Who was Henry Worsley and what went wrong?

British fundraiser dies of organ failure in Chilean hospital after unaided attempt to cross Antarctic

Henry Worsley
Henry Worsley with the Duke of Cambridge last year, a month before he set off for the Antarctic
(Image credit: John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images)

British explorer Henry Worsley has died at the age of 57, after falling just short in his attempt to become the first person to cross the Antarctic unaided from sea to sea.

Tributes have been paid by the Duke of Cambridge, his brother Prince Harry, adventurer Bear Grylls, TV presenter Ben Fogle and footballer David Beckham, according to the BBC. So who was Henry Worsley – and what went wrong?

What was Worsley trying to do?

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The former Army officer was attempting to complete Sir Ernest Shackleton's unfinished journey to the South Pole from the Weddell Sea, which would have made him the first person to cross the Antarctic continent unaided, with no supply drops and no dogs. He was raising money for the Endeavour Fund, a charity run by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

How was he travelling?

He was moving on cross-country skis, towing a sledge carrying his tent and all the supplies he needed, in temperatures as low as -44C. Completely alone, he was attempting to travel 1,110 miles across the frozen continent in around 80 days.

What went wrong?

Last week, Worsley called for rescuers after spending two days unable to leave his tent. In his own words, he had "run out of time, physical endurance and simple sheer ability to slide one ski in front of the other". After walking 71 days, he was more than 50lbs lighter and had lost a front tooth after biting on a frozen energy bar. He was picked up and flown the six hours to Union Glacier Camp before being taken to hospital in Punta Arenas in Chile, suffering from exhaustion and extreme dehydration.

How far did he have left to go?

When he called in support, he had covered some 913 miles, with 30 more to go.

What was the cause of death?

Worsley's widow Joanna said in a statement today that her husband died "following complete organ failure". He had been suffering from bacterial peritonitis, an infection of the lining of the stomach.

What was the link to Shackleton?

Worsley was a descendant of Frank Worsley, Shackleton's skipper on the Endurance, says the Daily Mail. Shackleton's 1916 attempt to cross Antarctica from sea to sea via the pole, an unheard-of feat, ended before it had really begun when the ship became stuck in ice. The crew escaped. Joanna Worsley said Shackleton was her husband's lifelong hero.

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