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.

Day 65

Day 65: S89° 17' 22.68", E156° 06' 2.52"

Duration: 9 Hr

Daily distance: 19.8 Mi

Distance to go: 849.4 Mi

Temperature: -14 °C

Wind chill: -22 °C

Altitude: 9721 Ft

Another day on the white treadmill, and not an awful lot to report, other than that the weather was good to us today, and we're both feeling extraordinarily tired, but still giving our all.

There's been a lot of fresh snow recently and the surface is proving our biggest headache at the moment; you can see the deep furrows we've ploughed up to this evening's camp site. When we take our skis off in the evening and walk around in the deep powder to pitch our tent, we've marvelled several times at how on earth Birdie Bowers -an apparently indefatigable member of Scott's team who abhorred skis and chose to walk instead- managed on this type of stuff.

Speaking of marvelling, now Tarka and I are both feeling as knackered as we've ever felt, we reckon we're finally getting some sort of glimpse of what day-to-day life out here must have been like for Scott's party (and indeed for Shackleton on his Nimrod expedition). It's still an awfully long way back to the coast, which was the only way home a century ago, and like them, we're now threading a path through our lifeline of tiny depots, dotted along nearly 900 miles of nothingness.

Apologies if my post about the Pole sounded a bit negative (particularly to the US National Science Foundation personnel who live and work there!) but it was a long, tough day and I think the tiredness and lack of calories had put me in a bit of a grump. The blue skies today have cheered me up immensely, and I wish I had the words to explain my excitement about now being on the journey back to Ross Island. I'm still pinching myself at times that we've come as far as we have. Thanks for following, and I hope my updates will be back to normal once I've caught up on a bit of sleep...


# Allison, December 29th 2013

Had a lovely evening with a very proud Mum last night Ben. We are counting the days and watching your every move until you arrive home.

# Richard Pierce, December 29th 2013

I don’t think there’s any need to apologise for your comments about the South Pole. Just like you, people at the base there have a choice of whether or not to be there and a choice of how they treat Nature.

Good mileage, though not spectacular. One more day’s hard graft, and then a rest day on full rations is needed, I think, regardless of the weather.

Birdie, by the way, depoted his skis about 200 miles from the Pole because, at one point, he was not guaranteed a place in the Polar Party. There are still questions over if Scott always planned there to be 5 in the party, or if he just made that decision on the spur of the moment. There is a Wilson drawing made months before the walk to the Pole which shows 5 men in traces dragging a sled which might indicate 5 men were always the plan. On the other hand, rations were originally divided for four men to a tent (and the tents wrre 4-man tents), which rather more decidely suggests a 5-man party was not planned. Many people believe that the decision to take 5 men was one of the key decisions that Scott got wrong. Like all things, all these views are arguable.

Take care.


# Uncle Pete, December 29th 2013

Hope you soon make up your sleep/energy deficit and get back in the groove! I see from your track that you have managed to straighten your line again! It beggars the imagination to think how the early expeditions managed without satellite navigation, let alone what they would have thought of our following your every move almost in real time! As a matter of interest (apropos earlier comment about ‘position jumps’) would I be right in assuming your Google Earth position updates are automatically transmitted ‘hourly’? In which case the ‘path’ plotted is not necessarily the actual track, especially around the Pole complex - I was trying to figure just where on the ‘building plans’ you went! I see also that at each camp site the track zigzags around a bit, is this inherent error in the ‘sleeping’ updates or normal camp activity? I guess it would have had us even more on our toes around 8:30pm Boxing Day if the position updates had been briefly speeded up!
Keep it up and savour the remoteness that does still exist there - an experience for the few, except via your senses and reports….
ps It is frosty here in UK and we went to see ‘Frozen’ in 3D yesterday to keep in the mood - Tarka, keep an eye out for animated snowmen!

# Offroading Home, December 29th 2013

“Uncle Pete” ... Yes, for the most part, the “track points” (those that make up the continuous line) have been, to date, transmitted automatically. A handheld GPS unit will automatically record them in its memory every so-many milliseconds according to how you have set it up.  And they have rigged up some sort of automatic feed back to their server via satellite. Ben has never gotten very specific in print about anything technical; BUT, having followed it closely for months, the updates (through his Pilot satellite link) have appeared about every hour - even all through the night (count the data-points and divide by the total time).

And, yes - each GPS “reading” or “ping” gives a calculated trackpoint which has a certain error factor of “tens” or even “hundreds” of yards.  That’s why anyone who has navigated very close to the ground on Google Earth sees their “current location” bounce around whenever they are stationary.  Actually, the “bouncing” gives us comfort because at least we know their GPS/satellite connection is still working. [Yesterday and today there have been periods of several hours where it’s obvious there have been no “pings” at all.]

If it were merely the satellite link that was down, we would most likely then receive the missed hourly pings as a full update when they came back on line. But that hasn’t seemed to be the case so it’s more likely either the batteries on their GPS unit (phone?) or they are deliberately turning them off for some reason then merely manually doing a single “ping” when they come back on line.

If you go back and look at the distance they make between every “ping” on the line (it is possible on Google Earth to do that) you can see that up on the plateau they have plodded between 1.3 and 1.7 miles between data-points (again, mostly likely an hour).  In the past two months I’ve only noticed four times when their plot-points fly unexpectedly up to and over 10 or so miles all at once. Almost like they had, lets say… sprouted wings - (that would still be self-powered, right?); once, right at the beginning from the huts, jumping back from the pole, the last half of yesterday and now again the last half of today.

