Henry Worsley, the 55-year-old former British Army lieutenant colonel who was attempting the first unsupported solo crossing of Antarctica, died in Punta Arenas, Chile, yesterday after being evacuated by plane. Inspired by the polar adventurers of Ernest Shackleton, Worsley used his journey to raise more than $142,000 for servicemen and women in the U.K. He called for rescue just 30 miles short of his goal, after traveling more than 900 statute miles on skis.
Last week, Worsley announced, “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,” meaning that he’d given as much effort as he possibly could. “Well, today I have to inform you with some sadness that I too have shot my bolt. I will lick my wounds, they will heal over time, and I will come to terms with the disappointment.”
Exhaustion and dehydration were the reasons that Worsley was evacuated by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions, but when he arrived at Clinica Magallanes in Chile he was found to have bacterial peritonitis. He underwent surgery, but succumbed to organ failure.
Prince William, who supported Worsley expedition to honor Shackleton, said in a statement, “Harry and I are very sad to hear of the loss of Henry Worsley. He was a man who showed great courage and determination and we are incredibly proud to be associated with him. Even after retiring from the Army, Henry continued to show selfless commitment to his fellow servicemen and women, by undertaking this extraordinary Shackleton solo expedition on their behalf. We have lost a friend, but he will remain a source of inspiration to us all, especially those who will benefit from his support to the Endeavour Fund.”
Shackleton was long a hero to Worsley. In 2008-09, he led an expedition to commemorate the centenary of Shackleton’s 1907/09 “Nimrod” journey, which pioneered a route through the Transantarctic Mountains via the Beardmore Glacier to a point just 97 miles short of the South Pole. The centenary journey – comprised of descendants of the original party – retraced the original route, arriving at Shackleton’s Furthest South exactly 100 years to the day, before completing the journey to the Pole.
To commemorate the centenary of Captain Scott’s and Roald Amundsen’s expeditions, Worsley returned to Antarctica 2011/12, leading a team of six soldiers in a race along the original 1912 routes to be first to the South Pole. He led the Amundsen route from the Bay of Whales, up the Axel Heiberg Glacier to the South Pole. In so doing, he became the only person to have completed the two classic routes of Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen to the South Pole.