65 men, selected from over 8,000 applicants to join Captain Scott on the infamous Terra Nova Expedition was 30-year old Patrick ‘Patsy’ Keohane, a native of Courtmacsherry.

Born near the site of the longstanding lifeboat station at Barry’s Point, it is perhaps apt that three years before his father would rush to rescue survivors of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, as the commander of the local lifeboat crew, the younger Keohane found himself as part of the infamous arctic relief effort, tirelessly attempting to locate Captain Scott and the other members of the ‘polar party’.

The story of Scott’s quest to be the first to reach the South Pole began in September 1911, when the famed English explorer announced a daring plan in which 16 men, including Keohane, were to trek across the polar plateau. The proposal outlined that along the route the men would be divided into three small groups, with only that which was to be led by Scott travelling the full distance to the pole. Luckily for Keohane, he was selected to return to base with the first of the parties to do so. Such is not to say that Scott wasn’t impressed with Keohane’s ability to physically and mentally handle the harsh environment of the plateau. Reflecting on one instance in which he, Keohane, and two other members of the exploratory party had been confined to their tent for four days during a severe storm, Scott made note of the Corkman’s unique sense of humor. With snow rapidly falling outside of their tent, Keohane was purported to have suggested that when the storm had ceased and the snow begun to melt, they might be better off turning the tent upside down and using it as a boat. Besides his ability to make light of what was undoubtedly a challenging situation, Scott also recalled Keohane’s drive and determination while manhauling through the treacherous terrain. Ultimately, the physical exhaustion endured by Keohane and the three other crewmembers tasked with pulling the sledges through the thick ice and snow to altitudes of up to 8,000 feet was what influenced Scott’s decision to send them back to camp, thus sparing their lives.

After sending another contingent back to base in early January, Scott and his remaining crewmembers, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates, and Edgar Evans, pressed on to their desired destination. Upon reaching the South Pole on January 17, 1912, any excitement they might have had was curtailed by the realisation that they had been beaten there by Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer who had reached the locale some 35 days before and left a flag, remnants of a camp, and a letter to be found by his competitors. Conveying his disappointment in his diary, Scott noted, “The worst has happened…Great God! This is an awful place.”

With dour spirits, the polar party began the 800-mile return journey back to Cape Evans. A series of communicative errors, bad weather, and deteriorating health sealed the crew’s fate in early March. Following a failed search and rescue effort led by Keohane, another search party, which again included the Courtmacsherry native, set off to find the final whereabouts of their colleagues and leader. Scott’s final camp was found on November 12, 1912. Before the crew’s final departure aboard the Terra Nova in January 1913, the men erected a large wooden cross in memory of those lost. Inscribed below the names of their deceased friends was a line from Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’, which epitomised the nature of the men, their journey, and their place within historical memory: ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’

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Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
by Dr John Borgonovo in The Parish Centre, Clonakilty
on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats brought the United States into WWI and created a crisis in Britain. To defeat the submarine menace, an American naval fleet was dispatched to County Cork, bringing about 10,000 sailors with it. This talk will explain the circumstances of this extraordinary event, and how Cork residents dealt with their unexpected American guests.

Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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11th October, 2017  ·  

Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

Building on the success of its inaugural 2016 event, local voluntary environmental organisation Sustainable Clonakilty invites people to bring along their apples and press them to extract their own juice to take home, using the group's Apple Press.

Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

This is a free community event and donations will be welcome to cover costs.

For further information, please contact Xavier at xavierdubuisson@gmail.com or text at 086/0476124.
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