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Brian Honeybone (92) is well versed in the story of Tom Crean, one of the great Antarctic explorers.

But seeing the James Cairdboat up close was a powerful display of the enormity of his great-uncle’s heroics.

The lifeboat, which resides in Harbour St’s Adventure Books, is a replica of the one that took Mr Crean and five others, including Ernest Shackleton and Frank Worsley, more than 1500km from Elephant Island to South Georgia on a rescue mission after their ship, Endurance, was crushed in pack ice midway through an attempt to complete the first land crossing of the Antarctic in 1915.

The crew, navigating by the stars, made it to a remote whaling station before returning to help rescue the stranded crew of Endurance

On Monday, Mr Honeybone travelled to Oamaru with his daughter and son-in-law, Dianne and Michael Leathem, to see the replica of the boat in Oamaru.

“It’s amazing to walk in the door and see it right there,” he said.

“You can imagine them getting soaked, just frozen.”

Mr Crean, of Ireland, was one of the foremost Antarctic explorers, taking part in three of the major British expeditions to the Antarctic – more than Robert Scott or Shackleton.

“He did as much in Antarctica as anyone,” Mr Honeybone said of his great-uncle, who left Ireland as a teenager to join the British Navy.

“[On his first expedition] the pay was poor, it was very cold and the likelihood of making it back was not high.

“In those days men were men; they wanted to do more and find out more.”

The reason Tom Crean was not as well known as people like Shackleton and Scott is largely due to his Irish heritage, and the fact that when he returned to Ireland, the political situation meant he did not advertise his career in the British Navy.

Mr Honeybone found out about the replica of the boat after his nephew visited Adventure Books in Oamaru by chance.

Mrs Leathem said it was a good opportunity to see a part of her family’s history so she could pass it on to the next generation.

The replica of James Cairdwas built as a prop for the 2011 movie Shackleton’s Captain

After the movie finished filming, a producer rang Adventure Books owner Bill Nye and asked if he wanted the boat.

Mr Nye said yes and put the boat on display in his bookshop, among New Zealand’s largest collection of books about the Antarctic.