Distance to go:
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."
# Andy Lawrence, December 6th 2013
2000 year old ice, wonderful year, lovely bouquet and excellent long finish. Glad to see the slough of despond isn’t that deep.
# Pavel, December 6th 2013
Temp: -3 ℃ — about the same shit in Moscow now
Warm greets from Russia
# Kristoffer, December 6th 2013
Moscow has it easy today-it’s 4 F (-15.556 C) in southern Minnesota right now, and it’s not forecasted to get above 10 F.
# Richard Pierce, December 6th 2013
That fog does indeed look miserable. Let us hope you are not in the slough of despond and that you get off that glacier as soon as possible. Having said that, 17.9 miles up the glacier is pretty damn good going. Keep it up.
# John Brain, December 6th 2013
Great blog, as ever. As a matter of interest, the pioneers used a hypsometer, a cumbersome instrument, to calculate altitude. What are Tarka and Ben using? Anyone know?
# Phil Satoor (London), December 6th 2013
Scott’s expedition broke their hypsometer a little further south, on the plateau, as described in Lashly’s diary ...
“December 26  … Our height yesterday morning by hypsometer was 8000 feet. That is our last hypsometer record, as I had the misfortune to break the thermometer. The hypsometer was one of my chief delights, and nobody could have been more disgusted than myself at its breaking. However, we have the aneroid to check the height. We are going gradually up and up….”
I found this in Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s “The Worst Journey in the World”.
# Janet Stanley, December 6th 2013
Pleased crevasses are small & manageable….stay safe! :)
# George Chapman, December 6th 2013
Great going guys this is getting more tense every day. I’m getting excited just anticipating what’s going to happen tomorrow. I’m following you on FB Twitter and Google Earth. I can see that mountain and it looks like your getting through there nicely. Take care and stay warm.
# David, December 6th 2013
Thanks for theses stunning photos - Not just your mum will be pleased about the narrowness of the crevasses today but all of us following you are pleased to hear that news. Stay safe and as comfortable as possible - each step of the way
# Andrea, December 6th 2013
I’m not familiar with extreme polar latitudes, but were you expecting such relatively “warm” conditions? Minus three to minus nine (wind chill)? It seems colder here on italian Alps (Dolomites), I wonder why.
# Richard Pierce, December 6th 2013
Andrea, it’s the summer over there, so such relatively mild conditions at this time of year aren’t unusual. However, once Ben and Tarka get up onto the Antarctic plateau, it will be much colder again. R
# Harlan, December 6th 2013
When you descend the ice sheet, do the sleds go in front?
# Andrew, December 6th 2013
Just reading your blog in class 3B at Sussex House School. Still hoping you’ll build us a snowman sometime and looking forward to your visiting us at school when you return. Hope you’ve been feeling a little less glum. The landscape looks quite amazing. We had assumed everything was covered in ice.
# Christian, December 6th 2013
Drinking water, from a couple of thousand years old ice. That is hard to imagine at least for me. Just think about what happened during this long time. I hope the ice/ water is good and clean enough for you. Or are u using any kind of water cleaning pills? Wonderful, fascinating photos. Stay strong and focused and take care down there. Btw Germany is with you - fighting against winter storm Xaver.regards from snowy Berlin
# Dave, December 6th 2013
Are there rocks just laying about in the middle of the glacier?
# CaninesCashews, December 6th 2013
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.
# 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!
# Sheila England, December 7th 2013
Another sporting note: Newcastle just beat Manchester United, 1- 0