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.

Eighty-eight Forty-two (Day 59)

Day 59: S88° 42' 43.38", E158° 35' 3.18"

Duration: 9 Hr

Daily distance: 21.7 Mi

Distance to go: 992 Mi

Temperature: -15 °C

Wind chill: -24 °C

Altitude: 10115 Ft

Another hard day in the office for Tarka and me, but nearly 35km (21.7 miles) in the bag, which we're pleased with considering the conditions today. We were treated to a complete whiteout this morning and had zero visibility until early this afternoon, when in the space of about twenty minutes the fog and cloud smothering us vanished and was replaced with blue sky and bright sunshine.

The temperatures swung wildly: it was quite mild when we set off (-14 degrees C.) but became markedly colder when the sky cleared. It's been snowing a lot for the last few days and the surface as a result has been really challenging, with lots of deep, fluffy sticky, fresh snow that means our sleds create deep furrows rather than gliding over the top.

We're nearly at 89 degrees south now, one degree of latitude away from the South Pole (we should get there on Boxing Day) and it occurred to me today that we camped last night almost exactly at the point of Sir Shackleton's "Furthest South", where he turned around on 9th January 1909, heading back to the coast at Ross Island, along the same route we'll soon be taking. With our heads down and legs and arms driving away to make the mileage we need, it's often easy to get so caught up in the task we've set ourselves that we forget the incredible history of endeavour and endurance that this deep-frozen plateau holds.

One interesting phenomenon we're experiencing quite a bit these days is large areas of snow settling as we ski over them, often with an alarming tremor, the sensation of the ground sinking beneath you by an inch or so, and an occasionally quite loud thunder-like rumble. Frightening the first time, but quite fun now, and it certainly spices up the daily grind.

Last up, we realised tonight that what we thought were the early symptoms of snow-blindness may in fact be caused by fumes from our stove, which doesn't burn quite as well at this 3,000m+ altitude, along with the fact that we can't ventilate the tent much in the high winds up here. So I probably didn't need to spend this afternoon staggering around with my goggles taped over so much that my vision was restricted to a slit like a medieval suit of armour...


# torsten richter, December 23rd 2013

Great job! The weather seems to like you.

# Jon, December 23rd 2013

Amazed and proud of your distances guys, you’ll be jogging home soon.

I’m not sure the freshies you describe is new snow. More likely snow being blown about and settling from elsewhere, as it doesn’t actually snow that much on A, sometimes less that 1m a year, and it hardly ever snows near the pole, you should actually see a drop in altitude soon as the station and surrounding area is in a pronounced dip/hollow.

Take care - love the updates

# Dale Sutherland, December 23rd 2013

You two exemplify the statement by Mark Twight…..“The mind is primary.”

# George Chapman, December 23rd 2013

Great job you guys are doing there. Sounds like your having some really fun weather there not like us folks in Florida who are suffering with 70ºF. Glad to see you are remembering others who have passed this way many years before who have not been successful and some who have died trying. I should go and read the stories of those from the past who have traveled this pass. Wishing you the best and praying for you.

# Janet Stanley, December 23rd 2013

Great mileage again, stay safe! :)

# Richard Pierce, December 23rd 2013

Excellent distance again. Your altitude has also dropped slightly - only to be compensated for by the awful conditions.

I’m a bit concerned about what you say about your stove and the ventilation. Be careful, please. And the goggles thing - better safe than sorry.

The tremors and explosions certainly scared the early explorers, especially when they thought about the fact that they were wandering over a very thick mass of ice and snow that could swallow significantly more than insignificant human beings.

You two will be the reason that I will not, this year, be switching my computers off entirely over three days of Christmas.

God Speed.


# Jason Dawe, December 23rd 2013

Great job chaps, you are doing awesome… aren’t missing anything worth watching on TV at home! Ha ha. Good luck and safe return

# Uncle Pete, December 23rd 2013

This is getting very exciting for us even though it may seem a hard slog to you two! Sitting here in UK the wind is getting up for another storm over the South but compared to your conditions we should not fuss! Go carefully with your cooking apparatus, it would be silly to get caught out there. Stay safe and on track, we are all rooting for your Boxing Day rendezvous and a speedy safe return.

