LONDON — A British army officer, who was a friend of Prince Harry and William, has collapsed and died from organ failure after walking 913 miles across Antarctica, unaided, to raise money for one of William’s charities.
In an emotional statement, William and Harry said they had “lost a friend” who would remain “a source of inspiration” to them.
Former SAS officer Henry Worsley, 55, whose exploits have raised more than £100,000 for Prince William’s charity the Endeavour Fund, was trying to re-create the journey of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton by traversing the Antarctic on foot, unsupported. His epic trek had already taken him through the South Pole and he had been trekking for over 70 days. He was just 30 miles short of 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 yesterday afternoon.
In a poignant audio message recorded on Friday, announcing the end of the challenge, Worsley said, “I have called for a pick up, and weather depending it will be here today. I will fly around six hours to Union Glacier and the first thing I will do is get a warm cup of tea and have some cake.
“Over the coming days I will keep you updated as I can daily of my movements, and when I gather my thoughts I will post a final message.”
The Duke of Cambridge, who was patron of the expedition, said in a statement: “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.
“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.
“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.”
Worsley was a descendant of Frank Worsley, the captain of Shackleton’s ship the Endurance, and was making the crossing to mark the 100th anniversary of the Endurance expedition, which took place in 1915- 1916. It 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 still stranded, a staggering 22 months later.
Today Worsley’s 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.
“Henry achieved his Shackleton Solo goals: of raising over £100,000 for the Endeavour Fund, to help his wounded colleagues, and so nearly completing the first unsupported crossing of the Antarctic landmass.
“A crossing made, under exceptionally difficult weather conditions, to mark the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition—his lifelong hero.
“On behalf of myself and family, I wish to thank the many hundreds of you who have shown unfailing support to Henry throughout his courageous final challenge and great generosity to the Endeavour Fund. Donations now total over £106,773.”