British Explorer Henry Worsley was a descendant of the man who captained Sir Ernest Shackleton’s doomed ship, the Endurance, during his trek across Antarctica. As a child, Worsley worshiped Edwardian explorers like Shackleton — his hero — Captain Robert Scott, and Roald Amundsen.
And on Sunday, after trying to retrace his hero’s steps across Antarctica by himself, Henry died in a Chilean hospital of “complete organ failure,” his wife, Joanna, told the BBC.
Henry was only 30 miles shy of his goal and had passed the South Pole, covering 913 all alone, the Independent noted. If Worsley had completed his journey, the 55-year-old would’ve become the first person to cross the continent solo.
Worsley’s 1,100-mile coast-to-coast journey began in November. Henry pulled a sledge containing all of his food, tent, and supplies for the 75-day trek. The idea was to cross Antarctica without any assistance or supply drops, and this element of his journey made it unique: a Norwegian named Borge Ousland completed the trek in 1997, but used a kite to drag his sledge. And in 2012, British explorer Felicity Aston crossed Antarctica on her own, becoming the first woman to do so, but had supply drops.
Henry’s trek was being undertaken not just to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps, but also to raise money for the Endeavor Fund, which is managed by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. The charity helps wounded soldiers, and by the time Worsley hit the 71-day mark on his journey, he’d raised more than $140,000.
The explorer kept an online journal of his trip, with pictures and captions to detail his historic trek and keep up his spirits, the New York Times added. Henry reported being hungry, bad weather, and loneliness. On the day he finally threw in the towel, he expressed his disappointment that he wasn’t physically capable of finishing his hero’s expedition.
“The 71 days alone on the Antarctic with over 900 statute miles covered and a gradual grinding down of my physical endurance finally took its toll today, and it is with sadness that I report it is journey’s end — so close to my goal.”
In his last audio message broadcast from Antarctica on Friday, Worsley told his supporters something very similar: “My summit is just out of reach. When my hero, Ernest Shackleton, was 97 miles from the South Pole on the morning of January the 9th 1909, he said he’d shot his bolt. Well today I have to inform you with some sadness that I too have shot my bolt.”
Henry said he had to end his journey because he could no longer “slide one ski in front of the other. I will lick my wounds, they will heal over time and I will come to terms with the disappointment.”
According to the group that was supporting Worsley across Antarctica, ReMark, the explorer called for rescue and was picked up on Saturday. His rescuers found Henry dehydrated and exhausted.
Worsley was flown to a hospital in Chile, where doctors discovered he had bacterial peritonitis, which is an inflammation of the layer of tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen, BBC explained. This condition often results from an injury or infection elsewhere in the body.
Doctors proceeded to perform surgery, but Henry died despite their efforts.
Henry Worsley was a lieutenant colonel in the British Army, and retired last year. A native of south London, he is survived by his wife and two grown children. Both Prince William and Prince Harry have promised support to his kids Max, 21, and Alicia, 19.
Worsley had made the trip across Antarctica before, leading two expeditions to honor Shackleton’s exploration of the continent. That famous explorer crossed Antarctica in 1914 and his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in the ice for 10 months before sinking. His granddaughter, Alexandra, called Worsley’s death a “huge loss to the adventuring world.”
“The whole point of this one was that Henry was doing it on his own. I suppose you could say he was doing more and more adventurous and interesting things.”
[Photo by antantarctic/Shutterstock]