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.

Deja Vu (Day 104)

Day 104: S77° 52' 32.34", E167° 24' 47.88"

Duration: 10 Hr

Daily distance: 25.1 Mi

Distance to go: 11.1 Mi

Temperature: -9 °C

Wind chill: -22 °C

Altitude: 197 Ft

As I type this, we're camped about 15km from our Ross Island finish line, which is less than four hours' skiing away. We'll have a massive lie-in tomorrow before setting off in the afternoon, principally as the bases here run on New Zealand time, which is 11 hours ahead of us, so if anyone's going to be there to wave us over the line and take a photo for our holiday snaps, we need to fit in with their time zone.

Antarctica, true to form, didn't make life easy or comfortable for us today, and the weather seemed to be messing* with us in a spookily adversarial fashion; luring us - wearing far too little - out of the tent with bright sunshine and a still warmth first thing, before pelting us with a blizzard barely ninety minutes later. The wind intensified just as we stopped to eat and drink at our first break, and as we sat on our sledges with our down jackets on and our backs to the gale, whirling eddies and vortices of sandy spindrift were spun up into our faces, filling our pockets and sledges and anything else left unzipped for more than a few seconds with fine, gritty snow. It calmed down before we started skiing, then revved up again at the next break, in a pattern that dogged us for most of the day.

As I mentioned yesterday, our sheer exhaustion seems to be overriding any chance of outright back-slapping glee at being so close to pulling this vast journey off (our GPS says we've clocked a cumulative 2,859km now, which is 68 back-to-back marathons dragging sledges) but team morale is definitely much improved, and the prospect of skiing a mere 15km after a big lie-in seems infinitely more manageable than another mammoth day. Interestingly, despite never having seen the view we faced today, skiing past White Island towards the giant flanks of Mount Erebus until we picked up our final (hundred-day-old!) depot, before hanging a left and heading past Castle Rock towards McMurdo Sound, the scenery felt strangely familiar after so many years of dreaming of reaching this point.

We'll start skiing tomorrow in the late afternoon UK time so don't be alarmed if the tracker doesn't budge for a while after our usual kick-off. We should finish in the evening, but it may take us a while to get online again and send a blog post back, so watch this space. I'm sure Andy, Chessie and the team in London will update the site as soon as we phone in from Ross Island, so you'll be the first to know when we're home and dry.

At the moment, the magnitude of it all hasn't really sunk in yet, though I'm excited about getting more than five hours sleep for the first time in weeks, and I suspect lying here tomorrow morning the excitement - and if I'm honest, the sheer relief - may start to finally kick in...

*This may not be the precise word Tarka used as we were shouting at each other in the blizzard, but it was hard to hear him over the wind.


# CaninesCashews, February 6th 2014

Hi guys,

Love the photo with the map!

Well this is it boys…you seem to be set up perfectly for this last day out on the ice.

I can’t even begin to imagine what will be coursing through your heads today, as the goal of reaching the end of this challenge actually becomes an achievable reality in around 10 miles time.
I expect there to be an incredible melting pot of emotion throughout the day; pain, relief, hope, hunger, dreams, joy, and just an old fashioned will to get it done and get home.

There is no doubt that today will be a test of all your remaining resolve to finish this incredible journey, started a little over a hundred years ago.
As you walk this final stretch, I will be imagining you walking on the shoulders of giants, men who dared to try their best in a golden age of exploration, men of courage, men of determination and of spirit. You are honouring the memory of those men in the best way possible – you are attempting to complete their journey as you finish your own.

I remember your afternoon post on Day 1 when you described your emotions after visiting Scott’s Terra Nova hut. I wondered then how your feelings about the place would change once you had walked in their footsteps, had glimpses of their lives on the ice.  What effect would that have on your perception of that old building and of Antarctica?
I knew then it would be unlikely you would be able to return to the hut with the ice melt, but a T.S. Eliot quote came to mind and I filed it away, waiting for this very day. For me it sums up perfectly my hopes for you…
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

I think Lord Tennyson deserves a mention at this juncture – most people know of the quote used on the memorial cross on Observation Hill, but I think the last few lines of Ulysses are particularly relevant at this point in the most incredible of expeditions…
“We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

As it has been since well before this expedition started, my heart will be following you today.
My wish for you is that this journey, and the ending of it, fulfils a childhood dream of adventure, of a life yet to live. One that started as a Scout with a compass and grew into a ten year training and waiting game that will culminate on the shore of Ross Island, finally laying to rest the ghosts of Terra Nova.

God Speed, stay safe and onwards to the end!


# dj, February 6th 2014

Gav… you were lying in wait and must have had much of it already written - I know, cause that’s what I would do.

I notice that the timing of the GPS pings has changed again. Even though it’s not any more frequent, here’s hoping that sending a ping 6 minutes before the hour instead of 2 minutes after captures your “ribbon crossing” on time.

Stay safe—homeward!

# Mal Owen, February 6th 2014

First post on the last day.. You beat me to it and said many things in lovely ways.

“You are attempting to complete their journey as you finish your own.”...I especially like that.

# Ruth Jewell, February 6th 2014

Perfect Gav, well said.
Take care you two we can wait for your finish, do it in your own safe time. Xxx

# wonderwoman, February 6th 2014

I agree. God bless.

# Ariane, February 6th 2014


# Lucy S, February 7th 2014

Wonderful post Gav!  I like the inclusion of the T.S. Elliot and Tennyson quotes too!  Perfect!

