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.

Beardmore Battles (Day 40)

Day 40: S83° 53' 30.48", E170° 34' 31.74"

Duration: 8 Hr 45 Min

Daily distance: 16.7 Mi

Distance to go: 1348.9 Mi

Temperature: -1 °C

Wind chill: -8 °C

Altitude: 1798 Ft

The day started well enough: warm (in fact my brother tells me it's colder where he lives in the Swiss Alps right now, though we'll be back in the minus thirties on the Plateau), a bit of cloud but still enough sunlight to give us the surface contrast we need to navigate easily, and the slightest of headwinds.

We dismantled the tent and set off up the glacier, beneath the sight of a hazy parhelion above the Cloudmaker and a weird-looking bank of cloud hovering below the tops of the mountains to our east. The surface was incredibly good with almost no crevasses, and through my sunglasses the snow looked a bluey-grey cream, with the sky tinted peach-coloured at the far horizon. Perhaps -I wondered to myself- I've made the mistake of using books meant for general public entertainment as reference guides; perhaps this glacier's not all that challenging after all once you've sifted through the hyperbole and drama and derring-do. My sled felt almost weightless behind me, and I wondered if we'd break some sort of Beardmore distance record today.

The rude awakening came around the third hour of the day, when the surface and terrain began to get rougher and more ridged, much like sea ice does under pressure. Our pace slowed, but I was enjoying piecing together the puzzle of finding a route and scouting out a way ahead when it was my turn to lead. By our fifth hour of the day, now going decidedly uphill, we encountered more and more patches of blue ice, upon which our skis had next-to-no grip. Short sections were fine, aside from some occasional Bambi-style flailing, but when there was more ice than snow, we switched to crampons. For the first time, I had to be sure where I placed each footstep, and the increase in nervous energy was remarkable. By all accounts the blue ice flattens out later on, but here it's incredibly fractured and riven with snow-filled cracks that are often pretty rotten and crumbly at the edges.

The big slots and holes are nearly always obvious and avoidable (and mostly bridged so well that you could drive a bus over them) so our biggest fear is not some gaping chasm, but rather putting a foot in a crack and twisting an ankle or wrenching a knee. We crossed many crevasses today, and it's been a good learning curve for me. I'm feeling infinitely less anxious about my ability to negotiate this terrain than I did a few days ago, but I'm also under no illusions about the challenges our ascent to the Plateau will hold. After nine hard hours yesterday and almost the same today, Tarka and I are both pretty spaced-out in the tent this evening. I'll sign off before I start rambling...


# Lydia, December 4th 2013

Wow Ben amazing photographs and as discriptive as ever.  It is truly amazing what you both are achieving each day, truly tuly amazing.  I am in orr of you both.  Rest well, as tomorrow will no doubt bring more challenges and more unique experiences. 
Be safe x

# Richard Pierce, December 4th 2013

Good mileage regardless of the obstacles in the latter part of the day. Having only ventured a couple of yards onto the Barne Glacier when I was there in 2008, I can imagine the nerves when actually travelling up a glacier against the flow, always aware of what is (or isn’t) under your feet.

Keep going and stay safe. And one of these days, let yourself ramble. I’m sure that would be very interesting for all of us.

One last thing - when I went to bed last night, I pulled, as always, my duvet over my head and pretended to be back in my tent at Cape Evans. My thoughts, last night, however, were with you, and wondering where you were at that precise moment. It just illustrates how the Antarctic, once experienced, becomes a total, eternal obsession. Maybe, just once more before I die, I’ll set foot again in that most magical of all places.

God Speed.


# Torsten Richter, December 4th 2013

Great news, and I have great respect for your performance!

# Marion Byrne, December 4th 2013

Well done guys.  I love the honesty of your accounts!  Stay safe and keep plodding up that glacier.

# Austin Duryea, December 5th 2013

Thank you for the amazing descriptive story. Even though it was tuff in the later part of the day y’all still did awesome. Do you know the record for the most miles traveled in one day crossing the South Pole is.

# TASIS American School 5th Grade Class, December 4th 2013

We have been following you two on your expedition, and we are excited as we watch your progress. Keep up the great work!!

# Jaakko Heikka, December 4th 2013

Great job! Quite incredible mileage for the last week or two. I’m enjoying the blog a lot! Also big thanks and respect for the honesty about the Beardmore. Usually one reads about navigating rotten snow bridges and huge crevasses that could swallow a train, or a school bus at least. Twisted ankles and knees do sound like more likely concern. Lets just hope it’s as good on the way back than it’s now!

# Hilary, December 4th 2013

Yay! Half way to the pole now, just over 450miles done. Glad the Beardmore is better than expected and hope it keeps being that way. The photos are immense. Still reading this first thing every day. Best wishes to you both!

# Phil Satoor, December 4th 2013

It’s a great privilege to read your descriptions and see the photos.

At the moment I’m reading the description of Scott’s journey in Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s “The Worst Journey in the World” and comparing their experiences with yours. They spotted two skuas near where you are now!

# Enrico, December 4th 2013

Great book! I’m reading it too and it’s wonderful that someone is doing this journey 100 years after.

# Kristoffer, December 4th 2013

Skuas occasionally make it as far as the South Pole, where they die due to lack of food.  Unfortunately, the Antarctic Treaty System forbids people from interfering with native wildlife.

# Kenneth Frank Keightley, December 4th 2013

Love the photos and narrative . Gives a small sense of journey I’ll never make and an insight into what it was like all those years ago with Shackleton and Scott. Wonderful. Often think of the two of you during the day walking out there. Good luck with it all.

# Pam, December 4th 2013

Those blue mountains are breathtaking! The glacier is so beautiful. Great work , guys.

# Janet Stanley, December 4th 2013

Interesting as always! please stay safe :)

# Claire , December 4th 2013

The pictures are absolutely stunning and as I read your blogs, I can only say that I have the utmost respect and admiration for what you are taking on.  Your writing is inspirational and understanding a little of how you are feeling really helps gain a little insight about what you are going through.  I’m also impressed with the technology that enables you to post so regularly and seemingly reliably!!

Commenting is not available for this entry.