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.
Christmas Day (Day 62)
Day 62: S89° 39' 35.64", E160° 27' 24.42"
Duration: 9 Hr
Daily distance: 22.8 Mi
Distance to go: 925.9 Mi
Temperature: -8 °C
Wind chill: -16 °C
Altitude: 9426 Ft
After our frustration yesterday, today turned out to be perhaps the most enjoyable of the entire expedition so far. Tarka and I swapped presents soon after our alarms went off at 5.30am; he loved his teabags and powdered milk, and it turns out he's been dragging with him for 61 days an ingenious vacuum-packed disposable filter coffee maker that produces three cups (or in my case exactly one brim-full 500ml Nalgene bottle) of incredibly good Brazilian gourmet coffee. We both agreed they were the most enjoyable cups of tea and coffee we'd ever had, and the smell of the coffee brewing was out of this world.
I sat there waiting for it, drooling like a greedy mutt and missing home desperately as I thought of the coffee I'd make in my little espresso pot before walking my dog in Battersea Park, or the cafetiere my girlfriend and I would brew before heading out on big bike rides in the Chilterns. Tarks and I were both quite emotional as we got ready to go this morning, and while we both managed to avoid outright blubbing in the tent, but our voices both quavered a few times as we talked about Christmases at home and missing our loved ones, and my goggles definitely got a little misted up in the first hour.
The weather today was entirely unexpected, and incredibly good. The wind early on (the temperatures on the site are recorded by me first thing in the morning, as soon as we take the tent down) died away, and the clouds parted after the first hour to leave us with a glorious blue sky and bright sunshine. Incredibly I skied for a few hours today without a jacket, in just my thermal underwear top. I doubt the storm-lashed Brits sat reading this at home will have much sympathy for us here when I say that I needed to dig out my factor 50 sunblock.
We skied hard today, no doubt boosted by our first slug of caffeine in two months, and thought we might have been on for a 40km-day until the terrain started undulating way more than I was expecting. We still managed a record distance, but we did a lot of up and down and I'm feeling pretty drained this evening.
Our plan tomorrow is to keep racing south, put up our tent about 8km from the Pole, leave the sleds and leg it there and back again on skis with a light backpack each (actually an ultralight drybag, clipped to our sledge harnesses, with a down jacket, food, drink, a satellite phone, our tracker and a few other bits and bobs). If all goes to plan, it'll be a big mileage day, and we hope to turn around at the Pole as quickly as we can.
It probably sounds very antisocial, but I'd honestly prefer not have contact with people there, and I'm far more excited about starting the return journey than I am about standing by the Pole itself, surrounded by centrally-heated buildings, cargo containers, giant vehicles, rumbling generators, parked aircraft, tents and fuel drums. Tonight should be our last night camped on the southward leg of this journey, and for me the really special part starts when we turn and head for home from the Pole.
P.S. You'll note from the photo that Tarka has also been dragging party hats, though as we're travelling so light our Christmas dinner this evening contained no special treats, other than the fact it was freeze-dried Kung Po chicken, which is one of our favourites and we'd been saving it. You'll also note our faces are now walnut-coloured, greasy from sunblock and sprouting tramp-like beards...