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.

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!


# Richard McGehee, February 5th 2014

Wishing you all the best.

I am relieved your push to Scott base will be made in two ‘normal’ days instead of one giant day. Your previously planned jumbo day reminded me of your dash around the pole that verged on hypothermia and frostbite. A good night’s sleep will allow your extra rations to restore your strength. Even you super humans need nourishment and a clear head. I worried that your falls were a sign of overexertion.

Please continue your blogs as you melt back into civilization.

Happy trails to you from Kentucky.

# Intrepid, February 5th 2014

The distance to understanding comes with a belief in what is. A thousand words draw a picture so beautiful each pixel bursts into color believing. The heart feels the texture of every stride taken to satisfy the journey for what longs to be held.  Parched lips taste water ever sweeter; where the two meet nothing is impossible. What it is truly like comprehends what is believed and becomes truly possible.

39 miles of skiing to go, 39 miles to go,
You ski some more, make tracks in the snow,
38 miles of skiing to go.
38 miles of skiing to go, 38 miles to go,
You ski some more, make tracks in the snow,
37 miles of skiing to go….


Dear Ben and Tarka,

I wish you had skis that had a built in zamboni to smooth out the sastrugi, the snow was as soft as cotton for falling into, and the ache of the pull was massaged every step of the way. Thing is, that would actually take away from this journey you are having.  The feeling is so multiplicitous regarding how you are still skiing at least 24 miles a day, aching from falls, aching from pulling, aching from the desolate view. I think I’ve been standing in ovation the whole time.

With compassion,

# Dave, February 5th 2014

Antarctica sees that you are indeed going to win the war, but is determined to win a many last battles as it can just to put up a fight.

I and many others have seen the tourist Antarctica.  A very few have seen the explorer’s Antarctica.  You and Tarka have seen a different Antarctica still.  You own the experience.  No book or Imax will be able to convey it.  We have to create our own memories.

Ponies.  Are there going to be ponies?  Probably not.  Something new to fantasize about.

Continued safety and progress

# Sheila England, February 5th 2014

I got up extra early to check your progress. I wonder what your dreams will be like after you are home?
Be careful, you’re almost home…
Praying for you guys,

# Barbara B from Clinton, CT USA, February 6th 2014

Phil, I couldn’t resist the link.
Couldn’t stop laughing….. 
Thanks for that ...

# Antony Griffin, February 5th 2014

I cannot explain how amazed I’ve been by your journey.  Your blog has been one of the highlights of my day for what seems like months and months.  Your dedication and drive no matter what you’ve been feeling is truly inspirational.  I will miss your daily reports but there is no doubt you both deserve your imminent rest and slap up meals.  Take care for the last couple of days and thank you for sharing your journey with us.  Is there anything you will miss about Antarctica once you get back to normality?  Godspeed.

# Pete Vassilakos, February 5th 2014

103 days of battle, and just 2 more to go! You’ve come this far and have faced everything Antarctica has thrown at you. Don’t give up! However it is important that you don’t allow your urge for this to be over and whatever ego you have left get the better of you! Don’t be foolish, and travel safely!!  This will be the most epic last days of your journey, as every last step brings you closer to the greatest achievement of your lives! Cheers!!!! I watch with anticipation!

# Judy from North Carolina, February 5th 2014

Scott would be very proud of you, too!  We are willing you strength and safety with every moment of your few remaining steps.  May the time be short.

# helen onions, February 5th 2014

You are the reason why we are up in the mountains each morning this week- lifts are shut through gales - & skinning up & skiing sastrugi after 6 years is invigorating thinking of your plight - you have inspired so many people!

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

Ben and Tarka, it has truly been a privilege to follow your historic journey!  I love the symmetry of your journey, beginning at Cape Evans Terra Nova Hut, gathering the ghosts of 1911/12 and bringing them forward with you full circle to present day Scott Base 2014. 

I strongly believe your journey has provided profound insight into Scott’s journey like nothing else could have.  Just as no one can know exactly the depth of your experience, so too, despite all the armchair quarterbacking, no one can know exactly what the experience of Scott’s Southern Party was really like.  From the get-go Scott’s venture seemed plagued with misfortune; the over laden Terra Nova almost sinking in a Southern Ocean gale before arriving in Antarctica, the sinking of the motor sledge and some supplies in the rapidly melting ice while unloading the ship, the bad weather that prevented One Ton Depot from being laid at 80° South, their trudge ‘home’ during a atypical February and March weather where temperatures averaged -35 F, the ensuing frostbit feet and increased need for more calories to fuel their journey. 