# Richard Pierce, February 6th 2014

Well said, Gav. There’s nothing for me to add to that beautifully-written note.

God Speed, Ben and Tarka. An enormous achievement.

Take care on those last few steps.


# dj, February 6th 2014

And, we see that the boys are having a bit of a lie-in this morning - by 1:02 (my time) they usually have been posting about 30 minutes of walking. Today I see at 12:46 am they are still station-keeping.  Let’s hope they stay put for an hour or so - what on earth would they otherwise be hurrying for?

# CaninesCashews, February 6th 2014

dj… They did say in their post they wouldn’t be moving until late afternoon to finish in the evening (UK time).

# Aleks, February 6th 2014

Guys this is exciting beyond words!

But nevertheless Gav indeed seemed to add significant descriptive colour to your final full day.

Gods speed!

# bee, February 6th 2014

Cheering wildly from B.C. Canada!
Amazing and inspiring, thank you again for taking us along.
Wishing you well on your final push/pull.
Stay safe.

# christian, February 6th 2014

You’re amazing guys!
I’ve been following your blog since I started writing my final thesis (writing the report - I’ve been working on it much longer). I needed the posts each morning as a motivation to actually start working. And today all of us are going to finish their ‘project’, although I will hand in my thesis in the morning(CET).
Thanks for your support! and no I don’t mean to compare your struggles against antartica with my writing of a report, in fact I wish I would have your writing skills Ben.


# Janet Stanley , February 6th 2014

Well, this is it…..what a wonderful experience & done with courage & tenacity to equal Captain Scott & his men.Ben, your words have moved me many times & I sincerely hope you write a book. Great words Gav, there really are no other words except to say please stay safe Ben & Tarka :)

# Dawn Danby, February 6th 2014

Ben & Tarka
Quietly following you every single day, I’m one of so many people who’ve been thinking of you always, watching your dream unfold. 
(Since we met years ago, I’ve also been keeping my fingers crossed for years to see Ben head out on this long-awaited journey.)
Wishing you both strength for this final pull. Although you’ll have to imagine our voices for just a little while more, we’re all out here across the planet, cheering wildly.

# CaninesCashews, February 6th 2014

Dawn… Love that “...we’re all out here across the planet, cheering wildly.” Perfect.


# Phil Satoor, February 6th 2014

I’ve decided I’m going to take the day off today and come down there to cheer you over the finishing line.  Of course I’m being silly.  I can’t take the day off because I’m retired and every day is a day off.
Seriously, I’ve been in touch with the Ministry of Magic, and they recommend using a portkey, so I’m going to use that old tin can you found on the way up the Beardmore.
I expect there’ll be a few other bloggers with the same idea so you should hear quite a bit of cheering, whistling and crowd noise when you get in, even though we’ll only be there in spirit.
Speaking of spirits I wonder if some of the Americans will come over from their base with one of their spirits, one of their Southern whiskies perhaps?

# Cristina, February 6th 2014

Dear Ben and Tarka,
Congratulations for the amazing journey you accomplished! It has been wonderful following you! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I know it must have been difficult finding the strength to write instead of resting after a long day of fighting the nature. And not once but more than one hundred times. Thank you and thank you LandRover and Intel for making this possible.
Cristina (Romania)

# David, February 6th 2014

This is it then - an historical achievement a little over a hundred years in the making. We shall all be thinking of you today - trying to understand pings and things - but should all cheer our heads off as you switch time zones and arrive at the base -  and imagine you walking up the snow runway with tractors and whatever sounding their horns hooters and klaxons. Symbolic or not to switch time zones? the polar team returns.

Have a fantastic day - try to let it soak in - stay safe. God speed

# Dave, February 6th 2014

One if by land, two if by sea.  Which of the three cameras do you recommend?  02:30 New Zealand time.  All of them show quiet scenes.  Water looks a bit choppy.  A fitting Antarctic breeze to bid the boys farewell ,no doubt.

# Richard Pierce, February 6th 2014

Cam 1. R

# Willie Hannah, February 6th 2014

Ben and Tarka, a huge congratulations, what a superb effort.  There are so many eloquent passages previously that it only remains for me to add my congratulations and adulation, I am in awe of your achievements. It reminds me of when I was a child and then, you have the dreaded night before Christmas, when you didn’t sleep much, the expectation was palpable, and the hope that it would live up to the hype.  When you wish for something for so much for so long, as you probably have done over the past 105 days toil, then I hope it lives up to your expectation.  It may seam surreal as you “Top Out”, but please try to savour and enjoy the moment, capture it, to allow you to reflect on your achievements when the have the time.  Hoofing effort, Be safe, Be strong and above all enjoy the next stage of the ride.  Willie

# Michal, February 6th 2014

Congratulations, you did a lot for youself, UK and for “Captain Robert Falcon Scott ” too. I beleive, that only the future will appreciate what you’ve accomplished. I bow to you.  I wish you all well in the coming years.

# Vladimir Pauliny, February 6th 2014

Dear Ben,

For a boy who “lacks sufficient impetus to achieve anything worthwhile” it was very nice of you to take your pal Tarka for such a wonderful camping trip.

And thank you for taking us along. I am sure that reading your blog every day for 100-odd days has motivated many of us to also try to achieve something worthwhile in our lives despite lacking sufficient impetus. This, to me, is one of the major achievments of your expedition.

Thank you again and Good Luck.

# Mal Owen, February 6th 2014

so true :-)

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