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Solo explorer dies trying to cross Antarctica

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Monday, January 25, 2016, 11:49 AM - British explorer Henry Worsley is dead after failing to complete an attempt to be the first human to cross Antarctica solo, with his final day coming just 48 kilometres from the end of the almost 1,600-kilometre trek.

Worsley was 71 days into the historic trek before the elements and deteriorating health slowed him, forcing a call for help Friday. He died in hospital Sunday.

"The 71 days alone on the Antarctic with over 900 statute miles (1,450 km) 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's last message from Antarctic read.

He made a radio call for help Friday, amid poor weather, and was picked up by a Twin Otter aircraft. He was airlifted to hospital in Punta Arenas in southern Chile, where he died Sunday. Various reports pointed to the explorer suffering from a bacterial infection in his abdomen, and was dehydrated and exhausted.

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Worsley's epic journey aimed to follow in the intended footsteps of British explorer Ernest Shackleton, whose 1914-1917 attempt to cross the continent ended with him and his crew being stranded in Antarctic ice for more than a year before striking out to get help. 

Aside from being an incredible feat, Worsley's attempt was also done in the name of the Endeavour Fund, a charity which helps wounded soldiers.

Prince William, one of the patrons of the expedition, said the 55-year-old ex-serviceman was always committed to helping fellow soldiers

"He was a man who showed great courage and determination and we are incredibly proud to be associated with him," he said in a statement.

Though Worsley didn't make it across Antarctica, he still managed to raise £107,000 (C$217,000) for the Endeavour Fund, more than the initial goal of £100,000.

The crossing was attempted during the 100th anniversary of Shackleton's attempt, and that explorer's granddaughter, Alexandra, praised Worsley, calling his death a "huge loss to the adventuring world."

"He was very energetic, very keen on testing himself, seeing how far he could get with his endeavours," she told the BBC. "The whole point of this one was that Henry was doing it on his own. I suppose you could say he was doing more and more adventurous and interesting things."

Remote Antarctica is one of the most hostile places on Earth, and the quest to explore it has claimed many lives over the past century.

Most famously, Robert Falcon Scott's 1910-1913 attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole ended in tragedy when his men were first beaten to the pole by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, then died on the journey back to base camp.


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