From Antarctica to War

Frank Worsley was 45 years old when his contribution to World War One began.

Born in Akaroa in 1872, Frank Worsley left New Zealand in April 1906 for Britain. Shortly after his arrival, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve.

Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-182002-F

On 6 August 1914, just two days after war was declared on Germany, Frank captained Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance to Antarctica as part of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. After surviving harrowing times on the ice, he returned to serve in the Royal Navy Reserve from 1917.

A skilled seaman, Frank commanded two anti-submarine decoy ships. He was twice decorated for his success against these German U-boats. He later joined Shackleton and several of his Antarctic comrades in supporting the North Russia Expeditionary Force in its anti-Bolshevik activities. Until he passed away from lung cancer in February 1943, Frank was actively involved in naval support during World War Two.

1981 110 91 worsley5

Captain Frank Worsley, 1915

Canterbury Museum 1981.110.91

A Feat of Endurance

The 1910s were an important decade for the brave and heroic explorations of the last unknown continent in the world – Antarctica. Frank is perhaps most well‑known for an impressive 16‑day journey navigating the lifeboat James Caird to South Georgia to seek help for the crew stranded by the loss of the Endurance.

Known as Wuzzles to his fellow Antarcticans, Frank obviously had a taste for Antarctic adventures, returning with Shackleton in 1921 during the Quest expedition. Frank’s story, and that of other Antarctic explorers, was often used as patriotic inspiration for the troops at the front.