January 25, 2016

Crossing Antarctica alone, Henry Worsley calls for rescue 30 miles short of his 1,000-mile goal.

In his last broadcast, he said:
"When my hero, Ernest Shackleton, was 97 miles from the South Pole on the morning of January the 9th 1909, he said he'd shot his bolt. Well today I have to inform you with some sadness that I too have shot my bolt."
He had lost the ability to "slide one ski in front of the other."
"I will lick my wounds, they will heal over time and I will come to terms with the disappointment."
Rescued on Friday, he was taken to a hospital in Chile, where he was found to be suffering not only from exhaustion and dehydration but bacterial peritonitis, for which he underwent surgery. "Complete organ failure" ensued, and on Sunday, he died.

You can listen to that last broadcast here. That's Day 70. You can listen to the earlier days here. And here's his "Expedition Diary" with many pictures and reports. This is the last picture:

50 comments:

Sammy Finkelman said...

He must have gotten an infection from antibiotic resistant bacteria in Chile.

He couldn't have gotten infeceted in Antarctica. (although maybe there was a loingering under control infection he had all the time tha got out of control when he was exposed to too much cold.)

madAsHell said...

Why does one cross Antarctica? There's a chicken-crossing-the-road joke in here somewhere.

Curious George said...

He should have gone to Cuba for medical assistance. They have the best health care in the world. Or so it's been said.

traditionalguy said...

I hope his call for rescue was answered by an operator who asked for a credit card number and charged his ass the half million dollars sending a team out to rescue his dumb ass must have cost.

Big Mike said...

He died doing something utterly pointless.

Bay Area Guy said...

I absolutely love Shackleton, but his adventure was done out of necessity, where this one seems kinda contrived and quixotic. I do hope he is rescued though.

rehajm said...

He self identified with Shackleton but was more closely related to Darwin, in a way.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I will lick my wounds, they will heal over time...

Or not.

sydney said...

Sammy Finkelman- peritonitis develops from bacteria that you already harbor in your gut. He must have had an abdominal infection of some sort with a perforated viscus. Appendicitis? Diverticulitis?

Fabi said...

Attempting the first solo and unaided crossing of the Antarctic doesn't sound as pointless as dissing his adventure on a blog.

David said...

Mr Worsley, 55, was trying to complete the unfinished journey of his hero, Sir Ernest Shackleton, 100 years later, but in his final audio message, he said: "My summit is just out of reach."

Actually his summit was close by. In just a few days he reached it.

chuck said...

He was 55. That seems old for attempting a feat so physically demanding. Roosevelt went on the 1913 Amazon expedition when he was 55 and never really recovered.

David said...

" I do hope he is rescued though."

I do hope you start to read the links.

buwaya said...

Stress often kicks off opportunistic infections. Its not just cold, but exhaustion from overwork, poor nutrition, other infections (like Malaria or Dengue).
Or he could have strained himself while moving or shifting heavy loads and brought on a hernia. He may not have realized he had one.

The Drill SGT said...

55

wow

I'm glad he is survived by two kids. Darwin award or not, it would have been a shame to lose those genes.

The Drill SGT said...

On a more happy note:

"Mizzou Professor Melissa Click Charged With Assault"

Tacitus2 said...

Probably ischemic colitis. When you shunt blood to what your dehydrated, freezing body regards as highest priority areas...brain, kidneys, everywhere else gets short changed. Fingertips get frost bitten. Under conditions of cold and volume depletion the bowel wall loses blood supply and then after a while, integrity. Bacteria inside get out. That is an often fatal scenario in a tertiary care hospital. On an ice flow he was literally a dead man walking.

Sad. But he went down swinging.

Tacitus

David said...

chuck said...
He was 55. That seems old for attempting a feat so physically demanding. Roosevelt went on the 1913 Amazon expedition when he was 55 and never really recovered.


I had that thought too, without the TR part. But without the infection, he might have made it. It sounds like he may have had overall septic shock, which is a result of advanced peritonitis. Peritonitis can also be caused by liver failure, so there is a question of what his diet was, and whether he was taking any pain killers or stimulants. And the overall misery of the ordeal could have masked the symptoms.

The fact that they treated him surgically indicates that he was in grave condition. It's a difficult risky surgery with several possible unknown variables going in and highly uncertain outcome.

Brave but highly risky, this adventure. And this is summer in Antartica.

Richard Dolan said...

Follow your dream. But be aware that doing so might kill you.

Ryan said...

According to the Daily Mail, "He only changed his underpants once during his journey - on day 61."

He is truly an hero for exercising in the same pair of underpants for 61 days.

From the same article: "he died doing something he loved..." Actually he died in a South American hospital after total organ failure caused by exhaustion, dehydration, and an abdominal infection. He "loved" that?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3415431/British-ex-Army-officer-bidding-man-trek-Antarctica-dies-organ-failure-collapsing-just-THIRTY-MILES-finishing-line.html

JPS said...

