Antarctic adventurer dies mere kilometres from end of solo trek
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, January 25, 2016 6:59AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 25, 2016 12:32PM EST
British adventurer Henry Worsley died on Sunday, mere kilometres from completing a solo, unsupported trek across the Antarctic landmass.
Worsley was 71 days into his journey when, exhausted and suffering from dehydration, he made an emergency call for help.
In a final dispatch from Antarctica, Worsley announced his decision to end the journey on Friday.
"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," he wrote.
The adventurer was airlifted off the ice on Friday, and transported to hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile, where he underwent surgery for bacterial peritonitis, an infection of the tissue lining the abdomen.
One day after the procedure, however, his family released a statement saying that he had suffered "complete organ failure" and died.
Worsley's website announced the death on Monday, with the message "It is with great sadness that we confirm that Henry Worsley died on the 24th of January, 2016."
Worsley made headlines earlier in the year when he launched a daring expedition across the Antarctic landmass.
The British army veteran hoped to be the first person to make the entire crossing alone and unsupported, without the aid of dogs, a kite or human companionship.
In a November interview with CTVNews.ca, mere days into his trip, Worsley was optimistic about his trek.
"I'm just keen to experience this place and a journey of this length without relying on other people, without having to share decisions," Worsley said in a satellite phone call from the Ronne Ice Shelf on Nov. 16.
In the interview, Worsley detailed his plans to traverse the continent.
He'd meticulously packed his 150-kilogram sledge, and plotted each leg of his planned 70-day, 1,600-kilometre journey.
The trip was his third visit to Antarctica, and the seasoned adventurer understood the challenges he'd face.
He described the struggle of slogging through snow softened by 24-hour-a-day sunlight, the blinding white of the icy landscape and fierce winds that would occasionally kick up the snow.
At the time of his November call, Worsley said the weight of his sledge and the heat of the Antarctic summer were making conditions difficult.
"It's always a bit of an ordeal to start with because the sledge is at its heaviest," he said. "It doesn't like being pulled over tiny little ridges and rises."
Still, he said his greatest trials were yet to come.
"The biggest challenge is just keeping going," he said.
Dubbed the Shackleton Solo, Worsley's journey was both a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's attempt to cross the continent, and a fundraiser for wounded veterans.
Worsley said he was inspired by the famed explorer's determination and style of leadership.
"I joined the army at 19 and his style of leadership struck me as being very appropriate for a young officer joining the army," Worsley said. "The welfare of his men was of utmost importance to him."
Worsley aimed to follow in Shackleton's footsteps, both in his Antarctic adventure and in caring for his fellow veterans.
"That is of real importance. I want to give something back and leave a financial legacy for my wounded mates," Worsley said in November.
Though he never completed the final 48 kilometres of his journey, Worsley's wife, Joanna, said the expedition raised more than $202,500 for wounded troops.
On Monday, Kensington Palace shared a message from Prince William, who was a patron of the expedition and a friend of Worsley's.
"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," the prince's message read.
"He will remain a source of inspiration to us all."
With files from The Associated Press