the Journey

  • Distance to go: 0 Mi

    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.

A Sunday Lie-in (Day 52)

Day 52: S86° 40' 29.34", E159° 42' 14.52"

Duration: 6 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 13.5 Mi

Distance to go: 1134.1 Mi

Temperature: -24 °C

Wind chill: -40 °C

Altitude: 9224 Ft

We woke up at six this morning to a suspiciously dimly-lit tent. Usually the bright glare and heat of the sun is plainly obvious on one side of the tent in the morning, but if it's not then it probably means there's a lot of cloud outside. The wind was blasting away as well, with the tell-tale hissing noise of spindrift and snow from the south east colliding with our little home, forming drifts at the northerly end of the tent and behind each of our sleds. I poked my head out of the door as I emptied the pee bottle (that we share!) and there was a full-on blizzard in progress, with a high wind, fast-blowing snow and no visibility at all, just a thick whiteout with no horizon.

Tarka had a look too, and after he'd lit the stove we debated what to do. We'd gone without a rest day for 36 days and part of me felt we could only benefit from a day lazing in our sleeping bags, catching up on sleep, reading and perhaps watching a movie. On the other hand, we have a pretty fine margin when it comes to the food we have left to get back to our depot at the top of the Beardmore, and we don't have an awful lot of food to burn if we're not getting mileage in return. In the end we decided to go back to bed for two hours before seeing what the weather was doing and making a decision to stay put and rest on half-rations, or to go for it and try to cover some ground.

When our alarms went off the wind was still blowing hard but the clouds were parting and a fuzzy, hazy horizon had appeared between the pale blue sky and the snow surface, which seemed more like a rolling sheet of white smoke racing towards us than solid ground. We decided to go for it, and ended up grinding out 13.49 miles (21.72km) in six-and-a-half hours, which we decided was acceptable enough. The wind has been relentless all day, and when Tarka took his turn to lead the spindrift formed perfect vortices behind his sled, like the leading edge of an aircraft wing taking off on a wet day. I clocked the windchill at -40 degrees centigrade when we pitched our tent this evening and I'm sure at times today it was considerably stronger.

The plateau is certainly making us work for it, and I'm sad to say that neither Tarka or I are feeling much festive spirit at the moment! I can also report that my food-related fantasies today have gone distinctly upmarket, and I've traded Lomito's and their greasy burgers for Adam Byatt's wonderful restaurants in SW London, Trinity and Bistro Union, as well as daydreaming my way through the entire menu at Babington House (a big hello to Rob P. and the gang there if you're reading).

Thanks to you all for following along. I had a brilliant conversation with Robert Swan last night -one of our patrons and the man whose expedition in the mid-eighties sparked my interest in polar travel- on our satellite phone (he was on his bike and had cycled to Captain Scott's statue in London just for the call) and not for the first time felt a sense of near-disbelief that Tarka and I are actually out here doing this. I hope our words and pictures are doing the journey some justice, and I'll answer some more of your questions very soon...


# George Chapman, December 16th 2013

Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.
Zig Ziglar.
You faced adversity this morning but by the end of the day you had succeeded in another good day of mileage gained. When you get to the Pole I think you should take a day or two to glory in your success before heading back down. I’m so thankful you have had such good progress and look forward to the day you make it to the Pole. Getting back down and then on home will be the easy part if there is such a thing. You guys take care of yourselves and stay warm. Love all your post and photos.

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, December 16th 2013

Ah that explains why you had not moved much yesterday morning when I checked.
13.49 plus a couple of extra hours sleep is not bad, specially if the weather is awful.
Keep up the good work guys!

# CaninesCashews, December 16th 2013

Hi guys,
Glad you managed to get a couple more hours rest and yet still managed over 13 miles - pretty good if you ask me. I can see from your writing and from the weather reports that it is definately getting a bit lower on the mercury, hope theres not too many icicles hanging off that beard!
Nice to hear you got a chance to speak to Robert Swan last night, I love that he went to Scott’s statue to take the call - awesome.
Wonder what those two extra hours will do to Tarka’s temporal perception :-)
Stay safe,

# Mike Smith, December 16th 2013

Hey Ben and Tarka,

I’ve been following your journey closely and learning a lot from you guys (I am planning a Greenland crossing next year if it all comes together) - it’s really inspiring reading your blogs and even on the hard days you make Antarctica sound like the most enchanting place on the globe

I thought I recognised Ben from somewhere - then it dawned on me that we used to stand next to each other deadlifting at Soho Gyms.  It sounds like those sessions are paying off!  I wish I dispensed with the nod and grunt acknowledgements that gym etiquette informs and wished you luck in person

# wonderwoman, December 16th 2013

None of us can imagine how tired you must feel. Still you go on, showing us that we don’t know the limits to what human beings can do.
We send you love from Finland and pray for you spirits to keep them up.

# Austin Duryea, December 17th 2013

Hey guys. I started to freak out because on my google earth y’all had barely moved but then I realized that it was because of bad weather.Keep on being strong guys. I asked this a few posts back but I wanted to know what kind of camera you use? Also even though it was bad weather good job on the distance.

# Janet Stanley, December 16th 2013

It must have been wonderful to speak with Robert Swan! Isn’t technology marvelous!?  Stay safe in that bad weather :)

# Richard Pierce, December 16th 2013

Good to hear that commmon sense and practicality prevailed. A “rest day” with some mileage is no bad thing.

Hope the weather clears up pdq, and that you get a good surface for some plus 20-mile days.

God Speed.


# Daniel, December 16th 2013

I am just thinking about all the times I opened a window in the morning and then going back to bed canceling any planned sport activities I had for that day due to unfavorable weather conditions. I can only imagine what kind of will power needed to not give up and get out of the tent in -40 °C and a blizzard. You rock!

I have a question that I am curious about for some time - As there is not a living soul in hundred of km radius, is there any kind of noise or sound except the wind? If the wind stands still, is it absolutely quiet or do you hear any other sounds?

Stay safe
- Daniel

# Rocco roberts, December 16th 2013

Hi guys sounds tough out there , but plenty of team spirit. Ben i am in touch with your dad Jonh,who lives with my mother in law Maureen in plymouth,and they both send there love.Will pass any messages on to dad.


# Dave, December 16th 2013

I trust you check the wind before pouring out that pee bottle.

While the world will not forget what you are doing, the Antarctic will remember you only by occasional patches of stained snow.

# Bryce, December 16th 2013

Ben and Tarka,

I am banker in Utah that is sitting behind a desk gobbling up your adventure. I am sorry the weather was less than awesome. Each time I read of your day and consider the epicness of your goal, it encourages me to something greater. Thank you for your fortitude and determination. You guys are friggen tough and inspiring to us desk bound, adventure dreamers, all across the world. (For the festive spirit you should make yourself a JibJab holiday video! That is something us normal people do to bring a holiday chuckle.)

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