Born in 1879 at Barry’s Point, Courtmacsherry in the Parish of Barryroe, Co. Cork, Patrick Keohane was educated at Butlerstown National School. His father, Timothy, was a fisherman and was Coxswain of the Lifeboat. So sea-faring was in Patrick’s blood and in 1895, at 16 years of age, he enlisted in the Royal Navy at Queenstown (now Cobh) Co. Cork.
He attained the rank of Petty Officer First Class in 1907 and on the 7th May 1910 he was chosen as a member of the team for Captain Scott’s Expedition to the South Pole. They sailed in the expedition ship “Terra Nova”, from London on the 1st June 1910 with Mortimer McCarthy of Kinsale as helmsman and reached Antarctica in January 1911. Here they built their base camp, later known as ‘Scott’s Hut’, atCape Evans. From here they would begin their hazardous 1,800 mile (2,400km), journey to the South Pole and back.
Courtesy: M Smith
This hut, with some of the original supplies and equipment perfectly preserved within, was discovered intact, under snow, in recent years by a team of scientists from Australia.
Patrick Keohane with fellow Corkmen, Robert Forde of Kilmurry, the brothers Mortimer and Tim McCarthy of Kinsale and Kerryman, Tom Crean of Annascaul, brought strength, endurance and practical skills in rope and leatherwork, dog and pony husbandry to Scott’s expedition. These hardy sailors, through grit and determination, overcame the psychological and physical challenges and the horrific weathers conditions they faced in the world’s most inhospitable environment….the Antarctic. Here the world’s most powerful wind, the ‘Antarctic Katabatic,’ is to be found. Beginning as a breeze, it builds up across the vast white continent and whips down to the sea, shaping land and ice, influencing all life and spawning weather that affects the whole planet. Here too the greatest threat to life is the cold, extreme weather with temperatures sinking as low as -70 degrees C.
Often these men amazed the scientists on the expedition with their all-round mastery of the art of survival.
Scott relied on motor-sleds, Siberian ponies and dogs to reach the South Pole. The motor-sleds quickly broke down, the ponies struggled in deep snow, the dogs were sent back to the ship after a month. The men now had to don harness and pull the sledges laden with 800 lbs (360kg) kilos of supplies. Each sled was hauled by four men. This meant that each man was hauling more than his own body weight. It is difficult to comprehend what man-hauling is like in Antarctic conditions. Lt. Henry “Birdie” Bowers recalled how it took fifteen desperate jerks on the harness to actually get the sledge moving at all, effectively crushing your insides to the backbone. This was due to the heavy-laden sledges constantly sinking in the snow.
During the January 1911 food depot laying trips, Oates had urged Scott to press the weakest ponies southward to the Pole and to shoot them when exhausted to provide food. Scott refused and one depot was 30 miles (50km) short of where Oates intended it to have been. This was to have fatal consequences for Scott on his return from the Pole. Unfortunately, Robert Forde, having been badly frostbitten during the setting up of food depots on the route had to retire prematurely.
In late October 1911 Keohane was one of the 16 men chosen to leave Cape Evans for the attempt to reach the South Pole.
Courtesy: M Smith
On December 20th 1911 at an altitude of 8,000 feet, Scott’s four-man hauling parties established the upper glacier depot near the top ofBeardmore Glacier which is 120 miles (190km) long and 2 miles (3.2km) high. At this altitude above sea-level the air is thinner and hauling the sledges had the men gasping for breath.
On 21st December 1911, 350 miles (560 km) from the Pole, Keohane, Atkinson, Wright and Sherry-Garrard, on the instruction of Scott, set out to return to base at Cape Evans. They had to endure a treacherous 600 mile (960 km) slog back to base camp and arrived at ‘Scott’s Hut’ on 28th January 1912 after a round trip of 1,164 miles (1,860 km). On the journey back, Keohane fell down crevasses to the full length of his harness eight times in twenty-five minutes.
On January 4th 1912, when 150 miles (240 km) from the South Pole, Crean, Lashley and Lt.Teddy Evans turned for home. Scott had poached their fourth man, Bowers, for the final push to the South Pole.
On his way to Antarctica Scott had learned of a rival Polar Expedition by Roald Amunsden of Norway but he was optimistic that his team was in the lead having found no trace of the Norwegian. Then, at 5pm. on January 16th 1912, Lt. Bowers spotted a speck ahead of him in the vast whiteness. It was a flag. Raold Amundsen, using well trained and well-managed dogs, had reached ‘the South Pole over a month before them on December 14th 1911.
He wrote in his diary:
”It is a terrible disappointment. Many bitter thoughts come. Tomorrow we must march on the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day-dreams must go. It will be a wearisome return.”
Despondent, cold, exhausted, and increasingly hungry from inadequate rations they began the long journey back to the ship. When Scott and his three other companions were trapped in their tent in a blizzard, Oates, almost crippled with frostbite, left the tent, famously saying, “I’m going outside and may be some time”. He was never seen again.
The remaining men slowly starved and froze to death only 11 miles from the food depot which Oates had wanted built 30 miles further south when the food-laying depots were being positioned in January the previous year.
