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.

Downhill, a Dog-Leg and a Depot (Day 81)

Day 81: S85° 10' 31.80", E161° 44' 35.88"

Duration: 9 Hr

Daily distance: 22.9 Mi

Distance to go: 562.2 Mi

Temperature: -19 °C

Wind chill: -24 °C

Altitude: 7362 Ft

Today had a bit of magic in it, and we haven't had a day like that for a while down here. The weather was grim when we set out; nearly a complete whiteout and at best a flat, grey light and thick cloud that would have given Scott and his men real trouble (he writes in his diary of one man - usually Birdie Bowers - scouting ahead in poor visibility, searching for signs of their old tracks, or for the snow cairns they left at regular intervals).

For us, it meant getting a magnetic bearing from our GPS, setting the compass and skiing blindly into the gloom, confident in the knowledge that the tiny gadget, along with the help of a few billion dollars' worth of satellites, knew exactly where we were, exactly where our buried depot was, and exactly where the waypoints were that would allow us to safely steer a dog-leg around the western edge of the Shackleton Ice Falls, avoiding getting tangled up in its giant crevasses and pressure ridges.

Our navigation was bang-on, and although the surface was ridged with sastrugi for most of the day and therefore tough on ankles, knees, elbows and shoulders as we struggled to keep our balance, we covered 22.9 miles (39.8km) in all.

The cloud finally lifted at 7pm as we were approaching our depot, and the view was glorious. We spotted the spare ski we'd left as a marker, defiantly standing upright in the wind with its fabric streamer flapping madly. I saw it first, and my excitement reminded me of going to the coast at Lyme Regis or Weymouth with my brother as a child, wondering who would spot the sea first. I can't tell you what a joy it is having scenery again after so many days on the featureless plateau, and I thought the Dominion Range looked stunning this evening as the last of the cloud rolled off it.

Taking bearings on Mount Darwin and Buckley Island (Rob, we'll send a photo back tomorrow when we're next to it!) was a very special feeling indeed, and I couldn't help reflecting that the only other teams to have skied towards these landmarks were led by Sir Ernest Shackleton and Captain Scott. Not for the first time I felt like a bit of an imposter as I led us towards the depot; little old me who learnt to read a compass as a Scout. It's a special feeling being here, and tomorrow the Beardmore awaits...


# Nick, January 14th 2014

Fantastic - well done guys!

# Graham, January 14th 2014

Any pictures of the depot?

# Clement Hodgkinson, January 14th 2014

Well done guys! Your doing amazingly! I’ve been following the blog and videos months before you even left for Antarctica, all the planning and logistics. It’s really good to read the stuff that you and Tarka write each day. Hope everything goes well. Are you thinking of doing any lectures and shows when you return? If so i’ll definitely buy tickets! Keep going and good luck!

# dj, January 14th 2014

However you did it, you made a more direct (and shorter) route back around the corner than when coming.  Keep it up.  You’ll be off the Beardmore in no time. Is that where your next clean socks are located?

Have added a ton of extra waypoints of peaks all down the Beardmore to the Resource File [ ] as well as improved the buildings and structures around the South Pole Station if anyone is interested.

# Jored, January 14th 2014

Great progress and, thankfully, you sound in great spirits. Who wouldn’t, after your outstanding achievement.
You were prominently featured by CNN on Sunday, with a lot of material from the website.
Fortitudine Vincimus from Spain.

# Richard Pierce, January 14th 2014

Dear Ben, dear Tarka,

To see the mountains so clearly in your photo is to be as excited as you are about the progress you have made, about a change in view and attitude and altitude for you both (and the former two for us watchers, I suppose). We realise you still have a long way to go, but you have already gone the longest way.

You must get rid of this idea of being imposters, because you’re not; you’ll be breaking absolutely new frontiers in 450 miles’ time, and you’re in the company of 100-year-old and very rare achievements at this very point, now.

Yes, like Clement, I hope you’ll be doing lectures. I’d love to meet you both and talk to you about how the hut at Evans felt to you, both when you started and when you get back there at the end of your journey.

Take care on old Beardmore. Be kind and respectful to him, as you were on the way up, and perhaps he will, once again, reciprocate.

God Speed.


# Alison Lowndes, January 14th 2014

..and here’s me thinking typical Lancashire lass stuff like what if you got there and someone had already dig up your depot? I guess there must be a vital Antarctic code about not touching skis with streamers ;) .. plus the fact there actually are NO OTHER hero explorers on the entire continent!

# Mal Owen , January 14th 2014

Brfilliant photo .... The morning view from my bed is somewhat different but your photo allows me to imagine the magic.
I am left in eager anticipation after reading today…. Wow .. Beardmore, here you go for the second time. Remember to change those socks but above all else take care and keep safe.

# kiwawa, January 14th 2014

YAAAAAY! NEW SOCKS!!!! Enjoy. Your doing great xxx

# Bob Miller, January 14th 2014

I also learnt to read a compass in the scouts (when we had khaki uniforms) and I remember the excitement in finding your objective (albeit a bit less demanding!).
Be careful on the glacier - it’s always more dangerous coming down than up! Good luck!

# CaninesCashews, January 14th 2014

Hi Guys,

Fantastic to see the mountains almost within reach in your photo.

I think you probably jogged a childhood memory in lots of your followers on here, I remember sitting in the back of our grey Vauxhall Victor heading to the coast. I have vivid memories of clambering up high on the seat, endeavouring to be the first of our family to glimpse the watery horizon and shouting, “I can see the sea!”

I remember the elation of those small moments, in some ways I can still feel them now. I can’t imagine the feelings and emotions you must be experiencing as you walk back in the footsteps of those two historic expeditions, and as you prepare to carve your own path in polar history. “I can see the sea!” feels slightly inadequate in comparison.

It’s nice to hear another mention of Scouts.
I remember first meeting you when you kindly accepted my invitation to talk to Scouts from all over the world at Campdowne 2008, an international camp for a couple of thousand Scouts I helped to organise. I still see some of those young people now – and without fail they all remember your talk, trying on the clothes and the boots, feeling the weight of the empty pulk. But most of all they remember the determination, the drive and the humour that you brought that day.

I know of a couple of the older Scouts who went on to quite ambitious activity based careers, solely because you inspired them that day, and that is Scouting in a nutshell…

You joined Scouts and learned to read a compass, you went off to pull heavy things in cold places, you came back inspired some Scouts, and then went off to pull some heavier things in colder places. Hopefully the story of this adventure will inspire more young people, Scouts or not, to learn to read a compass because as we all know now, you never know where that skill will lead you.

Take care on the Beardmore.

Stay safe.

# Dave T, January 15th 2014

Spot on about the childhood memories, except ours was a Hillman Minx!

Great going Ben, Tarka. Stay safe.

# Janet Stanley, January 14th 2014

Great mileage again guys…stay safe on the Beardmore :)

# Phil Satoor, January 14th 2014

I don’t think you can possibly regard yourselves as impostors. Surely you both are the real thing, doing a real journey as great as that of your forerunners Shackleton and Scott and no lesser a feat than theirs just because you have modern equipment.  They used the latest gear for their time as you have done (Scott after all pioneered motor transport for polar travel) .

Here’s wishing you a safe and enjoyable trip down the Beardmore.

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