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Ireland's Forgotten Antarctic Explorer to be Honoured in Cork
Have you ever heard the story of Patrick Keohane, the Antarctic explorer from Cork? Few have – but this weekend, a statue of the little-known pioneer will be unveiled in his home town of Courtmacsherry.
Keohane joined the Royal Navy in Cobh (then called Queenstown) and, after 15 years of service, was chosen as part of the crew for Robert Falcon Scott's expedition to the South Pole – one of 65 crew from a pool of 8000 applicants.
The expedition is most well-known for the tragic death on the return journey of the party who reached the South Pole – after being beaten to it by a Norwegian expedition by mere days.
The expedition's living hut at Cape Evans. Image: Kuno Lechner
Keohane was part of the 12-man group which travelled toward the South Pole, but was not selected for the the fatal final leg and was sent back to camp in December 1911. The following March, he travelled with teammate Edward Atkinson to search for the four-man party whose fate was unknown; returning empty-handed.
It was only after spending the winter on the continent that Keohane and the search team found the frozen remains of Scott's party on 12 November, 1912 – almost two years after arriving in Antarctica.
Keohane later joined the Coastguard service, in which he served at many stations around Ireland and in the UK. He passed away in 1950 aged 71. In 1997, Mount Keohane, Antarctica, was named in memory of the Cork explorer.
The Patrick Keohane Memorial Project have been running events locally since 15 July – including a photographic exhibition and lecture – building up to the statue's unveiling on Sunday.
The statue was made by well-known Irish sculptor Don Cronin.
Patrick Keohane's achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by those of Tom Crean, the explorer from Kerry who was part of three expeditions to Antartica. Crean returned to Kerry and opened the South Pole Inn, which still stands today near the post office in Annascaul. It's hoped that the new memorial will draw attention to his history and achievements.
"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," the members of the project say on their website.