Lot of spoilsports here. Yeah, OK, I guess viewed from a certain angle his adventure was pointless and his death needless.

I'm sorry he fell short. I'm sorrier for his wife and his 21- and 19-year-old kids. But I get why he did it. I can't quite explain this; I think you either get it or you don't.

tim in vermont said...

Bloomberg would have nipped this little adventure in the bud sooner than quicker!

grimson said...

He was a man on a solitary quest, testing the physical limits of man, and exploring a world few have known. I salute him.

buwaya said...

I see his point.
A man must die sometime or another.
After one settles his obligations (And what is a man without obligations? Obligations are what should keep an honest man alive.) the most important question is how to die.
Ideally, the way to die is as per Macaulay -

To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods,

If a man does not have the good fortune to meet death in this most honorable manner, then I suppose there is some honor in risking life attempting some great feat.

Ron Nelson said...

The BBC article cited in a previous comment provides quite a bit of background for Worsley's trek. That it was a fundraising effort for causes to which he had a great affinity makes it, if not less foolish, a little more noble in the endeavor. Many a life has been lost in these types of adventures in general and Antarctic ones in particular. An adventurer's death is always preventable -- just don't do it. But we should celebrate, not denigrate, the spirit of such a man.

coupe said...
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Original Mike said...

"I salute him."

Amen.

Original Mike said...

The Drill SGT said: "On a more happy note:
"Mizzou Professor Melissa Click Charged With Assault""<


"Punch back twice as hard."

Freeman Hunt said...

It was a good try. Too bad. I'm glad there are people like him in the world.

Clyde said...

It's not something that I'd ever want to do, since I've lived in Florida almost long enough to be a born-again Cracker, and abhor cold weather. I do admire his spirit. It's sad that he didn't accomplish his goal, and doubly sad that he died in the attempt.

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sammy Finkelman said...

sydney said...

"Sammy Finkelman- peritonitis develops from bacteria that you already harbor in your gut."

For how long before?

I read that people catch colds in Antarctica that must have already been there.

I am willing to consider both theories - that is was some pre-existenting infection to which his immune system got weaker because of the strain he was in in Antarctica, or that it was a hospital acquired infection. Do we have enough details to know which it was?

Sammy Finkelman said...

Tacitus2

Under conditions of cold and volume depletion the bowel wall loses blood supply and then after a while, integrity. Bacteria inside get out. That is an often fatal scenario in a tertiary care hospital. On an ice flow he was literally a dead man walking.

That sort of thing makes sense. He also probably was pushing himself, which starts to get dangerous to do past about age 40. Maybe it is somewhat dangerous even before. He may not have been a dead man walking, but waited too long, maybe much too long, once he noticed a problem with continuing. The liver damage from painkillers = Tylenol theory also looks somewhat good, and of course, having the whole thing attributed to where he was and the exertion, when that wasn't the case exactly, except for the way that the cold (and possibly badly chosen diet) contributed to it..

exhelodrvr1 said...

Too bad Matt Damon wasn't there to help him.

Helenhightops said...

I agree with Tacitus2 but wonder what Michael K thinks. I think ischemic colitis. RIP.

The Godfather said...

Someone compared this effort to Theodore Roosevelt's South American expedition after he failed to re-win the presidency in the 1912 election. Candice Millard's The River Of Doubt (http://www.amazon.com/River-Doubt-Theodore-Roosevelts-Darkest/dp/0767913736/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453759525&sr=1-1&keywords=river+of+doubt+theodore+roosevelt%27s+darkest+journey), available from Amazon through the Althouse portal, is an excellent account of the expedition. One thing that the book makes clear is that much of the planning for the expedition was shoddy, and the journey did not need to have been quite as terrible as it was. Still, the idea that you could fill in a blank space on the map by going there must have been awfully attractive. In our era, I wonder if there are any blank spaces left on our world (under the sea, I suppose), or even on nearby worlds.

Bill said...

RIP, brave one.

Char Char Binks said...

Sammy Finkelman said...
'sydney said...

"Sammy Finkelman- peritonitis develops from bacteria that you already harbor in your gut."

For how long before?'

For always. We carry a bag of shit around with us everywhere we go. It's called the colon.

Thorley Winston said...

I hope his call for rescue was answered by an operator who asked for a credit card number and charged his ass the half million dollars sending a team out to rescue his dumb ass must have cost.

I was going to disagree with this and then I thought of the deserter Beauchamp who will (hopefully soon) be going on trial. Because of his actions people and resources had to be diverted to find him which endangered the rest of the unit (some may have even died because they were put in harm’s way). In this fellow’s case it doesn’t look like anyone else died but it couldn’t have been cheap to send a rescue team and the people who were sent probably got pulled off of other work where they could have helped someone else (not to mention the medical team who tried to save his life). When you decide to go on an “adventure,” you need to think about the impact that you have on others should you need to be rescued.

