Farewell to Henry Worsley

Ice Tracks has lost one of its closest friends. Henry Worsley was someone we were so very proud to be associated with. We had the honour of him joining us as an expedition guide and historian on our Shackleton Centenary Voyage in 2014. 

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Antarctica and Polar expeditions will always be associated with Henry but we would like to portray the other Henry. One that will sum him up  as a true renaissance man. 

On meeting him first impressions was someone quite aloof, rather regimental, unarguably a soldier who spoke the Queen’s English. Certainly someone who stood back and observed before rushing in. Yet, it wasn’t long before his warmth shone through and some wise crack made you burst out laughing. 

He was a man of very many parts. He was never going to remain solely in the straight jacket of army life. Whilst serving in Hellmand Province and stationed at Camp Bastion he spent much of his time planning expeditions or working on presentations. He was thrilled to corner a Scandanavian officer as the ‘Amundsen voice’ for a superb presentation he gave at the RGS two years ago.  An event where there was standing room only. His passion for Antarctica and Shackleton led to a phenomenal eclectic collection of Shackletonia buoyed up by an extraordinary ability to unearth a bargain. 

Henry had an equal passion for art, visiting art galleries whenever he was back in London. He recounted the story of bumping into David Hockney on the steps of the Royal Academy and as foolish as it felt,   he stopped Hockney in his tracks and asked him for his autograph. 

Henry rarely spoke of his own talents as an artist and embroiderer. His two year posting with Joanna to Washington DC allowed him to take up sculpture classes, and he was in his element. If only he could earn a living as an artist, he mused. He loved painting and produced some top quality work. Embroidery was another interest and he was immensely proud of his association with Finecellwork the charity that takes needlework into prisons. 

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He loved riding motor bikes and and when in Washington DC, his last army posting, he took to the road with thousands of Harley Davidson fanatics on the Rolling Thunder motorbike rally. The image of him astride his motorbike, wearing a white T shirt, dark glasses and biting on a cigar said it all. Cool, adventurous and having the best Easy Rider fun!

 

So much has been said about him and the tributes have poured in expressing how Henry had touched those who were lucky to share time with him. We are unable to publish them all but one from the film maker Cecila Shakerley sums up much of how we all feel.

 

“As for me, it was just a huge a privilege to have spent even a short amount of time with him. He was truly an exceptional human being. He had achieved so much, had such great authority, and yet he was an open book. He was determined and driven but not proud or arrogant. He was a great laugh! He was incredibly sweet to me, encouraging and supportive and generous with his time. I have felt his influence very strongly ever since I met him. 

 

I have so many thoughts about it all. It is almost unbelievable how things have transpired. So much of what he studied and thought deeply about he came to experience first hand. It’s heartbreaking to think of the suffering he may have felt in his final days, but I wonder if he might have found some comfort in the knowledge that he experienced everything that his heroes did? The very limits of determination and endurance, the elation of the end being in sight, and ultimately, the heavy burden of disappointment. We’ll never know. More than anything, I hope he would have known without doubt that he can stand shoulder to shoulder with the very greatest heroes of polar exploration. For his family and for all those of us who will miss him, he is gone too soon. But just like those he admired so much, he will not grow old. His heroic life and death will continue to inspire people for many generations to come”.

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Some of our favourite moments during the Shackleton Centenary Voyage

(Photo Credits: © Ice Tracks Expeditions – Isaias Miciu)