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.

Buckley Island (Day 43)

Day 43: S84° 34' 47.028", E167° 56' 7.440"

Duration: 8 Hr

Daily distance: 16.1 Mi

Distance to go: 1297 Mi

Temperature: -8 °C

Wind chill: -17 °C

Altitude: 4409 Ft

We had a small send-off party in London a couple of days before I left the UK in October. I was sleep-deprived and exhausted from a manic few weeks of packing, preparation, training and interviews, and I ended up drinking too much champagne and giving the worst impromptu speech of my entire life, where I pointed out to the gathered crowd of friends, family, supporters and sponsors that the lady that used to babysit me as a young boy was with us there that evening, but didn't properly thank Land Rover or Intel*.

Robert Swan (the first in history to reach both Poles on foot, the man whose book inspired me to make this journey, and one of the expedition's two patrons) surprised me by turning up to wish Tarka and I well. Thankfully he left before my speech, but as he got ready to go, he clamped his arms around Tarka and me like we were in a rugby scrum, smiled and gave us his parting words loudly, over the din of conversation in the bar, "Go with the flow boys, and let Buckley Island be your guide".

I think Shackleton named Buckley Island, with its three distinctive mountainous peaks, but I could be wrong. Either way, it was the signpost that he and Scott (and indeed Swan's team) used to mark the exit from the Beardmore and the final ascent to the Antarctic plateau, and it's a landmark we spotted for the first time today.

We had a grim start to the morning, waking up in our wonky ice gulley camp site to even crazier weather - it was three degrees above zero, but it felt oddly cold in the humid, damp air, like a Scottish or Welsh winter - and a thick, claustrophobic grey ceiling of cloud hung over us as we packed and set off. We were on crampons all day, and the first hour was spent lurching through a maze of cracks and crevasses, all covered in fresh snow, before a steep climb up a blue ice slope and, about three hours in, our first brief glimpse of the island through the cloud.

Our morale lifted instantly, and the surface ended up being superb for the rest of the day, thanks in large part to Tarka's gamble of steering very close to the Cloudmaker. His ability to read glaciers and predict upcoming areas of disturbance in the ice is uncanny, and I owe a lot to my stoic, hard-as-nails team mate.

The cloud finally lifted in our penultimate hour of travel, rising from the far mountains to our west like thick bonfire smoke. The surface contrast returned first, then our own shadows, and finally the ice itself changed colour from a dull, opaque grey to blue, mirroring the growing expanse of clear sky above.

We're pleased with the progress we're making, though we're working our socks off for it, and we stopped thirty minutes early today to pitch the tent on a rare patch of perfect-looking snow in order to reward ourselves with flat beds and a decent night's sleep. There's now a pretty chilly wind blowing down from the plateau and it's rather a lot colder than it was this morning.

In the photo, you should be able see the three tips of Buckley Island directly above the tent. I'm sure the Beardmore will have a few more challenges in store for us yet, but as I lie here typing I feel content with what we've managed to do so far, and positive about meeting what's yet to come.

*I'm not sure I'll ever be able to find the words to properly express my gratitude to Land Rover and Intel for their support, and for their faith in me, in this expedition, and in Tarka's and my ability to do something that's never been done before. Hopefully our skiing is doing at least some of the talking for me.


# Chris, December 7th 2013

Nearing the 85th parallel and making short work of the Beardmore ascent, well done guys!

# Nick Webb, December 7th 2013

Thank you for ‘letting us in’ on your adventure.  Truly amazing what you are doing and you help transport our minds to the Antartic… for a question and joke…

Q How many hours do you sleep a night?  What time do you usually set off in the morning?

Joke: I met a Dutch girl with inflatable shoes the other week, phoned her to arrange a date but unfortunately she had popped her clogs…..

# Richard Pierce, December 7th 2013

Hopefully, you’ll make 85S tomorrow. I had heard through various sources that you were absolutely knackered when you were at Evans, and it’s good to know you’re now actually better rested and fitter than at the start of the trek.

Tarka sounds like a cornerstone, and despite his silence on these blogs, his character shines through as strongly as yours. That’s a good thing.

Many people don’t understand that, on the Ice, “warm” weather can actually make the going harder and the air seem colder. When it’s really cold out there, it’s dry, which is much less claustrophobic than the dampness of the temperatures around freezing. I hope you get some decent minus degrees in the coming days (and no precipitation) to help you on your way.

God Speed - and thanks for writing.