Your journey has caused me to read the things I passed up before my own Antarctic tourist adventure.  Before this I had soaked up information on penguins, seals and whales, Treaty info, climate change and more modern day scientific stuff.  Now I am a thirsty sponge just soaking up all the historic tidbits, reading some of the books referenced by other posters on this list; Scott’s last expedition; the personal journal of Captain R. F. Scott, on his journey to the South pole, The Norwegian with Scott : Tryggve Gran’s Antarctic diary, 1910-1913, Gavin Francis’ Empire Antarctica, and I’m somewhere in the middle of Cherry-Garrard The worst journey in the world; Antarctic, 1910-1913, with Susan Solomon’s The Coldest March awaiting next in my lineup.  Although I keep reading Richard’s posts stating that it’s been proven that blizzards on the barrier seldom last more than 3 or 4 days, I can’t help but wonder if during that abnormal weather period in February/March 1912 why couldn’t there have been a blizzard that lasted all of those last days of Scott’s journey?  After all, the depot relief party turned back after six days at One Ton due to terrible weather, and Cherry Garrard states in his book that during the first winter they did not get so many of the hut-shaking blizzards, but that during the second they seemed to get nothing else, and that one blizzard during the winter of 1912 lasted six weeks (yes, I realize that’s not March, but still it’s atypical even for that time of year right?)  I’m looking forward to gaining more insight about this weather thing from Solomon’s book, and then I want to find a copy of South Pole odyssey: selections from the Antarctic diaries of Edward Wilson.

It seems so sadly often overlooked in the drama of the Southern Party’s story, that the Terra Nova expedition was as much a scientific venture as a journey to claim the pole.  I think that the Southern Party could not have fathomed leaving the scientifically valuable 35 pounds of rocks behind, even in order to save their own lives.  From the latter half of the 19th century onwards to the period of Scott’s journey, exploits had to have some scientific justification.  For instance look at the explorers conquering the Alps in the 1800s, if no scientific gain was seen, attempts to summit previously unclimbed mountains were seen as simply vainglorious and silly.  The Terra Nova expedition’s comprehensive scientific program included meteorology, glaciology, geology and biology, and they increased geographical knowledge, exploring Victoria Land and the Western Mountains.  The scientific data gained during the Terra Nova expedition laid a strong foundation for much of the scientific research that followed. 

So thank you Ben and Tarka for enriching my life, and stirring up my own Polar Virus again, and thank you to posters on this list for your insights, tips and leads on interesting books and films. 

# Richard Pierce, February 5th 2014

Dear Christy,

Nice post. Just to pick you up on the storms issue - Antarctic geography and meteorology are such that if there had been blizzards at Scott’s final camp, there would have been similar storms at Cape Evans, but none of the diaries of any of the men at Evans mention any storms; in fact, they report good, albeit very cold, weather. My novel posits another theory.

Worst Journey is the best travel book ever, in my opinion, and Solomon’s book sheds much light on the temperature and storms. And it is brilliantly written (although the Scott naysayers claim she makes errors - I disagree with them).

I, too, will not know what to do with myself once the boys have reached their goal. I do hope this blog is kept alive.

The next challenge, of course, will be to mke the journey the same way as Scott did - laying depots in Summer 1, overwintering in winter, and then making the unsupported journey in Summer 2. I wonder if anyone will ever take up that challenge.


# Mal Owen, February 5th 2014

@Christy Such an interesting read ... I am somewhere halfway through Worst Journey too ...soaking it up ! I also have a list noted from other posters to the blog. Happy Polar Virus!

# Kat, February 5th 2014

Nice post Christie!  If you’re going down the historical Scott/Antarctic hole, so to speak, don’t miss Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard by Sarah Wheeler, for a heart-rending account of Cherry’s life, beautifully written, helps to understand some of the British class system which we North Americans sometimes struggle with.  It’s also a great account of the massive social changes at work through the Edwardian period, post WW1 and illuminates Cherry’s character further. And yes! Worst Journey in the World is a cracker!!  I re-read regularly, just to renew the shivers… Sarah also spent considerable time in Antarctica and wrote about that in Terra Incognita.

I also thought Captain Oates Soldier and Explorer by Sue Limb & Patrick Cordingley and Anne Strathie’s Birdie Bowers: Captain Scott’s Marvel were also excellent. 

I wonder if some of you Antarctic mavens can recommend other favourite biograhies of Scott’s Polar Party?

