Henry Worsley (explorer)

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Henry Worsley
Worsley smiling in front of a montage of battleships
Worsley in July 2010
Alastair Edward Henry Worsley

(1960-10-04)4 October 1960
Belsize Park, London, England
Died24 January 2016(2016-01-24) (aged 55)
Joanna Stainton
(m. 1993)
Parent(s)General Sir Richard Worsley
Sarah Anne Mitchell
Military career
Nickname(s)"Curly Wurly"[1]
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service1980–2015
RankLieutenant Colonel
Service number509600
Commands held2nd Royal Green Jackets

Lieutenant Colonel Alastair Edward Henry Worsley, OBE (4 October 1960 – 24 January 2016) was a British explorer and British Army officer. He was part of the successful 2009 expedition that retraced Ernest Shackleton's footsteps in the Antarctic.

Worsley died in 2016 while attempting to complete the first solo and unaided crossing of the Antarctic. Attempting to be the first person to cross Antarctica on foot, unassisted and unsupported, he crossed more than 900 miles (1450 km) and was forced, by exhaustion and ill health, to call for help 126 miles (200 km) from his journey's intended end.[2] Rescued and flown to a hospital in Punta Arenas, in the Patagonia region of southern Chile, he was given a diagnosis of peritonitis, and died. He was 55.

Early life and education[edit]

Henry Worsley was born on 4 October 1960 at the Garrett Anderson Maternity Home in Belsize Grove, London.[3][4][5] He was the only son of General Sir Richard Worsley GCB OBE (1923–2013) and his first wife, Sarah Anne "Sally", eldest daughter of Brigadier J. A. H. Mitchell, of the British Embassy, Paris.[6][7] It has been stated that he was related to Frank Worsley, the captain of explorer Ernest Shackleton's ship, the Endurance.[8] From childhood he had a strong interest in the Antarctic explorers of the early twentieth century.[9]

Worsley was educated at Selwyn House, an independent prep school, and at Stowe School, then an all-boys independent senior school in Stowe, Buckinghamshire. A keen sportsman, he captained the school cricket and rugby teams while at Stowe. He did not attend university, and entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst after completing school to train as an army officer.[1]

Military career[edit]

Worsley was a soldier in the British Army for 36 years. He served with the Royal Green Jackets and later The Rifles.[9] In 1988, he passed the Special Air Service (SAS) selection course and served in 22 SAS Regiment.[1] He was Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets from 2000 to 2002,[1][7] and commanded the 2001 British military operation in Afghanistan, known as "Operation Veritas".[10] He also served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo.[9] His final tour before retirement was as a Special Operations Officer based in the Pentagon, liaising on behalf of the British Army with United States special operations forces.[1]

On 12 April 1980, Worsley was commissioned in the Royal Green Jackets, as a second lieutenant.[11] He was promoted to lieutenant on 12 April 1982,[12] to captain on 12 October 1986,[13] to major on 30 September 1992 (having attended Staff College),[14] and to lieutenant colonel on 30 June 2000.[15] He retired from the army on 4 October 2015.[9][16]

On 12 October 1993, Worsley was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) "in recognition of distinguished service in Northern Ireland".[17] On 19 April 2002, he was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the former Yugoslavia during the period 1 April 2001 to 30 September 2001".[18]

Antarctic expeditions[edit]

In 2008, he led an expedition to pioneer a route through the Transantarctic Mountains, reaching a point 98 miles (157 km) from the South Pole. The expedition commemorated the centenary of Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition. He returned to the Antarctic in 2011, leading a team of six in retracing Roald Amundsen's successful 870-mile (1,400 km) journey in 1912 to the South Pole, marking its centenary. In completing the route, he became the first person to have successfully undertaken the routes taken by Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott and Amundsen.[9]

Final expedition[edit]

Worsley's intention was to follow in the spirit of his hero, Shackleton, and before starting the trip raised over £100,000 for the Endeavour Fund, set up to assist injured servicemen and women.[19] The patron of the expedition was Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.[20] In contrast to the 1997 solo crossing by Børge Ousland, Worsley travelled without a kite to help pull his 150-kilogram (330 lb) sledge.[9][21]

Worsley arrived at his starting point, Berkner Island, on 13 November 2015 with the aim of completing his journey in 80 days.[21][22] He covered 913 miles (1,469 km) in 69 days, and had only 30 miles (48 km) to go. However, he had to spend days 70 and 71 in his tent suffering from exhaustion and severe dehydration.[23] Eventually he radioed for help and was airlifted to Punta Arenas, Chile. He was diagnosed with bacterial peritonitis. On 24 January 2016, he died of organ failure following surgery at the Clínica Magallanes in Punta Arenas.[9][23] He was 55 years old.[23] Worsley was posthumously awarded the Polar Medal for his exploration of the Antarctic.[24][2]

Personal life[edit]

Worsley lived in Fulham, London. On 20 February 1993, he married Joanna, the daughter of Andrew Stainton, at St Mary's Church, Chilham, Canterbury, Kent.[25] Together, they had two children; a son, Max, and daughter, Alicia.[1][23]

In December 2017, his widow and two children visited South Georgia Island to inter his ashes in a place that he loved and near his lifelong idol, Sir Ernest Shackleton.[2]


  • Worsley, Henry (2011). In Shackleton's Footsteps: A Return to the Heart of the Antarctic. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 978-1905264933.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Henry Worsley". The Times. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2016. (Subscription required.)
  2. ^ a b c Grann, David (19 February 2018). "The White Darkness". The New Yorker.
  3. ^ The Times 5 October 1960, p.1
  4. ^ "WORSLEY, Alastair Edward Henry". Who Was Who. Oxford University Press. (Subscription required.)
  5. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  6. ^ The Times 7 May 1959, p.14
  7. ^ a b "General Sir Richard Worsley". The Daily Telegraph. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Henry Worsley's Shackleton Solo Challenge waved off by Prince William". Western Morning News. 19 October 2015. Archived from the original on 20 October 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Explorer Henry Worsley dies in Antarctic crossing". BBC. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  10. ^ Yuill, Robert (29 October 2014). "Henry Worsley". The Rifles Museum. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  11. ^ "No. 48229". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 June 1980. p. 9006.
  12. ^ "No. 48964". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 April 1982. p. 5655.
  13. ^ "No. 50690". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 October 1986. p. 13569.
  14. ^ "No. 53068". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 October 1992. pp. 16672–16673.
  15. ^ "No. 55901". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 July 2000. p. 7244.
  16. ^ "No. 61469". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 January 2016. p. 456.
  17. ^ "No. 53453". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 October 1993. p. 16387.
  18. ^ "No. 56541". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 April 2002. p. 4811.
  19. ^ "Tragic end to Shackleton Solo Expedition". Endeavour Fund. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  20. ^ "Henry Worsley meets the Duke of Cambridge ahead of Polar Adventure". Endeavour Fund. 19 October 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  21. ^ a b Nordqvist, Christian (17 November 2015). "British explorer Henry Worsley starts unassisted Antarctic solo crossing". Market Business News. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  22. ^ "Henry Worsley". Shackleton Solo. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d Weaver, Matthew (25 January 2016). "Explorer Henry Worsley dies during Antarctic record attempt". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Honours and Awards". The London Gazette. 20 January 2017. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  25. ^ The Times 22 February 1993, p.18

Further reading[edit]

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