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.

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...


# Thea, December 26th 2013

Well done, lovely to see you in the festive spirit, really good to know I only have to give you a tea bag for Christmas from now on. Thinking of you today as I do my first days work, heading up in a minute and it has actually beens nowing all night so I can pretend I am with you today. Have a wonderful day today and hopefully you will be heading back in the next blog, go carefully and remember where you have put your sleds. xx

# Damian Harris , December 26th 2013

Coffee, tea bags and milk powder. What perfect gifts.
Proof that it really is the thought that counts.
Well done on another record day guys. Keep pushing.

# Kiwawa, December 26th 2013

Oh boys… Look at you with your party hats on. You should be so incredibly proud of yourselves. You are half way there and before you know it you will be drinking entire cafetieres of coffee each with your toes roasting by log fire. Tarka, you have been incredibly missed this Christmas. You are the rock of our family and not one minute passed this Christmas day where I didn’t wish you were here with us. None the less keep going strong as i am now beginning to be really popular with the kids due to my superpower brother. I cannot emphasise how proud I am of you. Miss you xxx

# wonderwoman, December 26th 2013

Dear Ben and Tarka,
Thank you for sharing your Christmas with us. The way you tell about it is real and touching and makes me believe in goodness. I honour, respect and cherish the way you are going to go round the Pole. Huge congratulations for reaching the turning point!
We send you love from Finland and pray for your safe return jurney.

# Stuart Dyble, December 26th 2013

Hi Ben and Tarka

Many congrats my friend on making it halfway!  There is no doubt in my book that you will complete the journey and become total heroes.  Very best of luck for the return journey.  And thanks for the very entertaining, well written and lucid reports.  Proud of you. All the best Stuart D

# Hilary, December 26th 2013

Happy Boxing Day! Hope today really is the day when you reach your goal! You are both amazing and it is a pleasure to read your blogs about your progress each day. It’s still the first thing I do each day! Keep the spirit going, you guys rock!

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, December 26th 2013

Ah, it is good to hear you had a good Christmas Day and I love your plans for the last leg.
Keep going and get the job done!

# Uncle Pete, December 26th 2013

All here seriously impressed with Christmas Video scenes and great to see you in festive mood - stirred by tea and coffee! Very best wishes for a successful slingshot around the Pole today and we promise to keep to keep encouragement flowing for your safe and speedy return! Some here where surprised at your description of the ‘Pole’ as they had envisaged a ‘pole’ in the ground…! Wise move and look forward to your blog description of what will surely be a bit surreal after your trip so far! All the best. Pete, Family and Friends.

# Luke Hull, December 26th 2013

Best of luck with the next couple of days and I don’t blame you for sneaking in and out of the pole base and well done for not blubbing what would have Scott and Shackleton thought!

# Leigh Phillips , December 26th 2013

Amazing blog by 2 amazing guys. Its the perfect antidote to a “celebrity” filled christmas. We all loved seeing the hats here

# George Chapman, December 26th 2013

Glad to see you had so many Christmas greetings. It’s wonderful knowing how many are following you. I have noticed even today on Google Earth that it appears your still having navigational problems. Your track on Google Earth does show you changing course frequently. I know you mentioned this several days ago as being a problem. I’m surprised with all our advanced technology that it’s a problem staying on course. It looks like you may make it to the Pole on 63 or 64 and that will be great. Now we need to get back to base camp 900 miles away. Take care guys and stay warm.

# Pete Casey, December 26th 2013

We take for granted all the little luxuries we use in our daily lives, so
i will relish even more so my cup of Brazilian coffee after a 20k bike ride in Sussex (UK) this morning after reading your blog.
A Christmas Day you both will never forget I’m sure!
Godspeed on your return journey.

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