I’m truly sorry that this fellow died and even more so for the wife who lost a husband, the kids who lost a father and any future grandchildren who will never know their grandfather. Yes, life does require that you take risks but taking unnecessary ones can have dire consequences on others.


JCC said...

I'm afraid I jabe to agree with traditional guy. How much did this cost someone and how many other people were endangered to (temporarily) save his ass when his courageous adventure went south? I mean, who could have seen this coming?

Like so many other mountain climbers, hikers, adventurers, and video reality stars, when their super-exciting things suddenly prove all too dangerous and they need rescue, no big deal. Someone will go get them (or their handsome corpse) at some risk and expense.

Be the first to climb Mt Everest with some designated handicap or under some age limit. Trek across Upper Zombieastan to honor your grandmother. Wow, cool. When the bad guys kidnap you or something with teeth eats you, your parents will go on the 6:00 news and bitch about how the government isn't doing enough.

So I guess this would all mean more to me if the "calls for rescue" part wasn't part of the deal.

Quaestor said...

Re: Ischemic colitis

IC is typically a consequence of arterial obstruction. However, there is at least one case of transient ischemic colitis associated with hypothermia. It was reported in Sweden and involved a 78-year-old man who suffered a mild case of hypothermia due to an auto accident. (I imagine there are at least several people hospitalized right now due to hypothermia associated with auto accidents -- the blizzard, right?) In that case the patient already had arteriosclerosis, complicating matters. The loss of circulation was brief and the man recovered. In Worsley's case we know little about his general health, so how long he could have survived is an open question.

One thing I did learn, IC is typically very painful. The pain comes on strongly before irreversible damage occurs. If Worsley did have IC, why would he have waited so long to ask for rescue?

Eric said...

Like so many other mountain climbers, hikers, adventurers, and video reality stars, when their super-exciting things suddenly prove all too dangerous and they need rescue, no big deal. Someone will go get them (or their handsome corpse) at some risk and expense.

Depending on exactly where you are and what you're doing, you will often get charged for rescue. I know that's how it works on Everest ($4k - $20k for a helicopter ride), and most climbers carry "rescue insurance".

Bob Ellison said...

Pain is something you learn to deal with. I don't think people who have not had chronic pain know what it's like. You can get used to it. It's kind of like being a slave.

larry labeck said...

He was making the effort in a good cause.

Moreover, I view this astonishing attempt as an act of heroism, of testing man's capacities. Frankly, we could do with a few fewer Kanyes, Snoop dogs, sports weasels, and Justin Trudeaus and a few more men and women capable of planning and preparing for arduous undertakings.

Ranulph Fiennes is a name I wish more people knew and a character whom they admired, too.

Jon said...

Score one bright shiny new Darwin Award for this guy. When the hell will the insanity of the Age of Stupid (conveniently dated roughly from Woodstock) end? It's been all downhill for 50 years now. At increasing velocity, I might add.

Perhaps the reason we can't find Aliens via SETI is that brains are superfluous for survival, and species that develop brains like ours go all insane at some point?

Helenhightops said...

Quaestor, re: ischemic colitis - you can get ischemic colitis without actually having an arterial obstruction or any pre existing abnormality of the vessels that supply the gut. If you get generalized low flow to the intestines (because you have shunted blood away from the gut, or you have extreme dehydration, for example), then you don't have enough of a pressure head to push blood from the outside of the intestine, where the big arteries are wrapping around, all the way through to the lining on the inside. Then the first few layers of cells on the inside of the gut can die, and then the barrier between the inside of the gut and the blood is breached, and in some cases the bacteria can translocate all the way across the wall of the intestines; and that causes peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum - the free space around the intestines).

rcocean said...

A lot of people on this thread remind of the "Point-Counter point" segment from 60 minutes in "Airplane".

The Conservative says of the Airliner in trouble: "They bought their ticket and knew the risks. I say let 'em crash"

And yes, I am pretty old.

Biff said...

I forwarded the link to an old friend who often has expressed admiration for the explorers and adventurers of the past, including the early Antarctic expeditions.

My friend replied with a screed about Bush's lapdog, Tony Blair, and the pointlessness of the military adventurism that necessitated the charity that Worsley was trying to support, rather than remarking upon Worsley's quest.

As the saying goes, "This is why we can't have nice things."

Biff said...

To be clear, the remarks about "pointlessness" and "Bush's lapdog" were my friend's perspectives, not my own. My intention was to provide yet another example of the politicization of everything.

Rusty said...

Bill said...
RIP, brave one.


My take too.
He at least tried which is more than his detractors have done.