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.

As Good as it Gets (Day 35)

Day 35: S82° 32' 17.988", E169° 31' 43.320"

Duration: 8 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 18.7 Mi

Distance to go: 1443.6 Mi

Temperature: -8 °C

Wind chill: -17 °C

Altitude: 138 Ft

I wondered during the first ten or so days of this expedition if we'd ever get a day like today. Early on, when the surface was like glue and our nearly 200kg sleds seemed almost impossible to move; when we worked like dogs and bruised our hips from pulling so hard just to get 3.5 miles (5.7km) in a day, I was hating this expedition. I had never suffered physically so much in my life, yet I didn't want to admit my misery.

People sent well-meaning messages like "Enjoy every second, you've worked so hard to get there" and "Don't forget to take time to look around and appreciate how lucky you are", and all I could do was swear and curse and grit my teeth as we dragged our absurdly heavy loads inch by inch into the murky whiteout, our skis sinking into the snow's soft crust and the blizzard lashing and spitting at us, raging against the insult of our presence. Perhaps I've gone soft, I wondered to myself. I'm sure I used to have moments of pleasure and contentment on expeditions so profound that they've kept me dragging sleds for twelve years. Yet it never came. I'd expected to fall in love with Antarctica in a flash, yet all I seemed to feel was horror at the sentence I'd imposed on myself, embarrassment that we could hardly move our sleds, and a gloomy resignation at the monotony of the cloud, the wind, the sticky snow and the pan-flat horizon whichever way I turned.

Things have improved each day, of course, and today was the one where it all made sense. The sun was out, the wind was gentle (and even puffed feebly at our backs for a brief spell), the surface was fine, and we pushed beyond the 30km barrier for the first time. All day, the mountains to our right seemed to expand in scale and majesty, and framed by a few high brush strokes of cloud, the beauty of the view and the sense of awe and gratitude and privilege I felt at being here were something I'm struggling to put into words. How many people, I thought, have seen this range with their own eyes?

It was a special day, and given the pace we're sustaining (and way the distances we're covering each day are increasing) Tarka and I are both feeling pretty content as we lie here this evening with bellies full of chicken and pasta.

I'm going to sign off by wishing all of my friends in America (I was happily reflecting today that there are too many of you to list here) - and indeed everyone in the United States who's reading this - a very happy Thanksgiving.

And I've got a few answers for Liz Hoskins' class who posted some questions on the blog:

Q) (From Olivier) How many times have you fallen over? A) Haha! That's top secret. (Actually, I think Tarka's going to talk about that when he sends his blog post back - apparently it's nearly ready...)

Q) (From Sasha) Why is it called Antarctica? A) Hi Sasha. Embarassingly, I'm not really sure, other than that it's at the opposite end of the planet to the Arctic. Let me know if you can find out any more detail than that!

Q) (From Mia) Have you had any fun with snowballs? A) Thanks Mia! I'm sad to say that the snow here is rubbish for snowballs (or snowmen) - it's dry, powdery and fine and doesn't stick together at all well. The most fun I have in the snow is digging a hole every evening in the porch of our tent, about two feet deep, so we can step down into it and sit on the edge of our inner tent like a chair in order to take our boots off (and put them on again in the morning). I'll send back a photo soon to show you what it looks like, but I've always loved digging holes!


# Dave, November 29th 2013

Thank you for the great daily blogs. Each and every morning I look forward to reading you notes while I eat breakfast. Several years ago I summited many of the “fourteeners” in Califonia. We frequenly camped in the snow. It was a satifying feeling to be in such a remote location relying on the food, shelter, and fuel we brought with us. Your stories bring back those memories.
A couple questions: Will anyone you know be meeting up with you at the south pole reasearch station?  How long do you intend on staying there before the journey back?
Keep up the good work. Stay strong.

# dj, November 29th 2013

They’ve previously mentioned that they don’t intend to go to the research station, they’ve never mentioned how long they intend to linger (probably won’t be long) - I’d like to fly over and be on the sidelines as they pull up to the pole (I don’t suppose they could say anything about it if someone was there with a cup of hot coco).

# Mal Owen, November 29th 2013

I think Ben would prefer a decent coffee !

# Mal Owen, November 29th 2013

Magical moment for it all to make sense…can’t begin to understand how that realisation must have felt.
Bad days allow a sense of accomplishment when the good days come.  Fingers/everything crossed for those good days to keep on coming !
I love the way you’ve answered the kids questions…they will be sooo chuffed - you have given them their magical moments to remember… so important for a childs journey.