# George Chapman, December 29th 2013

#Offroading Home
How do you see the pings? You said you could even see the pings when they are sleeping. I can see the “Current Location” and the end of day blog points but I don’t know how to see each ping? I am using your Offroading Home overlay.

# Mal Owen, December 29th 2013

I really wish I understood and could use all this ..... :-)

# South Pole neutrino, December 29th 2013

Indeed, there still are bearded and non-bearded, male and female scientists pushing back the boundaries of human ingenuity and exploration at the South Pole. Here is just one example from 2013:
This is in no way to undermine Ben and Tarka’s amazing achievement thus far, or the challenge that still lies ahead of them.
It’s just that there are different facets of Antarctica. All of them inspiring.
As paradoxical and/or controversial as it may seem, all these fuel drums do serve a purpose: The expansion of our horizons.

# Janet Stanley, December 29th 2013

No apologies needed! I am always amazed you write this articulate, interesting blog after a hard day’s marching, take care & stay safe! :)

# andrew, December 29th 2013

If those last miles were Euros they would slip through your fingers and been gone in no time. Just ask your mother, Tarka. ( sorry sister, that was a sort of joke)

# Juanita, December 29th 2013

Keep the spirit :-)
remarkable what you have done, so I surfed on youtube and get the article from your web, I can not say , it is great how you are doing will inspire other people in this world. over the years, the world only knew the story through the news media if there is any information about a trip like that you do just for the consumption of research, but it’s real and we can update at any time, always successful and god bless your journey. well as got home safely and back together again with your family

# George Chapman, December 29th 2013

Glad to hear from you guys again. Looks like your still doing well. Take care of yourselves and enjoy the time you have there on Gods beautiful landscape.

# Alastair Humphreys, December 29th 2013

Your South Pole post was excellent - far better than bland platitudes. Really interesting too.

Amazing to imagine Scott et al in your shoes but minus the EPIRB, sat phone etc - what a terrifying, audacious prospect!


# Jerry Colonna, December 29th 2013

I agree with Al, Ben. The South Pole post was—like so much of your writing—poignantly powerful. You’re giving us a little chance to experience what it’s like there. I can’t imagine how tired you both must be.

Those tracks in the photo are stunning. Even more so because they lead you home (I know, I know, those are the tracks behind you and all but the metaphor still works.)

# torsten richter, December 29th 2013

Richard: I think the Scott very much wrong has been done. AND I AM ALSO SURE, IF he would have been the first at the Pole, they would have done it even back alive. There were no errors as described by Hunt Ford, who is not an expert anyway, but a mental problem and the bad luck with the weather. Even on the journey they’d had a snowstorm with four days stay in a tent, then violations of Evans And Oates. These were strong limitations that could not be planned. For me, remains Scott and his men the greatest explorers and heroes in polar history. Such a physical and mental prowess is second to none. Unfortunately they only had bad luck. Such men as Wilson, Bowers, Evans, Oates, Lashly, Crean, Teddy Evans and Scott just, they were great people with human frailties, but still heroes! And I admire their journey and appreciate them as higher as the Amundsen, the sooner started 2 weeks, and the over 100 miles shorter route and they also had the better weather, as Mrs. Salomon was able to prove, and they had their dogs ... Scott his men managed almost anything with superhuman strength. The book of Fiennes is the best Biography Scott and he could also expose Hunt Ford’s book, which has a deep aversion to Scott and spread many lies and much speculated and all the warm room ... I speak Huntford any skills from!

Torsten, Brandenburg / Germany

# Kristoffer, December 29th 2013

From helping Sienicki with his book, I have to say that Scott was mostly competent, although his orders for the dog teams make me wonder what he was thinking.  When it comes to being first to the Pole and making it back alive, you may be right, considering Sienicki’s explanation.  Amundsen himself had a four day snowstorm, with temperatures much colder than Scott’s.  I would not trust Solomon at all, period, as she committed heavy scientific misconduct in her original PNAS article and her book.  I would not trust Fiennes either, due to all the dishonesty in his book.  For all of Fiennes’ avowed hatred of Huntford, he happily repeats Huntford’s invention of Scott’s verbal orders to Lt. Evans.  Sienicki in his book will have an alternative explanation for what happened to Scott and his party, although I doubt you will like it.

# Richard Pierce, December 29th 2013

Hallo Torsten,

Dein Post liest als ob Du es auf Deutsch geschrieben hast und dann Google Translate benutzt hast. :-)

My own view of Scott is that he was competent, and that, like all people (including Amundsen), he made a few mistakes. That’s the position I’ve taken all along, including in my novel, is that none of us will really ever know what happened, but that Scott was not the absolute failure or the absolute hero people on opposing sides make him out to be, and that Amundsen was a great explorer but not the greatest of leaders.


# rod pattinson, December 29th 2013

well done great achievement sun shining today in London after storms happy new year your on your way home still following

# Matt, December 29th 2013

Ben & Tarka,

Congratulations on your achievement; your iron legs have been exceeded only by your iron wills.  It is so heartening to see what men can do when they apply themselves. Thanks so much for taking us along with you.

I wish you best of luck on your homeward journey.

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