Editor's Blog

Explorer Henry Worsley Dies While Attempting Solo Trek Across Antarctica

January 25, 2016 | by Josh L Davis

Photo credit: Worsley was attempting to break the record of the first man to cross Antarctica unaided. John Stillwell / PA

After trekking for 71 days unaided across the Antarctic in an attempt to be the first man to cross the southern continent solo, explorer Henry Worsley has sadly died after suffering from exhaustion and dehydration. He was just 48 kilometers (30 miles) short of completing the trek, and managing to complete what Sir Ernest Shackleton failed to do 100 years earlier. The ex-army officer was attempting the expedition to raise money for the Endeavour Fund, a charity that helps wounded servicemen and women.

His wife, Joanna, said in a statement: “It is with heartbroken sadness I let you know that my husband Henry Worsley has died following complete organ failure; despite all efforts of [Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions] and medical staff at the Clinica Magallanes in Punta Arenas, Chile.”

Worsley, 55, had set out on the trek on November 14 of last year, and had covered an astonishing 1,469 kilometers (913 miles), passing by the South Pole on January 4. But for the last couple of days, he was confined to his tent with severe exhaustion and dehydration. He eventually decided to make the call, and was air-lifted off the ice and to a hospital in Punta Arenas. It was here that he underwent surgery after it was discovered that he had bacterial peritonitis. Despite the operation, and all efforts to save him, he succumbed to the infection.

Prince William (left) was a good friend of Worsley (right) and patron of the expedition. John Stillwell / PA 

Peritonitis is the infection and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen, known as the peritoneum. The condition requires immediate medical intervention: If left untreated, the infection can rapidly spread around the body, and eventually lead to septic shock. Symptoms include sudden abdominal pain, lack of appetite, and feeling sick.

Prince William, patron of the expedition and a good friend of Worsley, released a statement expressing his sadness. “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.

“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. We will now make sure that his family receive the support they need at this terribly difficult time.”

Raising money to help injured members of the armed forces, Worsley had surpassed his goal of £100,000 ($142,000), with donations now exceeding just over £106,773 ($151,000). He was attempting to complete what his hero Sir Ernest Shackleton failed to do in 1915, when Shackleton’s ship the Endurance was trapped and sunk by pack ice, trapping the explorers and leaving them stranded. 

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