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Duration: 1 hour

Yorkshireman Frank Wild was the unsung hero of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. He was Sir Ernest Shackleton's loyal companion, following him to the very ends of the Earth. Now, 90 years after Shackleton's death, Frank Wild's newly discovered remains are heading back to Antarctica to be laid beside his beloved boss in the icy lands they both loved so much.

Last on

Tue 8 May 2012 22:30 BBC HD

  • Frank Wild: Forgotten hero

    Frank Wild: Forgotten hero

    Frank Wild, who hailed from the small village of Skelton, near Whitby, was the most decorated polar explorer of the great heroic age and second in command to Ernest Shackleton on the ill-fated Endurance expedition to the South Pole.

    In this documentary, presenter Paul Rose, himself a Polar explorer, joins a new expedition, to bury Wild’s newly rediscovered ashes next to his beloved leader Sir Ernest Shackleton on the remote island of South Georgia in Antarctica.

    Wild’s ashes were only rediscovered in 2011 – more than 70 years after his funeral - in an underground chamber in a cemetery in Johannesburg.

    Frank Wild was a key player in five expeditions to the Antarctic with Captain Robert Scott, Douglas Mawson and Sir Ernest Shackleton, but while they became household names, Frank’s exploits were forgotten.

    His later life was blighted by bad press and bad luck, thousands of miles away from the ice in the heat of South Africa.

    Frank was with Shackleton when he got within 97 miles of the South Pole in 1909.

    He was also his second in command during the epic struggle of the Endurance expedition, when for more than a year, 28 men battled for their lives after the ship became stuck in the ice.

    Frank played a key role in keeping the crew alive after they were marooned on a desolate island for more than four months, surviving on a diet of raw penguin, seals and seaweed.

    Presenter, and polar explorer Paul Rose said: "At these key moments of Polar history, Frank was in the thick of it. During these intense periods of hardship he showed incredible courage and resourcefulness.

    "He was a true great. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Shackleton. They made the perfect team. With Shackleton’s great leadership skills, and Frank’s cool head and experience, they were able to handle almost anything that the Antarctic could throw at them."

    Frank’s Polar career came to an end in 1922 and he tried to make his fortune in South Africa but ended up working in a bar in a dusty backwater.

    He died in 1939, and plans were made to send his ashes to South Georgia to bury him next to Shackleton.

    With the start of the Second World War, the plans were shelved, and as the years became decades, Frank’s ashes were lost.

    That is until Angie Butler, author of The Quest for Frank Wild spent seven years trying to get to the bottom of the Frank Wild story and eventually found his ashes in a Johannesburg cemetery.

    Angie Butler said: "When I started researching Frank Wild, what started as an interest became an obsession. I was driven by a belief he needed me to tell his story.

    "Little did I know it would uncover one of the great Polar mysteries of recent times and add a new page to the history books of Polar exploration."

    Paul Rose said: “This was a key moment. The discovery of Frank’s ashes meant he could be returned to the icy land that he loved so much. “

    Angie Butler added: "For the first time I can let Frank Wild go. He is now where he always wanted to be – alongside his comrade Sir Ernest Shackleton – their graves facing South towards the Great Ice Barrier.”

    “Frank Wild is no more unsung and forgotten – the great Polar explorer will be remembered up there with the greats such as Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen. I am proud I played a part in that.”

    Image courtesy of the family of Frank Wild.

  • Feature: Frank Wild's journey out of Shackleton's shadow

    Feature: Frank Wild's journey out of Shackleton's shadow

    Frank Wild was the right-hand man to Sir Ernest Shackleton, joining him on several of his Antarctic expeditions.

    Almost 100 years ago, the famous polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set out to try to be the first to cross Antarctica.

    He failed, but his ill-fated expedition on the Endurance, which began in 1914, is now seen as one of history's greatest stories of survival and leadership.

    Read the full story on the BBC News website below...

    BBC Magazine: Frank Wild in final journey out of Shackleton's shadow
  • Fact file: Frank Wild

    Fact file: Frank Wild

    1873: John Robert Francis Wild was born in Skelton-in-Cleveland, North Yorkshire, the eldest of 13 children

    1901-4: Wild was part of Robert Scott's Discovery Expedition to Antarctica, as was Shackleton

    1907-9: Nimrod Expedition with Shackleton comes within 100 miles of South Pole - a record at its time

    1911: Aurora expedition to Antarctica

    1914-16: Second-in-command on Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, stranded for four months on Elephant Island

    1916: Returns to UK and volunteers for duty in World War I, serving in Royal Navy

    1921-22: Takes leadership of the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition after Shackleton dies of a heart attack in South Georgia

    19 August 1939: Death of Frank Wild in South Africa

    Source: BBC Magazine

  • Video feature: Frank Wild's forgotten polar journey

    Video feature: Frank Wild's forgotten polar journey

    Frank Wild from Skelton, North Yorkshire was the unsung hero of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

    Wild was Sir Ernest Shackleton's loyal companion and 'right-hand man', following him to the ends of the Earth.

    Now 90 years after Shackleton's death, Frank Wild's newly discovered remains are heading back to Antarctica to be laid beside his beloved 'boss' in the icy lands they both loved so much.

    Presenter and polar explorer, Paul Rose, looks back at Frank Wild's Nimrod expedition to Antarctica with Shackleton.

    The trip ended when the team had to turn back after a super-human effort to reach the south pole.

    Watch a video clip from the BBC News website below...

    BBC News: Yorkshireman Frank Wild's forgotten polar journey
  • Video feature: Frank Wild and Captain Scott

    Video feature: Frank Wild and Captain Scott

    Frank Wild was renowned for his survival skills, having been second in command during the epic struggle of Shackleton's Endurance expedition.

    Wild was highly respected by Captain Scott, and had explored Antarctica with him on the Discovery expedition between 1901 and 1904.

    But he turned down the chance to be with Scott on his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole in 1912.

    Wild refused, saying he was "too much the Navy man", but he did lend Scott the diary of how he got within 97 miles of the pole on the Nimrod expedition with Shackleton, Armitage and Adams.

    Presenter Paul Rose speaks to historian Dr Huw Lewis-Jones who believes Scott might have reached the pole and survived if Wild, 'a born survivor', had been there to share his experience.

    However, biographer Angie Butler thinks he may have perished along with Scott's elite team if he had been selected.

    Watch a video feature from the BBC News website below...

    BBC News: Could polar hero Wild have saved Captain Scott's life?
  • Where to watch

    Where to watch

    Frank Wild: Antarctica's Forgotten Hero is on Sunday, 22 April at 19:00 BST on BBC Two. It will also be available for seven days thereafter on the BBC iPlayer.

Credits

Presenter
Paul Rose
Presenter
Paul Rose
Producer
Paul Greenan
Producer
Paul Greenan
Executive Producer
Nicola Addyman
Executive Producer
Nicola Addyman

Broadcasts

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