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.

Blue Ice (Day 42)

Day 42: S84° 23' 9.6", E169° 19' 13.2"

Duration: 8 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 17.9 Mi

Distance to go: 1313.2 Mi

Temperature: -3 °C

Wind chill: -9 °C

Altitude: 3330 Ft

In keeping with something of a recurring theme on this glacier, today was pretty character-building. Aside from a brief thirty minutes on skis and snow first thing this morning, we've had crampons on all day and have been travelling over steel-hard blue ice, climbing steadily as we went; we're now at 1,014 metres above sea level compared to 43 metres when we left the Ross Ice Shelf.

The surface is the best we've had on the Beardmore, and the sleds skitter and clatter along behind us almost weightlessly, unless they get caught on the lip of a crack or an awkward ridge, in which case the harness knocks the wind out of you as it brings you to a dead stop. My mum will be pleased to hear that while we've crossed countless dozens of crevasses today (and deep ones too, fading through deepening shades of blue to an infinite black) they've all been so narrow that I'd struggle to fit my clenched fist very far down them. I couldn't fall into one if I tried.

The weather was glorious for the first six or seven hours of our day, then it got very unpleasant indeed. Someone seemed to have turned the Cloudmaker up to eleven as without much warning we quickly became swamped in a thick grey fog. The sun vanished, it started snowing heavily and the light flattened, leaving us struggling to navigate, and ultimately to find a place to sleep.

I've sent back two photos, one of Tarka studying our Beardmore map when the sun was out and everything was great, and one of him sans sled, scouting for a camp site this evening when I feared we were in for our very own version of the "slough of despond" that Scott gloomily experienced for a few days. As you can see, the ice looks quite dirty here with sediment from the nearby mountains.

We managed to squeeze the tent into a narrow, flat-ish blue ice gulley, pitching it using four ice screws, both sleds and two big rocks. There are uneven, rock-hard lumps under my sleeping mats as I lie here and type now. And just to add to the fun, there's no snow in sight, so Tarka chipped up blue ice with our axe (a hell of a job as we get through about nine litres of water per day between us) as I refuelled the stove and set up our little kitchen. I swallowed my first mouthful of our pre-dinner energy drink just now and asked Tarka how old he reckoned the ice that we were consuming was. "Oh", he said, "no more than a couple of thousand years."


# CaninesCashews, December 6th 2013

Hi guys,
Another great mileage for a crampons day - and you managed to keep the skis on the sled :-)
Nice photo of Tarka - the sunlight bouncing of the ice shows every scar - looks amazing.
Long may the crevasses be narrow.
We’re working on another photo, I don’t think his vintage polar Action Man will ever be the same again.
Stay safe.

# Michael Pianin, December 6th 2013

This is one of the greatest stories told, day by day.

# Leah, December 6th 2013

Greetings from sunny Israel…. the blog is fantastic Ben, have been enjoying it!
Would love to have you and Tarka for a talk in Israel when you get back. Take care and God speed!

# Matthew Whipple, December 6th 2013

Negative 9 degrees in Denver Colorado this morning.  Although I drove my heated car to work vs trekking a 400 sledge.  God bless.  Safe travels friends.

# Christy, December 6th 2013

I’ve read that blue ice in Antarctica is the best place in the world to find meteorites, not because more meteorites fall there, but just that they can be more easily spotted in that type of ice field.  Are you seeing any?  On another note, just think… lf you had a wee dram of scotch aboard, you could add some of that ice and celebrate the day with 2000 year old scotch!  Actually I’ve just read that scientific evidence suggests that the Beardmore Glacier formed at least 35 million years ago.  I haven’t seen anything yet regarding the age of the exposed glacier surface there,  and though I suspect it depends on the specific area and the amount of ablation the surface has suffered, I’m thinking that ice you are melting may indeed be a lot older than 2000.

# Sheila England, December 7th 2013

Man, you guys are moving!
Stay safe! (and don’t mention crevasses to your Mum!!!)

# Intrepid, December 7th 2013

Last night when I turned out the lights I began to wonder about such practical matters as laundry and waste. Although laundering is questionable, I don’t seem to have any hands-on understanding of the environment you are in and how such matters are taken care of.

I’ve been listening to Schubert, imagining whether such music would be fitting for a Beardmore ascent.

Hoping your rest is rest, your walk is long, and the sun, moon and stars are always with you.

# Lydia, December 7th 2013

Ben how much more character building do you need, you guys are already immense.  I love your blog - have you ever considered poetry - you could be the next poet laureate whereas Tarka could write comedy with his great one liners. 
Just to let you know that England have drawn Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in the World Cup in Brazil next year, I know you will be dying to know - not!
Take care Ben keep safe you modern day hero you!
Lydia X

# Sheila England, December 7th 2013

Another sporting note: Newcastle just beat Manchester United, 1- 0

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