Distance to go:
Ben and Tarka will cover 1800 miles starting from Scott's Terra Nova Hut at the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back to the coast again. That's equivalent to 69 back-to-back marathons hauling up to 200kg each (the weight of roughly two adult men) of kit and supplies necessary to survive.
Distances here are shown in statute miles.
48 Hours in McMurdo Sound (Day 1 - AM)
Day 1: S77° 38' 11.65", E166° 24' 30.24"
Duration: 0 Hr
Daily distance: 0 Mi
Distance to go: 1800 Mi
Temperature: -21 °C
Wind chill: -31 °C
Wind speed: 10 MPH
Altitude: 0 Ft
I'm typing this from our tent, pitched on a small, drifted patch of snow at the very shoreline of McMurdo Sound, only a few hundred metres away from Scott's Terra Nova hut. There's been more than one moment when I wasn't sure we'd make it here at all, and it's been an extraordinary couple of days.
Nothing could have prepared me for our landing at McMurdo's sea ice runway. Tarka and I were both exhausted before we'd even stepped off the plane. We'd spent 18 of the previous 48 hours in the air, aboard an unpressurised Basler (a modified 1948 DC3 ski plane), on a flight that started in Punta Arenas in Chile and touched down at King George Island, on the tip of the Antarctic peninsula, and at Union Glacier, an ice runway operated by ALE, before the final flight across the continent.
I'm used to starting expeditions at remote places but clambering down the Basler's stepladder on to the ice runway at McMurdo was like walking out into a deep-frozen Heathrow, with a bit of Hoth, the ice planet from The Empire Strikes Back, thrown in. There were several aircraft either taxiing or parked, and dozens of giant vehicles rumbling around; American monster trucks on balloon tyres, giant caterpillar tractors dragging sci-fi fuel bladders across the ice, bulldozers, snow scrapers, snow blowers, snow cats. A helicopter thudded and chopped overhead, and the soft whistle of the insistent Antarctic breeze was lost in a din of reverse beepers and revving diesels.
Getting from the sea ice runway to our starting point, Scott's hut at Cape Evans, took a bit of luck, a frustrating amount of effort skiing the wrong way (we haven't even started the expedition yet, and we had to walk away from the Pole to get here) and an ability to persevere even when the odds seemed insurmountable, which I suspect may become a recurring theme on this trip.
We're also utterly indebted to Peter McCarthy and his wonderful Antarctica New Zealand team at Scott Base, who have helped us navigate the political and logistical challenges of this unique part of the world. One of the ANZ team, Richie, unlocked the padlock on the small wooden door of Scott's Terra Nova hut for us yesterday. Stepping through that doorway is an experience I'll never forget, and I'll try to find some words to describe it tomorrow. For now, we're about to start our first day. It'll be a modest mileage as we were up until 2am last night seeing the hut (we're still on Chilean time, so it was early afternoon for the Kiwis) but at least we'll be heading the right way...