Worsley, Frank Arthur, 1872-1943

Alternative names
Birth 1872-02-22
Death 1943-02-01

Biographical notes:

Joint leader of the British Arctic Expedition, 1925.

From the description of Journal and log-books [microform]. (Libraries Australia). WorldCat record id: 225845758

Captain of "Endurance" on the British Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917, under the command of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

From the description of Journals [microform]. (Libraries Australia). WorldCat record id: 225845749

Frank Arthur Worsley was born at Akaroa, New Zealand, on 22 February 1872. At the age of fifteen, he was apprenticed in sailing ships of the New Zealand Shipping Company, later becoming mate and then master of New Zealand government schooners working in the South Pacific. Subsequently, he sailed in steamers and was commissioned in the Royal Naval Reserve. Worsley was appointed master of the Endurance on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea Party], 1914-1916 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton). After the Endurance was crushed in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea, the crew lived for six months on drifting ice until it broke up east of the Antarctic Peninsula. Boats were launched and Worsley took charge of the Dudley Docker cutter in the escape to Elephant Island. Ten days later, he successfully navigated the lifeboat James Caird on the epic sixteen-day journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. On arrival there, he crossed the island with Shackleton and Tom Crean to seek help from the whalers for those left on Elephant Island.

During the First World War, Worsley commanded P and Q (mystery) ships and was twice decorated for successful operations against U-boats. He also served on the North Russian front as an advisor on Arctic equipment and transport. After the war, he made his second Antarctic voyage as sailing master and hydrographer in the Quest on the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, 1921-1922. From then on, until his retirement from the sea in 1939, Worsley sailed in occasional trading vessels.

In 1925, he was joint leader, with Grettir Algarsson, of an Arctic expedition to Franz Josef Land (The British Arctic Expedition) in the auxiliary sailing ship Island and in 1935, he joined a treasure-hunting expedition to the Cocos Islands. During the Second World War, he served as an RNR officer and instructor at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and worked for the Red Cross in Norway. He died at Claygate, Surrey on 1 February 1943.

Published work, First voyage in a square-rigged ship by Frank Arthur Worsley, Geoffrey Bles, London (1938) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Worsley, F.A.] and Endurance; an epic of polar adventure by Frank Arthur Worsley, W.W. Norton & Company, New York (1999) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1914-1917 Shackleton] and Shackleton's boat journey by Frank Arthur Worsley, Pimlico, London (1999) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1914-1917] and Under sail in the frozen north by Frank Arthur Worsley, Stanley Paul London (1927) SPRI Library Shelf (3)91(08)[1925]

From the guide to the Frank Worsley collection, 1889-1958, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)


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  • Ship captains--Diaries
  • Voyages and travels
  • Search and rescue operations


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  • Antarctica Discovery and exploration (as recorded)
  • Franz Joseph Land (Russia) (as recorded)
  • Arctic regions (as recorded)
  • Arctic regions Discovery and exploration (as recorded)
  • Franz Josef Land (Russia) (as recorded)
  • Franz Josef Land (Russia) (as recorded)
  • Antarctica (as recorded)