# DP, December 23rd 2013

Keep going gents, this is a very inspiring expedition and the way in which you are doing it- with smiles, humour and determination makes the updates all the more enthralling.  Kudos also for how easy it is to follow you and how committed you are to keeping us, the general public, updated with your progress very few manage to do both the exped and updates well.

Merry Christmas to you both- you’re both on the nice list. 

# rodney pattinson, December 23rd 2013

gale force winds rain hitting uk for Christmas your nearly there MERRY CHRISTMAS

# Barbara L'Herpiniere, December 23rd 2013

Tarka - do wish your grandfather, Michel, was still around to daily follow and appreciate your combined efforts, as I do.  Great going.

In your blog some days ago you were thinking about video compression and suspected that the brain has similar limitations of storage space and speed of retrieval etc.  Your grandfather certainly experienced this when he spent six months in a fetid little cell, six feet by six feet, as a guest of the Japanese occupying force in Hanoi in the 1940s.  He and a friend shared the cell with a 50 litre drum used as a toilet (which, on miniscule rations,  they never managed to even half fill in all the time they were there!).  For the first six weeks or so they manaed to exercise around the cell, scratch the days on the wall, carry on conversing, but gradually as they grew weaker life relapsed into sitting and silence.  Each day was the same - nothing - and each day - nothing - until awareness almost ceased and time meant nothing to them and there was nothing to remember.

But strangely, the day they were dragged up to street level and released, his cognisance of everything around him was immediately sharp and lucid.  Fifty years on he could recall clearly the brilliance of the sun, the stillness of the day, the shock of seeing the number of dead and dying on the street outside the prison, the feel of the walls of the silent buildings as he leant on them, moving slowly along the road, and how he apologised to an old man dying on the pavement as he had to step over him rather than walk around him.  And so on.  Am not sure if this quite fits your theory, but I suspect so.

Ben - look forward so much each evening to reading your well-written blog.  Do we see a book coming up soon?  Incredibly tough going but you are doing so well.  Keep your spirits high.

# Intrepid, December 23rd 2013

Dear Barbara,

Thank you for sharing Tarka’s grandfather’s story. It’s amazing what the spirit can endure as well as strive to achieve. Although your comment was about what stays lucid in memory, what I heard while reading was a pointer to the tenacious strengths that continue to live on in Tarka.


# CaninesCashews, December 23rd 2013

Hi guys,
Looks like you are still managing to knock over those miles. Incredible really after nearly two months on the ice.
I really hope you are considering a rest day or at least a half day whilst at the pole, before you turn round and head back to the Hut.
Interesting you mention Shackleton, last night I was just re-reading, well actually to be more accurate, gazing with admiration, at the Frank Hurley images in South with Endurance. What an amazing historical record they are.
Such a pantheon of pioneers in those early years of exploration - it must be hard sometimes to get your head round walking in the footsteps of these great men.
One of my all time favourite quotes aboit those early guys comes from Sir Raymond Priestley…
“For scientific leadership, give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems to be no way out, get on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” 
Stay safe.

# Lydia, December 23rd 2013

Hi B&T I am just back from battling the supermarket Christmas Armageddon, boy you guys are better off where you are.  Some people’s trollies make your sleds look lightweight.
Your blog is outstanding, your efforts are monumental and the unfolding story is history in the making.
You are truly extraordinary people.
Lydia x

# Jennifer Raff, December 23rd 2013

Echoing what Dale said. I think that several of us who have learned from (or trained with) Mark are following your journey with interest and respect. Thank you for writing so beautifully about your incredible work—both you and the ISS astronauts are currently allowing us to experience new horizons. Remarkable.

# Thea, December 23rd 2013

Richard, I am so grateful for your support and encouragement for Ben and my son, you voice so many of my concerns before I have had time to wire my worries and advice through to them ! Thankyou. Proud but anxious mother.

# Richard Pierce, December 23rd 2013

Dear Thea,

I don’t know what to say except to blush vigorously. Ben and Tarka deserve lots of support, and I’m just one of many. And I’ve been there, and I think too much.

Bless you for thanking me.


