One day, he retrieved a copy of “The Heart of the Antarctic,” Shackleton’s account of his gallant but doomed attempt, in 1907-09, to reach the South Pole.
(The journey was known as the Nimrod expedition, for the ship he had commanded.) Worsley read the opening lines: “Men go out into the void spaces of the world for various reasons.
The trek had begun at nearly sea level, and he’d been ascending with a merciless steadiness, the air thinning and his nose sometimes bleeding from the pressure; a crimson mist colored the snow along his path. Worsley was a retired British Army officer who had served in the Special Air Service, a renowned commando unit.
When the terrain became too steep, he removed his skis and trudged on foot, his boots fitted with crampons to grip the ice. He was also a sculptor, a fierce boxer, a photographer who meticulously documented his travels, a horticulturalist, a collector of rare books and maps and fossils, and an amateur historian who had become a leading authority on Shackleton.
Some are actuated simply by a love of adventure, some have the keen thirst for scientific knowledge, and others again are drawn away from the trodden paths by the ‘lure of little voices,’ the mysterious fascination of the unknown.” The book was illustrated with photographs from the expedition, and Worsley stared at them in wonder.
There was the hut, crammed with a stove and canned goods and a phonograph, where Shackleton and his men had wintered on Ross Island, off the coast of Antarctica.
Each day, after trekking for several hours and burrowing into his tent, he relayed a short audio broadcast about his experiences.
(He performed this bit of modern magic by calling, on his satellite phone, a friend in England, who recorded the dispatch and then posted it on Worsley’s Web site.) His voice, cool and unwavering, enthralled listeners.
He mentally painted images onto the desolate landscape for hours on end, and he summoned memories of his wife, Joanna, his twenty-one-year-old son, Max, and his nineteen-year-old daughter, Alicia. One contained the adage “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Another, written by Joanna, said, “Come back to me safely, my darling.” As is true of many adventurers, he seemed to be on an inward quest as much as an outward one—the journey was a way to subject himself to an ultimate test of character.
He was also raising money for the Endeavour Fund, a charity for wounded soldiers.