Frank Wild’s Final Wish Granted

Polar Legend got his wish 70 years later

Renowned Antarctic explorer, Frank Wild, had his last wish granted 72 years after his death when his ashes were laid to rest alongside Sir Ernest Shackleton in a tiny graveyard in South Georgia.

Wild died and was cremated in 1939 in South Africa, but his ashes, which were lost to the world for many years, were found only in 2011 by British historian and author Angie Butler. His last wish, that he be buried on South Georgia Island next to Shackleton, was never granted due to the outbreak of WWII two weeks later.

Belatedly, Wild was buried on  November 27,  2011, on South Georgia Island in the whalers’ graveyard by the ruins of Grytviken whaling station.

Frank Wild
Procession to Frank Wild’s grave at Grytviken cemetery. Photo Daisy Gilardini

Antarctic expedition leader and historian, David McGonigal, said it was likely to be the closing event of Antarctica’s Heroic Age.  “The Heroic Age was marked by the truly remarkable feats of  the great explorers like Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott, Douglas Mawson and Roald Amundsen, and this event was even more significant, as it took place just two weeks before the centenary of Amundsen and his Norwegian compatriots reached the South Pole for the first time.”

frank wild south gerogia
Rev Dr. Richard Hines and One Ocean expedition’s representative David McGonigal and Michael Moore paying tribute to Frank Wild. Photo by Daisy Gilardini

Wild was  Shackleton’s trusted second-in-command during the ill-fated Trans-Antarctic Expedition aboard the Endurance (1914-1916). He and 21 crewmates remained on the desolate Elephant island for over four months after the Endurance was lost, while Shackleton and five others sailed a seven-metre lifeboat to South Georgia to organise a rescue.

Frank Wild is one of the great Antarctic explorers. In 1901 both he and Ernest Shackleton were members of Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition on the Discovery. In 1908-09 he was with Shackleton on the Nimrod expedition and in 1911 he joined Douglas Mawson’s Aurora expedition before being reunited with Shackleton aboard The Endurance From 1914-1916.

One Ocean Expeditions Managing Director Andrew Prossin, David McGonigal, Angie Butler, and several relatives of Frank Wild as well as the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, the granddaughter of Sir Ernest Shackleton, accompanied Wild’s ashes to South Georgia onboard the Akademik Ioffe.

Background :

Sir Ernest Shackleton died aboard the Quest in Grytviken Harbour at 2.50am, January 5, 1922. He was buried there and his grave is a place of pilgrimage. The long search by Angie Butler, a British journalist and polar historian, finally ended when she found Wild’s ashes in Johannesburg. Her search is recounted in her book The Quest for Frank Wild, that was released in the UK on 1 August 2011. The South Georgia government gave permission for Wild’s wish to be carried out and his ashes to be reburied next to ‘The Boss’.

In 2017 One Ocean Expeditions transported the ashes of modern-day explorer, Henry Worsley,  to the same whalers’ cemetery, so that he could join the great explorers of a bygone, heroic age. You can read more about this here.