# dj, November 29th 2013

Can you believe it now? Three nights from tonight you’ll be camping either at the foot of the Gateway or on the Beardmore!

# Nick, November 29th 2013

I know how you feel, but from a warmer Northern climate, Northern England.  Many people bust their gut everyday and do hard work, only for a system of Government departments to rubbish those on benefits.  I say, ‘we all do hard work’.  Many people work hard throughout their lives, i’m nearly 40, but many others don’t see our work or see us whilst we work, whether we’re employed, unemployed, on the sick or rich enough not to do any work, but do it anyway.  Whatever our circumstances.  And then there’s people like you, extreme journey/extreme sports or extreme expeditions who also bust your gut working for it - what you get from it.  The purpose and reason of it all.

No one can take away what we ourselves know inside us.  Who we are and what we have done.

Like I say, Government departments trash us all the time with help of a ‘media TV News’ and we try and ‘get through the system’ of it all, back at home in the ‘real world’...and we don’t have any TV to broadcast to millions.  We don’t have that.  We only have the internet.

And they you are in the real world, but very extreme.  And breaking pace, and breaking through it all and you really do want a thanks now and then, like manual labour/graft.  But thanks comes in little amounts.

I think Intel, a company who works very hard 24 hours of the day, keeping those cleanrooms dust free, they know fine and so does Land Rover who make vehicles for this planet Earth to ride and climb through mud and dirt and soil. They’ll thank you two, one day, given a few months maybe.  And you need so much luck and strength.

But there’s so many people on the internet and it’s our way this internet thing. Our voice in certain shapes and sounds if you like and we pretty much get it.  Sense of humour or advice or a bit talk?  Or our own experiences?  But I for one have done some extreme laboursome jobs and when you spend 7 hours taking out a tree root and succeed or 2 months sweeping a street of leaves which you don’t get paid for….i’ve done it….there’s something inside us what keeps us going and i’ve been through the breakdown of life as well and there I was two weeks ago doing my 4/5 mile run around the long block and I woke up one mornign and did a 13 mile run in the Great North, because I needed to ask a question…

How long would it take me to do the Great North run (non stop)?  Answer 2 hours 40 minutes and the last mile was really tough and focusing.  People who do the 2 hour of that run ! that’s not harder, just fitter than myself.

When you spend years of doing laboursome jobs, breakdown, then do it all again.  How many people do these things? And then you give yourself more time for a run?

Why?  Because I like the rush adrenaline and pain I guess.  It is a thrill. Maybe personal push and drive.

And there’s so many of us out here ! there is.  And we’re not a GP living in a world of £100k pa office.  Our strength comes from within a ‘knowledge of life experience’ - not some thrilly text book group therapy !

Sorry, but no.

If people only knew, our very own (life situation) and your expedition is something we now know !  it’s in the open of the internet.  And I wish I could broadcast a few facts of Government over the airways of self opinionated media reporters !

For that I go and do another dvd or run or shopping trip to live like we all do.

# Sheila England , November 29th 2013

Great perspective in that photo! Lovely view. As I was trying to warm up under the covers last night, hot-water bottle by my feet (I love to switch the thermostat down at night), I was wondering how long it takes for you to warm up in your sleeping bags when you finally bed down for the night, and what is it like sleeping it that environment, esp. when the wind kicks up?
I hope the good weather keeps up for you.
Sweet dreams,

# Helen, November 29th 2013

Hi guys,
Warm greetings from Russia!
Thank you for such an inspiring description of your expedition. It is already a habit to open your blog and read about the great job you are doing every day.
It doesn’t matter how hard all this is now, cause when you will be at safety of your home you will remind every single second of your journey with absolute 100% happiness.

Wish you luck guys!

# ale, November 29th 2013

Hi Ben and Tarka,
it seems that the most tricky questions were the ones from the kids!!!! :-)
Good to know that even you super heros are sometimes soffering a little! But I am even so sorry about your poor situation in the previous days.
Wish you a pleasant going!!!

# roy foreman, November 30th 2013

anyone tell me how far before they start to climb the breadmore

# Nate B, December 1st 2013

Arctic means Bear in some native language of the Eskimo. Therefore Antarctic is Anti-bear or the place without bears. Eagerly reading your updates each morning at McMurdo Station! All the best from all of us here with the United States “Anti-bear” Program!

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