South Pole Explorer Dies in Record Attempt

Henry Worsley had embarked on several Antarctic expeditions; Photograph by Henry Worsley
Former Army officer Henry Worsley, 55, from Fulham, London, who was on the brink of making Antarctic history with a solo, unsupported crossing died on Sunday; Photograph by Henry Worsley

The British ex-army officer was evacuated 30 miles short of his goal.

Henry Worsley, a 55-year-old British ex-army officer and veteran polar explorer, has died in his attempt to become the first person in history to cross the Antarctic continent solo, unsupported, and unaided. Worsley was attempting to complete the route proposed by Ernest Shackleton during the ill-fated Endurance expedition, which celebrates its centennial this year. He had been on the ice alone for 71 days, covering 913 miles, and was suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and severe stomach pains when he called for a rescue only 30 miles from his destination on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf.

Just before departing on the journey in November, Worsley spoke to National Geographic about the challenges he would face. “I know I’m going to suffer for the first few weeks, and I know I’m going to have bad days,” he said. “But I’m generally a cup-half-full man, so I’ll grit my teeth and get on with it.”

Former Army officer Henry Worsley, 55, from Fulham, London, who was on the brink of making Antarctic history with a solo, unsupported crossing died on Sunday; Photograph by Henry Worsley
Henry Worsley had embarked on several Antarctic expeditions; Photograph by Henry Worsley

On Friday, in his last dispatch from Antarctica, Worsley declared: “…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.” Shortly after he called to be evacuated, he was airlifted by staff at Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions to their base on the Union Glacier and then on to Clinica Magallanes in Punta Arenas, Chile, where he died from organ failure on Sunday. It is reported that Worsley had been suffering from peritonitis, an infection of the tissue lining the abdomen.

Worsley’s expedition had raised more than $142,000 for a charity called the Endeavor Fund, which supports the recovery of wounded, injured, and sick British servicemen and women. Prince William, a patron of the Endeavor Fund, wrote in a recently released statement: “We have lost a friend, but he will remain a source of inspiration to us all.”

Doug Stoup, a prolific American polar explorer who has been on 38 expeditions to Antarctica, including 15 trips to the South Pole, had been closely following Worsley’s journey when he heard the tragic news. “He was one of the last great explorers of our generation and a truly humble human being,” Stoup said by telephone from Charlottesville, Virginia. “You might think it’s more dangerous to undertake a journey like this alone, but for a guy like Henry it’s actually safer to go solo. He was a professional and was so experienced that he would have ended up guiding anyone he would taken along. ”

“Rarely do we set the high bar one notch above what we think we can clear, and that’s what’s driving me on here.” —Henry Worsley

When asked why he wanted to undertake such a dangerous trip alone, Worsley replied, “On my previous trips I was always part of a team, and so this time I wanted to have the clarity of making all my own decisions. I’ve always sort of lived by the phrase, “Try something you could fail at. We all do things that we can comfortably achieve, but rarely do we set the high bar one notch above what we think we can clear, and that’s what’s driving me on here.”

Comments

  1. Tanja Jaeger
    Canada
    January 25, 10:37 pm

    Sad that he couldn’t reach his goal, but he died doing what his heart desired. My thoughts are with his family and friends. What an awesome journey

  2. Nike Adegoke
    Lagos,Nigeria
    January 25, 10:49 pm

    A Great Inspiration To Humanity!

  3. Regina Lease
    indiana
    January 25, 11:17 pm

    I am so broken hearted. What an adventure of a lifetime this great man accomplished. God rest his soul.

  4. Karen
    Overland Park, Kansas
    January 25, 11:30 pm

    So very sad for his journey to end so close to his destination. I just became aware of Officer Worsely through Twitter. I have nothing to nor care to do anything near what he lost his life doing. Im sure he knew his time was near. I hope that his 900 plus miles was documented and clearly available so all may see his heroic 71 days through is journals. I’m sure National Geographic will learn so much from Officer Worsley and have a wonderful documentary to follow! That is a great picture to remember him by. Thank you for opening my eyes to something unknown in my adventures.

  5. Amit rana
    India
    January 26, 4:32 am

    Rip to the brave explorer..

  6. […] sad news: the explorer who was trying to cross Antarctica solo and unsupported has […]

  7. Gloria
    England
    January 26, 1:13 pm

    Brave, inspirational adventurer at peaceful rest with his hero adventurers…. the world is a far more interesting place because they were once here xx

  8. Julia
    Miami, Fl
    January 26, 1:22 pm

    A true inspiration!

  9. Jorge Narváez
    Guayas, Ecuador
    January 26, 2:07 pm

    Tristeza? un poco, pero murió haciendo lo que amaba. Espero tener la misma suerte. RIP.

  10. Lisa Murray
    Charlottesville, Va
    January 26, 2:09 pm

    Amazing Man! I don’t know how you braved it that far. What a Hero!

