Tracking
the Journey

  • Distance to go: 0 Mi
    Distance

    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.

Closer to Home, Closer to Home (Day 103)

Day 103: S78° 8' 2.40", E168° 14' 19.32"

Duration: 10 Hr

Daily distance: 24.4 Mi

Distance to go: 39.3 Mi

Temperature: -12 °C

Wind chill: -24 °C

Altitude: 115 Ft

Despite our proximity to the finish line, today was as tough a day as we've ever had out here. The weather was similar to yesterday, though with a cold wind (at our backs, luckily) that stayed until the early evening, when it calmed down and things warmed up a bit. Starting the day was incredibly hard, and I was in equal parts relieved and distressed to hear that Tarka was struggling with the same weary lethargy and flagging mojo that I was.

Objectively, we're both in no doubt that our extreme physical fatigue is dragging our emotional states down, but we've both shared an unusual feeling lately of something approaching disappointment; we'd perhaps hoped Antarctica would hold more moments of beauty and joy, but the reality is that this has been - for the most part - a vast challenge that has taken us to the very outer fringes of our physical and mental endurance. Exploring those seldom-trod human realms has been a fascinating journey, but it's a frustratingly hard story to convey, as no one will ever know what it was truly like for us.

The other side of this frustration, however, is a bond with Tarka that I'll share for life. "Closer to home, closer to home", was a mantra that I started repeating to myself with each stride today, part-way through a 45-minute session that I began to fear I couldn't make it to the end of. We both fell over again on invisible sastrugi in the flat light, and at one point I feared I might have broken a bone in my forearm. These last days are proving as difficult as any that have preceded them. And speaking of last days, we plan to finish our very final one at the shore of Ross Island, by the New Zealand Antarctic station Scott Base.

It seems a logical - and historically relevant - spot to finish as it's the same point Scott would have aimed for (and the one that Shackleton and Wild reached in late February 1909 before being picked up by boat, as Scott would have been). It's impossible for us to walk from here to Scott's Terra Nova hut as we're at the end of the summer and McMurdo Sound is now open water, just as it was a century ago (though there's also an American icebreaker that burns 4,500 gallons of fuel per hour keeping the Sound ice-free these days too).

The aircraft we've chartered to take us back to Chile can't pick us up from here until the 8th, so we've decided to split tomorrow's giant day into two normal days, and we should arrive at Scott Base on the evening (UK time) of Thursday 6th. Keep your eye on the map!

Comments

# dj, February 5th 2014

Ahh, great news, a much wiser and more rational schedule - wish I was there to line the runway and watch the finish.

Wonder if it would be possible for you to change the settings a bit on your GPS tracker during the final portion of the trip.  Before there were concerns, I’m sure, about recharging and batteries but now the tail end is something that we all would relish keeping more up-to-date on than once an hour.  Perhaps a ten-minute ping wouldn’t break the energy bank and allow a much better chance for you to capture the actual ribbon crossing from your automatic source. (Wish we’d thought to remind you of it when you were at the pole).

Still never did get to see the snow-angel - just thought it would have made a great slide for when you went to talk to school kids. (It’s not too late)

Be safe.

# Matt Healy, February 5th 2014

You guys are awesome!! Can’t believe you only have two days to go. I’m so glad for you both but will miss following your trip. I have enjoyed reading the daily posts a great deal. Take care. Looking forward to seeing pictures of you at Scott Base.

# Ione & Rich, February 5th 2014

glad to hear you will split the giant day into two ‘normal’ ones! Tarka’s wicked uncles and aunts used to speed their incredibly long journey (almost a mile) down Derrydown Lane using the Mantra ‘Om mani padme hum!’ used by a little Panda in our favourite book ‘In his little white waistcoat in Tibet’ - This not only made us go faster, it also made us warmer and kept ghosts and other terrors at bay (it also stopped us wingeing at our mother ‘wait for me….carry me….’ which is possibly why Tarka’s Granny Dida suggested it!) . Hope it works for you!

