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...


# Tim L, December 16th 2013

This isn’t supposed to sound like a silly question, but how well is your kit protecting you fron the cold? I’ve read terrible stories about the effects of frost bite on face, hands and feet, but is modern kit good enough to make this a very low risk? So… Do you over heat!?

Keep up the good work. Very much enjoying the blog.

# Linda, December 16th 2013

Well I can imagine who you two are out there, just by reading the vivid descriptions of your incredible journey. You both r awesome. Imagine today u made all that miles in that kind of weather/circumstances. And in heavy times, remember: one day you’ll sit in your favorite restaurant eating your favorite food , talking about how it was in these difficult circumstances. And you will be so proud of yourselves. Just like your readers are proud of you both now ;)))

# linda, December 16th 2013


# Intrepid, December 16th 2013

Dear Tarka and Ben, Mentioning there’s a fine margin of food brought in the adage how the nexus of readers, bloggers, and the two of you, is a living support system. As readers it is thrilling to be transported through your words, pictures, and videos, to the Pole. As bloggers we have opportunity to express awe, the thrill of how your daily posts let our imaginations run wild into the Antarctic scape. The circle is never broken. The giving and receiving of inspiration, caring, as well as the windows of intimacy we choose to share, are all present, from you towards us, from everyone in every way possible, towards you. Very good to hear that you hear other people’s voices… talking with people who remind you of the brevity of what you are doing, that you are indeed on the Antarctic plateau on your way to the South Pole. How cool (cold) is that!!

My thoughts are with you. May the force be with you! May you find inspiration wherever you look, including the spindrifts.

PS. Just saw the FAQs. Guess you could tell by my questions that I dove in without reading everything on the website first.

# Simon W, December 16th 2013

Hi Ben & Tarka,
Picking up on Intrepid’s comments above about inspiration, I was stuck on the M3 in pouring rain tonight after a rubbish day in the office, so I turned the heater off and wound down the windows to remind myself that you two are a zillion times colder and discomforted than I was.  Thanks for giving me a morale boost, but do you miss real rain?  It was probably in Punta that you last felt a drop.  Take care and onwards to the Pole with us all in your every step.

# Patrick, December 16th 2013

Keep strong guys! It has been such an incredible adventure to follow. I read many things throughout the day and your posts are always the highlight.

All the best,

# Nigel Watson, December 16th 2013

Hi Guys,
Have been watching your progress every day with great interest from Scott Base and now NZ. Ben your blogs are fantastic reading! Great to see the videos including your visit to Cape Evans hut. You have within your grasp the chance to do something special by completing this journey.
Stay strong and keep going.

# Richard Pierce, December 17th 2013

First time I’ve seen you comment on here, Nige. Bet you wish you were out there with the guys. But then I do, too.


# George Chapman, December 16th 2013

I’m having trouble seeing your journey on Google Earth today. Is anyone else having the same problem?

# Kristoffer, December 17th 2013

I’m not having any trouble viewing their journey on Google Earth.  If they’re currently at the end of their day, my estimate for distance is 18.9 miles.

# George Chapman, December 17th 2013

Ok thanks Scott Expedition my Google Earth for your expedition is now back to working. Thanks.

# George Chapman, December 17th 2013

With the current situation I’m still thinking we should get to the pole on Christmas Day if we don’t have any problems with weather. I think that would be a great day to arrive. That would be a good Christmas present. Looks like every thing is going well for you. Take care of yourself be safe and keep your chin up we are almost there. Following you on FB , Twitter
and Google Earth.

# Kristoffer, December 17th 2013

My calculations at 20 miles per day are (1134.1 miles - 900 of the return journey)/20=11.705 days until the pole.

# George Chapman, December 17th 2013

Kristoffer When I use the measuring tool on Google Earth they need to travel 200 more miles to get to the pole. 200/20=10 Days. Dec 16+10 days = Dec 26. And I’m speculating maybe they will be challenged to get there even more the closer they get so I’m hoping for Dec 25. That would be a nice way to spend Christmas day. I wonder if Santa will be back from his round the World trip when they get there. Who really knows if he lives at the North or South Pole?

# Michelle, December 17th 2013

I’m simply in awe of your determination and stamina.  I’m in Texas and hate it when the weather drops to near freezing (it’s not really the temperature that bothers me so much as the wind).

I’m enjoying your blog and love reading about your journey.  You are inspiring in so many ways!  What I love most about this expedition is the message that we are making history every day of our lives.  So I feel really lazy and unambitious, but thanks for changing my outlook on life. :)

# AlisonP, December 17th 2013

OMG, 36 days of incredibly hard work without a rest!  I hope it felt great to get that extra two hours of sleep.  And yet in horrible conditions you stillmanage to do more than 13 miles.  I think maybe you are both androids!  Certainly two amazing incredible awesome human beings!!  I hope you meet you both some day and tell you how incredibly inspiring you are, and to say thanks for taking the time to tell us how every day is.  You’re getting pretty close to the pole, and i have the chamoagne ready!

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