Failed Antarctic Expedition Ends In Tragedy

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British explorer Henry Worsley was just 30 miles from the end of a solo 1,000-mile journey across Antarctica when he succumbed to exhaustion.

Worsley was attempting to retrace the failed expedition of Ernest Shackleton 100 years ago. His family said he died from complete organ failure at a hospital in Chile.

Tim Jarvis, author of "Chasing Shackleton: Re-creating the World's Greatest Journey of Survival," joins Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson with details.

Interview Highlights: Tim Jarvis

It must have been difficult to hear that after going 913 miles in 71 days, he didn’t make it.

“Yes, it is very sad. I knew Henry, he was a wonderful man and always doing things for others. It was an amazing undertaking and an amazing achievement even though it did end in tragedy.”

On Shackleton’s route and his previous expedition on the same path.

“Well, Shackleton’s original goal was to reach Antarctica and go from one side to the other. His ship was crushed by ice and his journey became one to escape Antarctica, first on the ship’s lifeboats and eventually on foot. That’s the journey I recreated, but on a prior occasion I myself attempted to travel on foot from one side of Antarctica to the other."

Why do you, and other explorers, want to take this journey?

“It really depends on what your start point in life is, and I suppose I’m firmly of the opinion that the spirit of adventure drives so much of what we do as humans. That’s about trying to understand a little bit more about who you are and what your place is in this grand scheme of things, and it results in some people pursuing things through the arts, artistic self-expression. For others it might be medical research, and for others it’s climbing mountains and crossing ice caps, just to discover a little bit more about who you are and what your role is in the grand scheme of things.

What kind of conditions do you face on this journey?

“You couldn’t go and do a journey in the Southern Hemisphere winter because the temperatures would be so cold. You could never pull a sled with enough food to keep yourself alive. You have 24-hour darkness for four months out of the year for the winter. Temperatures there would be -50 or -60 degrees Celsius, which is getting along to -100 degrees Fahrenheit, and even in the summer you’re talking about -30 or -40 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s still pretty cold.”

What does it do to your body?

“One of the effects travelling in such cold weather has on you is that it will make your metal fillings contract, and over time they will go loose and ultimately fall out. I lost three fillings and had to do injections into my gums on the run just to keep myself going.”

Why is it so much harder to do it alone?

“I think doing something alone in the Antarctic is so much more difficult because there are no fallbacks. You don’t have anyone else to rely on. If you fall into a crevasse, of which there are many, there’s no one at the end of the rope to pull you out. All the judgements you need to make about the weather, the conditions, about how you're feeling, whether the equipment’s working okay, whether you’re working okay, you have to make on your own and you have to motivate yourself. That is a really big deal in a place as vast as Antarctica.”


This segment aired on January 25, 2016.


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