# Intrepid, February 5th 2014

Very appreciative of your posts, for those like myself who have yet to read such books or take such ventures.  #Gratitude

# Christy, February 5th 2014

Thanks Kat for more reading suggestions!  Someone, maybe you, had mentioned that Birdie Bowers book a few days back, thanks for reminding me that I want to track that one down!  I also borrowed through interlibrary loan a 2011 DVD release of the TV miniseries Last place on earth (BFS Video) that someone on this list had mentioned.  It was good, but I felt it was a too negatively stilted a view of Scott, I think it was originally made in the mid ‘80s.  I’ve also found a bit of a treasure trove of freebies on YouTube;

Secrets of the Dead III (2002) 5. Tragedy at the Pole  This one features comments by Susan Solomon.

Mawson: Life and Death in Antarctica
Race for the Poles,

Shakelton’s Voyage of Endurance

Explorers: Amundsen Explorers: Amundsen This is a really old film but quite interesting.

And on PBS here in the States, I recently saw the last part of Chasing Shackleton, hope they repeat it so I can see the first part!

# Richard Pierce, February 5th 2014

@Kat - yes, Cherry is a must-read; brilliant stuff. R

# Offroading Home, February 5th 2014

Guys - FYI - Once this expedition is complete, we’ve decided to convert all the ‘real-time’ portions of our Offroading Home Antarctic Resource File into hard-code and keep it posted and available for anyone who want’s to find information about the continent quickly. All the links previously given in comments will still work and will updated to point to the most recent version.

Additionally, there will be a page created with the title: “Antarctic Expeditions and Journeys - Read All About It” (don’t know the exact url yet as it’s not posted) which is intended to contain all the literature written about the Scott Journey - and these you are listing are GREAT!  We’ll also put a reference pop-up on the Google Earth Antarctic Resource Map which will point to all these great works.

So, I’d appreciate anyone who’s read (or written) a published work about the Scott Expedition that they’re fond of - please, “reply” to this comment thread or over on the blog so they can be included.  Also, if any of your run across other data type pages that should be included in a resource file we’d appreciate hearing about those too.

# Richard Pierce, February 5th 2014


Including fiction?


# Craig, February 5th 2014

Ben, Tarka,

Your journey has inspired so many people over the last few months, and a few of the comments today have mentioned the desire to create a virtual finish line to welcome you back.

I’d like to suggest that all readers and contributors to the blog who use twitter create a virtual finish for B&T with a hashtag, and let’s get them trending as they finish on Feb 6 GMT.

A virtual finish line, and small token of our appreciation for your efforts to include us in this amazing journey, and to recognise the sponsors who helped make it possible.


Any preferences / other suggestions?

# Mal Owen, February 6th 2014

Ive just looked online at my county library’s catalogue…. Antarctica search brings up 156 titles

# dj, February 6th 2014

@Richard… Offroading home keeps pretty much to data and facts; however, historical fiction - entirely based on verifiable facts - only using plausibility’s where no specific fact exists - is something that Offroading Home would post. Got anything in mind in that category??

@Mal, @Kat, @Christy, @Mssr Cashew - how about sending a copy of your lists - I’ll credit you and you can write a short review if you wish.

# Richard Pierce, February 6th 2014


My novel, Dead Men, for starters, published by Duckworth who also published Beryl Bainbridge’s The Birthday Boys. And it goes to paperback in the US on 25th Feb.

I know a place where there are lots of resources, as I attended a symposium in Jaffrey in 2012 (the South-Polesium). I’ll let yo have the link tomorrow.

Must go to bed now, as have just cranked out 2k words on my new book (Persia, 1600s).


# Richard Pierce, February 6th 2014

Oh, forgot to say that my historical fiction parts are based entirely on verifiable facts, on the strength of which I persuaded the Natural History Museum in London to host my book launch, where they had to turn people away because it was oversubscribed.


# dj, February 6th 2014

@Richard, @cashews ... Thanks.  It’d be great to be able to continue conversation off-line after this is over. I’ll be doing various posts for awhile using this as a focal point - especially interested in “interview” type posts about various aspects of the endeavor.  Without putting email in open are subject to skimming, if you’d like you can reach me through the links on then we could convert to email.  When I get this thing converted to hard code, I’d welcome a few reviewers for accuracy. DJ

# Brendan Smith, February 5th 2014

Wishing you all the best as you get closer to the safety of the Scott Base!

# Leigh, February 5th 2014

We can’t possibly know what the journey has been like, but from your honest updates, we feel like we’ve been there with you. Thank you for sharing your incredible, epic journey, and take care on the ice. You’re only hours away from the perfect, hot hamburger and chips now! Leigh

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