# Kristoffer, December 7th 2013

Strange, I’ve never encountered the claustrophobic effect of more humid air.  Then again, I don’t have claustrophobia.  The wind makes a difference, that’s for sure.  Give me 10 F with no wind over 34 F with wind any day.  -3.6 F (-19.778 C) temperature in southern Minnesota right now, Minneapolis reports -7.2 F (-21.778 C), International Falls reports -18.5 F (-28.056 C)!

# Richard Pierce, December 7th 2013


The climate in your part of the world, as I can gather from your emails, is fortunately not damp enough to induce the particular winter dampness I was talking about, because you have proper seasons over there (as they do in Norway). Trust me, though, when I say that a warm day on the Ice is almost as awful as a winter’s day in England, when +4C feels more like -15C, and the damp gets into your bones and your soul. Whatever our viws on Scott’s diaries, the days they spent on Beardmore in warm weather without being able to carry on (was it for 4 days?) encapsulate that feeling. Damp=apathy.


# Kevin Wilson, December 7th 2013

Well done Tarka and Ben, you’re motoring along. With a significant increase in mileage per day when compared to the start. I’m impressed. This is the first time I’ve seen an image of both sledges together and what a view. The sledge on the left looks shorter than the one on the right? If it is, then who pulls the lighter sledge?

# Kevin Wright, December 8th 2013

Come on Kevin a man with all your technical knowledge should know this is an optical illusion! There both the same size in earlier pictures. Kevin

# Kristoffer, December 8th 2013

I’ve pointed out to Kevin Wilson that it’s the result of the right sledge being closer.  It was probably a snap judgement on his part.  Nothing wrong there, if it’s an isolated occurrence.  What catches my attention is how lightly loaded the sledges are.

# Kevin Wright, December 10th 2013

Thanks for you reply. I guess with the tent off , sleeping bags etc they will look a bit lacking in load size. I was privilege to be given Robert Swans Pulk which I mounted in the rescue hut Kirkby Stephen. I packed with stuff to bulk it out and to be honest it didn’t look much bigger than those in the picture. Kev

# Don, December 7th 2013

Hi there - was just wondering the same thing as the previous comment - do you alternate pulling the smaller sledge throughout the day?

# Vimalatharmaiyah Gnanaruban, December 7th 2013

Yesterday someone was asking about the kind of music Ben likes, then someone mentioned about Football, English team and all the jazz. I think it’s time to get to know a bit more of B&Ts; personal interests.
Do Ben like Cricket and get updated on Ashes these days? England are getting their asses kicked by the Aussies big time in the Ashes. They lost at Brisbane and now heading for another defeat in Adelaide. It’s a great time for Cricket fans all over the world, except for the English of course. No holds barred, Barmy army must be made fun of at any time- utters my a SriLankan lips. On a positive note, there is always some more material for Ben’s ‘daydreaming’.
Stay Warm - Ruban

# Kevin Wright, December 10th 2013

Thanks for you reply. I guess with the tent off , sleeping bags etc they will look a bit lacking in load size. I was privilege to be given Robert Swans Pulk which I mounted in the rescue hut Kirkby Stephen. I packed with stuff to bulk it out and to be honest it didn’t look much bigger than those in the picture. Kev

# Jen, December 7th 2013

You’re both most fabulous and amazing. Stay safe.

# #hsummy, December 7th 2013

Your journey is fascinating, inspiring, and completely novel in a world full of reality tv, hyperbole, and frauds.  You are out there living your dream.  Congratulations on your progress to date.  Stay strong and keep enjoying the journey.

# Dave, December 7th 2013

Is Buckley Island a true sea island or an above sea level rock outcropping surrounded by ice?

# CaninesCashews, December 7th 2013

Hi guys,
Must be great to have Buckley in your sights. It was indeed named by Shackleton in December 1908 for his New Zealand friend, George Buckley a sheep farmer, of Ashburton, who went in the Nimrod as far as the pack-ice.
Sounds like you are quite upbeat which is a good sign. Keep up the miles on that blue ice.
Regarding your grim start to the morning, Ellen Potter said in her book ‘The Kneebone Boy’, “All great adventures have moments that are really crap.”
Not exactly profound but very true!
Stay Safe.

# Hugo Youngman, December 7th 2013

Ben - truly inspiring as always very best of luck to you and Tarka - hopefully you are reaping the benefits of Ironmac’s training!!

# George Chapman, December 7th 2013

From looking at things on Google Earth it looks like your nearly past the hardest part and it’s smooth sailing up to the pole. Glad things are going well for the both of you. Look forward everyday to seeing your progress. Take care stay warm and have fun.

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