  11. LAMan
    January 26, 3:04 pm

    He was the exact type of man who built the Empire upon which the sun never set. Maligned and considered passé now, due to its obvious and much-ballyhooed shortcomings, that Empire was actually a boon to the development of world civilization. Yes, its time is past, but the world is better for having had it.

  12. aynur
    Istanbul Turkey
    January 26, 3:16 pm

    Brave men live and die bravely…Life means them what they add to it..Which colour ,which perspective,which harmony,they bring to world extensionally..

  13. Vika 5 « Axel
    January 26, 4:38 pm

    […] Maður dó á suður pólnum(ensku) […]

  14. Zakariye
    Somalia
    January 26, 5:21 pm

    You have been living one notch above the rest.

  15. Lance Osborne
    Santa Barbara, California. USA
    January 26, 7:46 pm

    Selfish prick.
    You should have done something to benefit Animalkind or Humankind instead. Instead, you let your ego take over.

  16. Ron Howell
    Florida, USA
    January 26, 8:01 pm

    I believe he found what he was looking for in those 913 miles. Short of a landmark, but not his goal. Rest peacefully, explorer…

  17. Rhonda Ann Godwin
    Regina SK
    January 26, 8:03 pm

    What happened? His last words did not indicate that he felt his life was in mortal danger and any guy who could do what he did would have known. How long ’til the rescue team reached him, etc? Sounds odd to some of us. For sure he would have accomplished his goal on his next attempt. Someone will pay the piper, hey? Please give more info in another article. Thanks.

  18. Kory
    Seattle
    January 26, 9:38 pm

    Bravery: when you do something you know is dangerous but you’re not afraid.
    Courage: when you do something dangerous, know you should be afraid, yet you drive on anyways.

    This man showed courage in the face of the brutality of mother nature. Did the extraordinary and gave his life doing what he loved to do. One should be so lucky to leave this world like that .

  19. Nicholas Matheson
    Washington Dc
    January 26, 10:03 pm

    I’m heartbroken. I worked with henry in the embassy here. he was a quiet, understated man, and if you didnt know, you might overlook the steel within. This was bad luck, not poor planning, and I am really sorry that a decent, brave man has died and my thoughts are with Mrs Worsley and their family

  20. Chad
    USA
    January 26, 10:04 pm

    It annoys me when people who risk nothing scoff at those who risk everything. It is the spirit of adventure and risk that has given us the world in which we live. I applaud Worsley for his valiant attempt. Brave and Passionate. Two adjectives that describe very few people today.

  21. […] South Pole Explorer Dies in Record Attempt […]

  22. Akhilesh
    India
    January 27, 3:05 am

    Respect and my deepest condolence.
    RIP Henry

  23. Yunaidi Joepoet
    Indonesia
    January 27, 5:47 am

    Rest in Peace Henry Worsley.

  24. Krishanu
    Kolkata, India
    January 27, 6:58 am

    An inspiration for any traveller, any explorer! A death that is cherished… RIP!

  25. Atta ur Rahman
    Pakistan
    January 27, 9:50 am

    RIp

  26. […] South Pole Explorer-Inspiration […]

  27. Jilin Wen
    January 27, 1:58 pm

    Show my respect, even though I have taken a long enough journey all by myself, but never came across the difficulties that he meet.

  28. Max
    Uk
    January 27, 4:16 pm

    Would lance Armstrong check his facts that this trip raised money for a good cause …. He lost his life to raise money. Selfish ? I assume Lance achieved more ? A good person has been lost

  29. Coen
    South Africa
    January 27, 4:34 pm

    Well done to Henry Worsley and to all who assisted in his preparations. Sincere condolences to his loved ones. Would like to hear/read more about his life and motivation.

  30. Milla
    Canada
    January 27, 6:33 pm

    It is a good death when a man dies doing what he loves

  31. John
    Hawaii
    January 27, 9:33 pm

    This is very sad that this happened… I am inspired by this.

  32. […] Read more on NationalGeographic.com […]

  33. Don Boh
    Westmont IL.
    January 28, 9:49 am

    My wife and I camped overnight on Danco Island last year and enjoyed the experience. I can only imagine the difficulty of spending +70 days in the extreme environment that is Antarctica. He has my admiration.

  34. Jake Brewer
    London, UK
    January 28, 2:24 pm

    Lance Osborne: So, what have you done for animal and human kind, then?

  35. Steven Soh
    England
    January 28, 10:25 pm

    George Mallory, Sandy Irvine of the Everest, Falcon Scott and his team and now Henry Worsley are all Englanders and they are all heroes of our Earth but sadly they all perished for the sake of exploration and I do hope that all of them could rest in peace. We should all remember them and their achievements.

  36. Illicia
    United States
    May 22, 10:25 am

    There is nothing heroic about putting others in positions of danger. The rescue could have been just as perilous for the first responders as Worsley’s stunt was for him. Like those who climb Everest, this is another example of people doing selfish, self-aggrandizing acts and putting other human beings in harm’s way, all in order to make themselves appear as some sort of earthly deity, worthy of hero worship, like most posters on those on this board are doing, worshiping the acts of a dead Englishman.