# David, February 5th 2014

Every is pleased to hear of your plans to finish your journey. Still take care with each step. All your blogg support would love to be standing on the runway to welcome you.
Stay safe - gods speed

# Theresa, February 5th 2014

Wish we could someway provide you both with, (in this age of amazing technology) a ribbon to walk through and a cheering throng to greet you as you finish.

# Richard Pierce, February 5th 2014

Dear Ben, dear Tarka,

39 miles may not sound much, but it is, and bearing in mind the brutality of the Antarctic, even this close to what some might call civilisation, I am relieved to hear you’ve decided to do two normal days and not one mammoth day. It would be cruel for your journey to falter so close to its goal.

I am glad you have chosen to end your quest at Scott Base. It is entirely appropriate to do so, for all the reasons you mention, as well as because of its name, and, as I have mentioned before, because there is a lamp in the lounge at Scott Base that is always lit to guide the Polar Party home. If you get into the bar at the base, just put some money into the hat/tin that’s always on the bar - drinks are paid for out of that hat, not directly by the drinker. An ice-cold Guinness whilst looking south from where you’ve come would seem a good way to celebrate.

Beware the ice conditions as you get closer. Ice conditions are unusual for this time of year, and I shouldn’t think you’ve taken your swim suits with you.

Re your frustrations - Antarctica does build bonds, whether you’ve been out there with someone for only a week (and not been through hell and high water), or if you’ve been out there for over a quarter of a year fighting for your lives. I hope you both will have many opportunities to spend quiet moments with each other as you grow old disgracefully.

I am crossing my fingers all goes well these last few days. Take care and be careful, and mindful of the Ice’s venom.

God Speed.

R

# Mal Owen, February 5th 2014

Their last footsteps to be at Scott Base will be the perfect conclusion. Don’t think they’ll have any money for the tin though…would have been extra weight to carry. Every little bit counts and a note weighs about the same as a clothes label !

# Richard Pierce, February 5th 2014

Knowing how hospitable the Kiwis are, I reckon they might just get a drink out of the hat without having to put any money in! R

# CaninesCashews, February 5th 2014

Mal “note weighs abut the same as a clothes label” love that - made me chortle.

G.

# Lauren, February 5th 2014

I’m not sure what a Guinness would do to these two men in their current state! Though wouldn’t being there to welcome them back be something spectacular. Did not someone here invent a drink called the B&T, and what’s in it?  Perhaps I’ll celebrate from home with one of those, in Victoria B.C.; á votre santé! 

Now, to Ben and Tarka, I am so impressed with your tenacity, will and dedication to finish this journey, and I, too, wondered how you would fare psychologically and emotionally (not to mention physically) on these last couple of days.  The enormity of completing such a journey seems to have your readers expressing myriad sentiments, and to imagine what is going through your hearts and minds (and stomachs!) is like trying to imagine a colour never seen by eyes with the regular three types of cone cells.

Following your last days with excitement, and sending you a solid couple of proverbial high fives through the aether!  Be safe, Ben and Tarka, and revel in your new-found brotherhood.

Huzah!
Lauren.

I have enjoyed your blog enormously.  Gratitude, dudes, for sharing.

# dj, February 5th 2014

@lauren… Absolutely correct, alcohol is NOT what either their mind or body need.  I would hope that the first words they speak to a “native” is “where’s the infirmary?”  Especially NOT “where’s the bar?”  (sorry Richard) Even if it is a “hosted” bar.

IF they’re as malnourished and debilitated as about 101 blog posts constantly lead us to believe, they need laboratory work and medical attention - almost even before they eat.  Re-nourishing a mal-nourished and debilitated gut is no piece of cake and can be fraught with side-effects in distant organ systems from even the food and liquids they need. I hope someone thinks to draw some blood work and take some body measurements before they leave the continent.

[After all the chicken they’ve eaten - I’m not sure that their gastric mucosae will even remember what to do with “real” amino acids from “real” meat.]

