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Explorer Dies Just Short Of Goal: Crossing The Antarctic Unaided

He traveled more than 900 miles across the Antarctic, attempting a solo trek that would also boost a British charity that aids wounded veterans. But explorer Henry Worsley was halted by exhaustion and dehydration that turned out to be fatal.

Worsley, 55, had been attempting to complete the first-ever solo and unassisted crossing of the Antarctic landmass, timing the venture to coincide with the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1915 attempt.

But when treacherous conditions and deteriorating health confined Worsley to his tent at more than 9,000 feet, he was forced to abandon the attempt, calling for an airlift. After spending 70 days alone in some of the harshest conditions our planet has to offer, he was taken to a hospital in Chile, where he was diagnosed with bacterial peritonitis. Today, his family announced his death.

A Twitter feed that had been updating his progress shows Worsley had in recent days been facing whiteout conditions and soft snow — a "hellish surface" that made it hard to ski (and pull a small sleigh).

Worsley had been filing audio postcards from each day of his journey. In one of the last, he announced, "My journey is at an end. I have run out of time and physical endurance — and the simple, sheer inability to slide one ski in front of the other to travel the distance required to reach my goal."

"I spent 70 days all alone in a place I love," he said, adding that the generosity of those who supported his charity efforts would help him cope with his disappointment of stopping short.

Upon his return to civilization, Worsley said, "The first thing I'll do: get a hot cup of tea, perhaps with cake."

A married father of two, Worsley had previously completed two other Antarctic treks: one in 2008-09, and another in 2011-12. Those trips commemorated South Pole expeditions by Shackleton, Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen.

The Endeavour Fund, the charity Worsley was affiliated with, passes along a statement from Worsley's wife, Joanna:

"It is with heartbroken sadness I let you know that my husband Henry Worsley has died following complete organ failure; despite all efforts of ALE and medical staff at the Clinica Magallanes in Punta Arenas, Chile.

"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."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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