British explorer Henry Worsley, who was on the brink of making Antarctic history with a solo crossing across the ice, has died, his family has announced.

The former army officer from London was 71 days in to his attempt to become the first adventurer to cross the continent completely unsupported and unassisted when he had to call for help and was airlifted off the ice on Friday.

His wife Joanna said in a statement: "It is with heartbroken sadness I let you know that my husband, Henry Worsley, has died following complete organ failure; despite all efforts of ALE and medical staff at the Clinica Magallanes in Punta Arenas, Chile."

In his final statement sent from Antarctica, Lt Col Worsley, 55, described how his desire to help wounded soldiers with their rehabilitation was the central focus of his expedition.

"Having been a career soldier for 36 years and recently retired, it has been a way of giving back to those far less fortunate than me," he said.

He described his sadness at having to pull out so close to completing the challenge.

"The 71 days alone on the Antarctic with over 900 statute miles covered and a gradual grinding down of my physical endurance finally took its toll today, and it is with sadness that I report it is journey's end - so close to my goal," he added.