Polar Medal to a modern day hero
Today, 19th April Joanna Worsley received her late husband’s Polar Medal at Buckingham Palace. Henry’s children, Max and Alicia and Sally his mother were at the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony the family had a private audience with Prince William. Henry Worsley who lost his life crossing Antarctica in the footsteps of his hero Sir Ernest Shackleton, is recognized with the ‘Holy Grail’ of polar exploration – the Polar medal.
How do we put into perspective this outstanding honour of receiving the medal posthumously? The polar medal was instituted in 1857 as the Arctic Medal and renamed the Polar Medal in 1904 for the Captain Robert Scott’s Discovery expedition and is awarded by the Sovereign of the United Kingdom.
Since then only 11 Polar medals have been awarded to polar explorers who have lost their lives both in the Arctic and Antarctica. There have been strict rules and regulations set down by the Polar medal assessment committee. There are at least two requirements, to have wintered in Antarctica and/or to contribute to science. Henry broke the mould. Although he has achieved in polar exploration that which no other man or woman has or more likely ever will, he had not wintered in Antarctica. He has been recognized for his extreme human endeavor. He reminds us of those great men of the Edwardian age , honesty, humility, tenacity and fortitude. Just like those 9 men of the Heroic Age who received their medals posthumously.
What drove him was to recognise in particular Shackleton but all the explorers of that Edwardian Age… Scott Amundsen, Mawson… what drove him was his passion for Antarctica, it’s history, its isolation and its staggering beauty… and what drove him was his belief in the Endeavour fund for wounded soldiers and the determination to raise as much money for a cause that was close to his heart. He raised over half a million pounds.
Again Henry will break the mould as we take his ashes in November to South Georgia on the Henry Worsley Commemorative Voyage, to the whaling station of Grytviken, to be buried in the shadows of Ernest Shackleton and Frank Wild. His will be the first and most likely the last interment of a modern day explorer in a place he loved over looking Cumberland Bay on the island which is the gateway to Antarctica.