# Richard Pierce, February 5th 2014

I still reckon the bar would be the best place to start. Guinness is liquid bread. I know where I’d start (and have done, after all sorts of privations). R

# Mal Owen, February 5th 2014

@Lauren.      B & T = Baileys + Ginger Tea + ice and a slice of lime ...I’ve actually tried it and it fits the bill !

# Intrepid, February 5th 2014

Good points for testing and awareness about what each body will tolerate, especially a kickback from fermented drinks. I read that freeze dried food actually retains most of the nutrients, although vitamins C and E and folic acid are somewhat depleted through the freeze-drying process.  If it was me, I’d have a hankering for my favorite food, my favorite smells, and dive right in, probably right up till I knew I had to stop. Or maybe I could do the bit by bit thing.  I think the adjustment back into everything is enough to upset any belly, so I’m sure the expedition psychologist has something written already to link us to this potentiality, as well as proper guidance for Ben and Tarka.  And yes… this is all armpit talk… I mean, experienced armchair talk, meant to be a mixture of funny with serious, doting with care, and getting ready to happily congratulate everything, thanking the world that YES!!! mission complete~~~~

# CaninesCashews, February 6th 2014

dj… “Re-nourishing a mal-nourished and debilitated gut is no piece of cake” - intentional or not it made me chortle :-)

# dj, February 6th 2014

@Richard… I knew that you had been on the continent before - did you also spend 104 days ending up as debilitated as they’ve led us to believe they are - if you did, and started out at the bar; then, bud you dodged a big bullet.  [Or, of course, all the blogs we’ve endured right along with them could have been a bit of “literary license.” In which case, perhaps the best thing for them to do would be to go and make themselves unconscious for two days until the plane arrives.]

# Richard Pierce, February 6th 2014

It’s called levity.

And, no, I did not walk for 104 days.

:-)

R

# Štěpán Hnyk, February 5th 2014

Seems like Antarctica is not willing to release the grip till the very end. What a terrible, terrible place… Just to imagine myself actually being there makes me painfully homesick. Your physical and mental endurance is beyond my imagination. Stay safe and warm!

# Jarda, February 5th 2014

Hi Ben and Tarka,
your effort is fantastic and I wish you safe and fast return to MacMurdo (nevermind that you will not reach the Cape Evans: I think the Scott´s team had been expected somewhere in the area of Discovery hut).

I´d like to ask you if you go exactly the same route as Scott had planned - through the former “Corner camp”?

# Liam Wilton, February 5th 2014

To Ben, Tarka and the Scott Expedition team.

Before this expedition is over i would just like to say thank you for sharing it with us. I’ve been following Ben and Tarka’s adventure for quite a few years and have looked forward to each morning reading the updates and progress.

Chapeau to all the team and good luck in the final few days.

Kind regards,
Liam.

# Janet Stanley, February 5th 2014

Please be careful on the ice, how appropriate to end your journey at Scott Base, a most fitting finish. Stay safe :)

# pfong, February 5th 2014

Reading about your struggles, makes me think that a human powered trip like this in Scott’s time would have been impossible. Amundsen’s strategy to use dogs which he treated as expendable would have been the only way to do this.

Take care and best wishes for the last legs.

# Alison B. Lowndes, February 5th 2014

“struggling with the same weary lethargy and flagging mojo” .. I hear you .. and realise how trivial mine is compared to yours (late to sleep, up early, rubbish weather, not eaten yet) so thank you, again, for the perspective. I realise no one but you and Tarka know of the true heartache and conflict you’ve fought for all this time but in case you’re worried if you managed to convey - or not - the reality of what you’ve done. You have. And continue to. Once again I start my day in awe of what you’ve achieved. PS whyyyyy does an “American icebreaker burn 4,500 gallons of fuel per hour keeping McMurdo Sound ice-free” ?

# Alison B. Lowndes, February 5th 2014

PS don’t underestimate the power of the despair you’ll no doubt feel for the journey coming to an end. Rather like the feelings victims cultivate for their kipnappers!

