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Wild will be buried next to fellow explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (Liam Quinn)

Antarctic explorer gets polar burial

27th November 2011

Today, Antarctic explorer Frank Wild will finally have his last wish granted 72 years after his death, as his ashes will be laid to rest in a polar graveyard

A commemorative polar expedition is under-way to grant Antarctic explorer Frank Wild his final wish, to be buried on South Georgia Island alongside fellow pioneer Sir Ernest Shackleton. His ashes will be buried on the 27 November, 72 years after his death.

Wild was one of the great, yet unsung, Antarctic explorers and the right-hand man to Sir Ernest Shackleton. He had more experience in Antarctica than any of the other famed explorers, and although he came close to death many times on polar expeditions, his peaceful death may be the reason he did not get the same glorification as the others.

He met his death in 1939 in South Africa, and his final wish to be buried on South Georgia Island was never fulfilled because of the out-break of World War II. His body was presumed lost, and his name disappeared from the pages of history.

However, his adventurous lifestyle and relationship with South Africa caught the attention of polar historian and author Angie Butler, who became fascinated with his life, and made it her duty to find his ashes and commemorate his wish.

Angie told Wanderlust, “The story was that he was buried in Brixton cemetery in Johannesburg. There was hardly anyone at the funeral and a lone sea cadet played The Last Post. It sounded like this awful desultory affair.”

But early in her research Angie discovered that his funeral actually took place at Braamfontein cemetery, and that his wife had him cremated, not buried, so that his ashes could go to South Georgia. It was at this point that the trail went cold.

“I kept going though, for several years. Then I found an old paper cutting that had been written in 1966 that said Frank Wild's ashes were kept in an old chapel. It didn't say which chapel, but I just knew that it was the chapel in Braamfontein cemetery,” Angie continued.

“And they were there, in a wooden box, quite banged and scraped, so it looks like it has travelled around a bit. It hasn’t just been sitting on the shelf. It’s a greeny-gold colour that has been stippled and a little bronze plaque with his name and date of birth and death. So it’s definitely him."

The commemorative expedition set out on the 20 November, and will take his remains back to South Georgia, where his ashes will be buried today, on the 27 November, in a small intimate graveyard on Grytviken hill. Angie Butler is leading the expedition, accompanied by six of Frank Wild's descendants, Sir Ernest Shackleton's grand daughter the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, and historian David McGonigal.

Angie Butler's book The Quest for Frank Wild traces the life of this extraordinary man and includes his original memoirs. It is available on Amazon now. For more details of the expedition visit the Ice Tracks website.

Or check out Wanderlust's exclusive interview with Angie Butler earlier this year.

More like this

Frank Wild: The Antarctic's unsung hero | Interview with Angie Butler... More

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South Georgia: In Shackleton's footsteps | Destinations... More

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 Your Comments (1)

  • 29th November by Liz Cleere

    Love this kind of tale and I will be getting hold of a copy of Angie's book. Is it out on Kindle, I wonder?

    Oddly (some might say synchronicity kicking in here) I just answered a question on the forum recommending Shackleton's adventure as a good read.


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