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."