The tragic death of explorer Henry Worsley, a friend of Prince William and Prince Harry who died just 30 miles short of completing an epic 900-mile polar trek, has inspired a huge wave of donations for his chosen charity, which supports wounded servicemen.
Over $110,000 (£80,000) has been raised in 24 hours since the former SAS officer’s death was announced. This is on top of the $150,000 that had already been raised before news of the tragedy emerged. The donations are being channeled through William, Kate and Harry’s charitable foundation, and seem set to break the $300,000 mark.
A spokesperson for the Endeavour Fund told The Daily Beast they were unable to make an official statement on the surge of donations without speaking to his family, but the outpouring of support is likely to be a source of considerable solace and comfort for his friends and family.
Many of the donations have been made through the Just Giving page set up to support the ill-fated trek, which aimed to complete a similar journey attempted (and abandoned) by the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton 100 years ago.
The vast majority of gifts are for relatively small amounts—up to $75—from individuals affected by the news of Worsley’s death. Many are accompanied by heartfelt condolences.
“May your achievements inspire others to shine as brightly in the sky as the star you are. RIP,” says one. Another tribute reads: “An inspiration to anyone, like me, who often thinks that sitting at a desk and driving a computer is a tough day at the office. RIP old chap, but well done on all of your achievements.”
The former officer, 55, was trying to re-create the journey of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton by traversing the Antarctic on foot, unsupported. His gruelling trek had already taken him directly through the South Pole and he had been trekking for over 70 days. He was a few days from his goal when he succumbed to an acute bacterial infection.
Unable to leave his tent, he abandoned his mission and summoned emergency assistance. He was airlifted to hospital in Chile, but died Sunday afternoon.
In a poignant last statement sent from Antarctica, Henry said, “I set out on this journey to attempt the first solo unsupported crossing of the Antarctic landmass, a feat of endurance never before achieved.
“But more importantly, to raise support for The Endeavour Fund, to assist wounded soldiers in their rehabilitation. Having been a career soldier for 36 years and recently retired, it has been a way of giving back to those far less fortunate than me.
“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.”
Worsley was a descendant of Frank Worsley, the captain of Shackleton’s ship the Endurance. His attempt marked the 100th anniversary of the Endurance expedition, which took place in 1915 and 1916. That adventure ended in disaster when the ship was crushed in ice, and Shackleton and five others made an 800-mile open boat journey to South Georgia, crossing the island on foot to raise the alarm, before returning to rescue those who were still stranded, a staggering 22 months later.
Worsley had extensive experience in dealing with polar climates. 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.
To commemorate the centenary of Captain Scott and Roald Amundsen’s expeditions, Henry returned to Antarctica in 2011/12, leading a team of six soldiers in a race along the original 1912 routes to be first to the South Pole.
Tributes were led by Prince William, who was patron of the expedition and said both he and Prince Harry were “very sad” at the loss of a friend “who showed great courage and determination … We are incredibly proud to be associated with him.”
General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the British Army and one of Worsley’s closest friends, told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One that the explorer was “very compassionate … a remarkably brave man, a hard man with extraordinary traits of courage and determination and tenacity to try to achieve his goal.”
David Beckham, the soccer legend who met Worsley on a UNICEF visit to Antarctica last year, said: “No words can describe the sadness at the loss of Henry.”
His wife, Joanna Worsley, thanked “the many hundreds of you who have shown unfailing support to Henry through his courageous final challenge and great generosity to the Endeavour Fund”.
Worsley leaves a son, Max, 21, and a daughter, Alicia, 19.