Courtesy: M Smith
On the 29th October 1912 Keohane was one of the eleven-man team who set out from Cape Evans to search for Scott and his companions.
On the 12th November 1912 they found the tent, with the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers inside.
On the 26th January 1913 they left Antarctica aboard the ‘Terra Nova’ and the world learned of the tragic fate of Scott and his companions.
Patrick Keohane returned to Ireland in 1914 to marry Bridget, Mary, Ivy O’Driscoll, eldest daughter of Michael O’Driscoll, Officer in Charge, Coastguard Station Courtmacsherry.
They had one daughter, born on 12th March 1915, whom they named Sheila ‘Nova’ after the ship.
From 1914 to1917 he helped to train new recruits at Devonport Naval Base in England. He retired from the Royal Navy on 30th May 1920 and joined the Coastguard Service in June 1920.
He was stationed at Omeath, Clogherhead, Dundalk, Dun Laoighre and Cushendal (Co. Antrim) before being transferred to the U.K in March 1923 where he served at numerous stations including Portsoy (Scotland), Coverack on the Lizard Penninsula and Looe (Cornwall).
He transferred to the Isle of Man in 1934 as District Officer of Ramsey Coastguard. He retired from the Coastguard Service in 1941.
He then signed up to be an instructor at ‘Valkyrie’, the secret Radar and Telegraphy Training School in Douglas on the Isle of Man. He remained there throughout World War 2 until his return to Plymouth in 1945.
He died at Plymouth on August 31st 1950 at the age of 71 years. In his funeral oration, his companion from the Expedition, Cherry-Garrard, said of Patrick Keohane:
“He always wanted to see the other side of the hill - and he saw’.
In 1997 his achievements were internationally recognised when a mountain in Antarctica was named Mount Keohane in his honour.
Scott’s Diaries reveal a personal fondness and deep respect for Keohane, and in the many books written about Scott’s Antarctic expedition, Patrick Keohane figures in every one of them.
He is the last Polar hero of that expedition not to have a monument to his memory in his country of birth and we are confident that the Patrick Keohane Memorial Project to honour him in his own parish of Barryroe, Co. Cork will prove a worthy tribute to one of the greatest of Ireland’s explorers and will receive your generous support.
Other Biographical Details:
Following biographical info is from the SPRI site:
Full Name: Patrick Keohane
Patrick Keohane was born on 25 March 1880 in Coolbawn on the Seven Heads Peninsula, near Courtmacsherry, in County Cork, Ireland. His father was the Coxswain of the old Courtmacsherry lifeboat based at Barry Point near Lislee. He enlisted in the Royal Navy as a 'boy 3rd class' on 6 June 1895, at the age of fifteen. At the time he is described as being 5ft 1in in height with fair hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He served on a variety of ships, reaching the rank of Petty Officer 1st class in December 1907, and from March 1910 serving under Lieutenant Teddy Evans on HMS Repulse. When Evans was appointed Second-in-Command of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910–13 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), he selected Keohane, then aged 30, for Terra Nova. Keohane was a member of the second supporting group to the South Pole party, composed of Edward L. Atkinson, Charles S. Wright, and Apsley Cherry-Garrard. During the journey they were held up in a storm, and Scott recorded in his diary, 'Keohane's rhyme ': "The snow is melting and everything is afloat, If this goes on much longer we shall have to turn the tent upside down - and use it as a boat." Keohane was one of the party selected by Scott to return to base, at 85 15’ S on 22 December 1911.
On their journey back to Cape Evans, Keohane fell down crevasses to the full length of his harness eight times in twenty-five minutes. According to Cherry-Garrard, Keohane ‘looked a bit dazed’ after that ordeal. They successfully reached Hut Point on 26 January 1912.
On 27 March 1912, Keohane, along with Atkinson, attempted to find Scott and his polar party and bring them back to Cape Evans from the One Ton supply depot. Starting at Hut Point, the party only made it to a point eight miles south of Corner Camp. There they left a week’s provisions and returned to Cape Evans on 1 April. Keohane remained at Cape Evans for a second winter, and was a member of the search party, led by Edward Atkinson, that found and buried the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers in November 1912.
Following the expedition, Keohane returned to Vivid on 22 September 1913, where he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. During the First World War, he served on HMS Impregnable, from 1 January 1914 until 20 July 1917. On 21 April 1914, he married Miss Ivy O'Driscoll, eldest daughter of the Officer in charge of the Coastguard Station at Courtmacsherry, and they had one daughter, Sheila Nova, born on 12 March 1915. Chief Petty Officer Keohane continued to serve in the Navy until 18 January 1918. On retiring from the Navy, he joined the Coastguard Service and worked at various stations around the coast of Ireland and later Kent and Cornwall, finishing up as District Officer of Coastguards on the Isle of Man. He retired at the age of 60, but re-enlisted in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He died on 30 August 1950 at the age of 71, at his home in Birchfield Park, Plymouth. He is commemorated by Mount Keohane, 77 36 S, 162 59 E.