# Ruth Jewell, February 5th 2014

Someone else knows how it feels to go through what you gave experienced and that us those who tried and failed before. Whilst we will never fully understand what it has been like you have been able to bring alive for us all exactly what Scott and his team experienced. In a world where we are continually told about global warming and changes to our planet it is almost reassuring to know that your trip (despite more knowledge and technology) has given you the same problems to overcome as Scott sadly finally failed to do.
Your daily updates give us far more insight than you can imagine, and early on it was no surprise to me that Scott had to give in so close to the finish.
Keep safe, if it takes three days we don’t care, we all just want you to achieve this amazing journey safely. Huge hugs to you both, and role on wake up time tomorrow when I can check up in you both again. Xxx

# CaninesCashews, February 5th 2014

Hi guys,

As much as I am willing you over that finish, I am so pleased you have decided to split these last miles across the two days. I’m sure you are desperate to get it done now but hopefully over two full days the pressure and toll on your mind and bodies will be a little less.

On your feelings of disappointment – this is a perfectly normal reaction to Antarctica for anyone who is on an expedition there. Let alone anyone who has spent 10 hours a day for over 100 days dragging laden sleds behind them.

I’m equally sure those who visit briefly, experience the joy and beauty you have been missing. It seems that Antarctica has a mythic quality that stays with people long after they leave and never stops calling them back.

I have always been fascinated for as long as I can remember about the men who have walked on the moon. Only twelve men in history have had that unique feeling of euphoria and awe and they have all been indelibly marked by it. (Andrew Smith wrote an excellent book about the lives of those 12 men; Moon Dust – In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth, a fantastic read)
I suppose what I am trying to say is that I think Antarctica, in many respects, is the closest thing that we have on Earth to the Moon. There is no doubt in my mind that you and Tarka will have been marked forever by your time there. It is well to remember one of my son’s favourite authors, Dr. Seuss who said, “Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory” (although I think he nicked that line).

Please look out for those fragile bodies in these last two days, eat well and keep putting one foot in front of the other to bring you home.

God Speed and stay safe.

Gav

# Christy, Indiana, U.S., February 5th 2014

You are so right Gav when you say “It seems that Antarctica has a mythic quality that stays with people long after they leave and never stops calling them back.”  I believe that’s known as the Polar Virus!

# Richard Pierce, February 5th 2014

Well spoken. R

# wonderwoman, February 5th 2014

Very well said. I’m with you.

# Intrepid, February 5th 2014

@ Gav,

Wonderfully said.

# Kat, February 5th 2014

Christie, you said, “You are so right Gav when you say “It seems that Antarctica has a mythic quality that stays with people long after they leave and never stops calling them back.”  I believe that’s known as the Polar Virus!”

Perhaps the Polar Venus?

# CaninesCashews, February 6th 2014

Thanks everyone - I think I may have the Polar Virus (the ‘by proxy’ version).

G.

# Greg Jarrett, February 5th 2014

Gents, as you near the end of your journey (and what a remarkable achievement it will be) I want to express my gratitude to you for sharing a small part of your experience with us. Your commitment to writing almost every day and sharing the mental challenge, as well as the physical, is a wonderful thing and has allowed us to understand a tiny part of what you are going through.

My only wish is that you continue to write posts (although they probably won’t be daily) as you journey back into ‘civilisation’. I am interested to hear more about your journey back to the real world, the challenges you face and the new perspectives you have. Ben - you have a remarkable talent for sharing the intricate details of what you are experiencing - what might have seemed monotonous or repetitive to you has been thoroughly exhilarating for those of us reading, and I’m sure that most of us will miss reading these daily posts from you.

Stay safe as you near the end.

# Bridget, February 5th 2014

Yes, thank you for the effort you have made to write every day when sometimes it must have been the last thing you wanted to do.  It has been utterly compelling and has become such a morning ritual that I’m not sure what I’ll do on the 7th.  I hope that “ending” isn’t too much of an anti climax.  Such an achievement .... Not only the expedition itself, but to have shared it with so many.  Thank you, both.

# dj, February 5th 2014

@greg… where are you from?  You’ve got a great name.

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