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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


WORSLEY, Cmdr. Frank Arthur, D.S.O. AND BAR, O.B.E.


Polar explorer and author.

A new biography of Worsley, Frank Arthur appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Frank Arthur Worsley was born on 22 February 1872 at Akaroa, the son of Henry Theophilus Worsley, a labourer, and Georgiana Priscilla, née Fulton. He was educated at Fendalton High School and joined the Royal Navy where he qualified in navigation. Because of his experience of the ice in Newfoundland waters, Worsley was appointed to command the Endurance during Shackleton's South Polar Expedition, 1913–16. In April 1916 he navigated Shackleton's open boat James Caird in the 800-mile trip from Elephant Island to South Georgia and, with Shackleton and Cream, made the epic crossing of that island. From 1916 until 1919 he saw active war service and commanded two “Q” mystery ships in the campaign against the U-boats. The Admiralty then seconded him to the War Office as Director of Arctic Equipment and Transport on the Northern Russian (Archangel) front. He was awarded the D.S.O. and Bar, the O.B.E., the Reserve Decoration, and the Russian Order of St. Stanislaus for his war services, and was frequently mentioned in dispatches.

During 1921–22 he acted as sailing master and hydrographer in the Quest, on Shackleton's last expedition to Antarctica; and four years later was appointed co-leader of the British Arctic Expedition. Between 1924 and 1938 Worsley published several accounts of his adventures. These were: Shackleton's Boat Journey and Crossing South Georgia (1924); Under Sail in the Frozen North (1926); Endurance (1931); and First Voyage (1938). In 1935, as a change from polar exploration, Worsley visited the Cocos Islands to search for pirates' treasure, but the Costa Rican authorities interrupted the expedition.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Worsley served with the Red Cross in France and Norway and, for a while, commanded the Motor Ambulance Training Station at Balham. He rejoined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1941 and commanded s.s. Dalriada which was blowing up wrecks and clearing the Channel on the east coast of England. For a short time in 1942 he commanded the R.N.R. at the Naval Training Establishment at Hove, after which he was transferred to a similar post at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

Worsley was twice married, first to Theodora Cayley (divorced 1923), and then in 1926 to Margaret Jane Cumming. He died at Linksfield, Claygate, Surrey, on 1 February 1943.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Life of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Mill, H. R. (1923)
  • The Times (London), 2 Feb 1943 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.