Friday, 20 January 2012

Frank Wild (NZ660189)

Frank Wild, the great Antarctic explorer and colleague of the famous Ernest Shackleton, was born in Skelton-in-Cleveland on 10th April 1873. He made five visits to the great southern continent, and was one of only two men to be awarded the Polar Medal with four bars.

Reputedly related to Captain James Cook through his mother, Frank was the eldest of eleven children born to Benjamin and Mary. He was born at 131 High Street, Skelton, and may have lived briefly, too, in Skelton Green, before heading off down south with his family in 1875 aged 2. He moved several times thereafter before embarking upon his extraordinary career at sea at 16.

Serving briefly under the doomed Captain Scott, he soon joined rival explorer Shackleton under whom he served most famously as second-in-command on the curtailed Endurance trip of 1914-16. Wild was the man left in charge of the men on Elephant Island when Shackleton made the epic journey to safety across sea and land, returning to rescue Wild and his men several months later.

In 1922, Wild took command of Shackleton’s expedition to the South Pole when the great man died on the day of arrival at South Georgia.

Afterwards, Wild moved to South Africa, where he saw out his days via two marriages and several largely doomed business ventures and jobs. He died in 1939 and was cremated. As recently as November 2011, his ashes were interred next to Shackleton’s grave on South Georgia after having been found in a cemetery building in Johannesburg by historian Angie Butler. 

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