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Frank Worsley (Frank Arthur Worsley)

Frank Worsley

Frank Arthur Worsley DSO OBE RD (22 February 1872 – 1 February 1943) was a New Zealand sailor and explorer who served on Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1916, as captain of the Endurance. He also served in the Royal Navy Reserve during the First World War. Born in Akaroa, New Zealand, on 22 February 1872, Frank Worsley joined the New Zealand Shipping Company in 1888. He served aboard several vessels running trade routes between New Zealand, England and the South Pacific. While on South Pacific service, he became renowned for his ability to navigate to tiny, remote islands. He joined the Royal Navy Reserve in 1902 and served on HMS Swiftsure for a year before returning to the Merchant Navy. In 1914, he joined the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which aimed to cross the Antarctic continent. After the expedition’s ship Endurance was trapped in ice and wrecked, he and the rest of the expedition sailed three lifeboats to Elephant Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula. From here, he, along with Shackleton and four others, sailed the 22.5-foot (6.9 m) lifeboat James Caird some 800 miles (1,300 km) across the stormy South Atlantic Ocean, eventually arriving at their intended destination, South Georgia. His navigation skills were crucial to the safe arrival of the James Caird. Shackleton, Worsley and seaman Tom Crean then hiked and climbed through snow and ice across mountainous South Georgia in a 36-hour march to fetch help from Stromness whaling station. He and Shackleton returned to Elephant Island aboard the Yelcho, a Chilean naval ship, to rescue the remaining members of the expedition, all of whom survived.

During the First World War, Frank Worsley captained the Q-ship PC.61. He was responsible for the sinking of a German U-boat, UC-33 on 26 September 1917 by carrying out a skilful ramming manoeuvre. For his role in the sinking of the UC-33, Worsley was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). Later in the war he worked in transportation of supplies in Arctic Russia, and in the North Russia Intervention against the Bolsheviks, earning a bar to his DSO. He was later appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. From 1921 to 1922 he served on Shackleton’s last expedition to the Antarctic as captain of the Quest. In between berths in the Merchant Navy he led an expedition to the Arctic Circle and participated in a treasure hunt on Cocos Island. He also wrote several books relating to his experiences in polar exploration and during his sailing career. During the Second World War he initially served with the International Red Cross in France and Norway. In 1941, he falsified his age so he could rejoin the Merchant Navy. When officials discovered his actual age, Frank Worsley was released from duty. He died from lung cancer in 1943 in England.


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  • February, 22, 1872
  • Akaroa, New Zealand


  • February, 01, 1943
  • United Kingdom
  • Claygate, England

Cause of Death

  • lung cancer


  • Cremated

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