On Sunday, January 24, British polar explorer, Henry Worsley died in hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile. He had been attempting to cross Antarctica on foot, unassisted and unsupported. He had travelled 913 miles since November 13, 2015 and was 30 miles short of his destination. The Friday Poem this week is ‘Return from Antarctica’, by Irish poet, Ailbhe Ni Ghearbhuigh.
On Friday, January 22, Henry Worsley called Antarctic Logistics and Explorations to request a rescue.
“When my hero, Ernest Shackleton, stood 97 miles from the South Pole on the morning of Jan. 9, 1909, he said he’d shot his bolt,” the British adventurer Henry Worsley said in the message. “Well, today, I have to inform you with some sadness that I, too, have shot my bolt.”
“My journey is at an end,” Mr. Worsley said. “I have run out of time, physical endurance and a simple sheer inability to slide one ski in front of the other to travel the distance required to reach my goal.”
A news release posted on shackletonsolo.org on Monday reported his death from peritonitis.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm Henry Worsley died on the 24th January 2016 in hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Henry undertook his solo expedition in the spirit of his idol Sir Ernest Shackleton and was delighted to have exceeded his goal of raising a £100,000 for the Endeavour Fund, a charity founded to help the recovery of injured servicemen and women. He was fulfilling his dream of crossing the Antarctic continent, and after having walked 913 statute miles unsupported and unassisted, battling extreme weather conditions, he made the brave decision, in Shackleton’s words, to “shoot the bolt”, 30 miles short of his ultimate goal.”
The photo above was taken by the explorer on Day 11, ‘Duvet Day’, “tent bound at 9,400 feet”.
The Friday Poem is for the adventurer in all of us, and in memory of the courage of Henry Worsley.
Filleadh ón Antartach (Return from Antarctica)
He can still hear it:
the glaciers rasping,
their ratcheting in the distance,
And still he remembers
gulping unsullied freshness
to clarify his lungs,
the holy coldness blessing his skin.
He gave his heart
to that stinging brightness,
that taciturn redoubt,
that uncluttered country.
But no choice except a return
to dampness and home.
He had to turn
his back on blankness.
On so many nights
his wife asks him tentatively
to abandon the kitchen
and join her upstairs.
He loves the irregular loneliness
of each tap-drip
and it’s music to him
the refrigerator’s drone:
slow in the recital,
grinding sighs that call out
to his being’s every melting element.
Ailbhe Ni Ghearbhuigh
Translated from the Irish by Billy Ramsell, Poetry Magazine, September 2015