# Intrepid, December 23rd 2013

Dear Ben and Tarka,

Whomever I am in conversation with becomes exposed to news of your expedition.  Your daily blog is becoming my daily bread. It’s incredibly fantastic to be able to catch a glimpse of your trek as it unfolds. Technology rocks!  Being offered the opportunity to write back is somewhat daunting while also challenges me.  Every day I see the ADD YOUR COMMENT and don’t want to leave it blank.

I believe that those who have walked the land before you, guide you. Sure there’s books and technology and especially your own doings, but there’s also a dimension that holds the memory in the land itself which then energetically (or however it happens) transfers the knowledge to you. Which is why I wrote in a prior message, everything you need to know is right there.

Hope you guys find a workaround for the stove and eye issue. I suspect I would have survived as a medieval knight, putting aside the fears and anxiety of the armor and going for the glory of the regalia. In modern Antarctic terms that would translate as the glory of the miles accrued and getting to the pole on Boxing Day.

Rumble on!

# Willie, December 23rd 2013

Ben and Tarka, great mileage today, you are putting in a very impressive performance.  Carbon Monoxide poisoning has very tight safety margins for you guys on your own, if one of you is affected, then the other is likely to be as well.  It’s effects can be fatal, I echo Richards earlier concerns, please service the stove and vent the tent.  Have you found that you now attempt to predict when the next “Depth Hoare” thump will take place.  Be strong, be safe, keep the tent vented, Willie

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, December 23rd 2013

Ben and Tarka
You are men of great courage and serious determination!
The champagne is on the fridge waiting for you to reach the pole - Dont worry, I’ll drink your share for you ;-)
Keep up the good work!

# Jack Coleman, December 23rd 2013

I have been following the blog daily and find every days posts to be informative, candid and inspirational. Even as a person who enjoys walking about in below freezing temperatures I could not imagine, on my own, what it would be like to do so over such a great expanse of time and conditions. Thank you both for sharing a
glimpse of what a person can accomplish with the proper training, knowledge,
motivation and fortitude.
Having put togethet several big mileage days at altitude is simply amazing. Best wishes and Godspeed as you near the halfway point of the journey.

# Kevin wright, December 23rd 2013

Great stuff guys. Looking forward to raising a glass to you both on Boxing Day. A very special bottle of the recreation 1907 Shackleton’s Whisky. I’ve been waiting 3 years to open this bottle and promised myself it would be kept for a very special occasion. Keep going. Kev

# Mal Owen, December 24th 2013

Each night as I lay my head down for sleep, I think of you toiling away, each step taking you ever closer to your goal. The extent of my toil has been to struggle against the UK wind and rain across the pub car park earlier.
Three figure number now is looking very good indeed…excellent work…. Parents/grandparents must be very proud….it is great to read their slant on the story.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s blog ... Getting excited and am quite sure more than a few glasses will be raised very soon.
Please vent the tent.
PS.  I wonder how close to the Pole Santa ventures ?

# Nick, December 24th 2013

The UK has had about 4 drawn out gale force winds recently.  Unusual winter.  Rain and wind.  Today Christmas Eve, cold.  It’s been mild this December, so mild and cold in the morning, but mild during the days mostly.  A possibility of snow over the next month of January, could even happen tonight or Christmas Day?  Today the shops will be busy from 7am until about 9pm.  But yeah, the UK is asking for snow and I think we’ll get it soon.  So those clouds will be heading across the world.  From a personal point of view I like it when everyone gets snowed in and no one can drive their car for a few days….those are the real nice White Christmas’s.

# AlisonP, December 24th 2013

You’re almost there!!!  Wow, what an amazing journey it has been so far, of body and mind and spirit.  Thank you Ben and Tarka, for all the gifts you give to all of us humble readers - the gift of inspiration, the gift of your words (both of you!), the gift of seeing people work their tushes off to chase their dreams and then achieve them, the gift of armchair travelling to the bottom of the earth.  I hope that you two can have your own private and quiet little celebration when you get to the pole, as many of your loyal and admiring readers shout and raise our glasses to you.  Merry Christmas and best wishes to you both.

# Paul, January 13th 2014

Just found this site today at work and I’m enamored. This perspective struck me as almost humorous; you wake to a whiteout and travel for hours. When the clouds lift to blue skies you’re treated to a landscape of two colors that distinguish land and sky…no landmarks on the horizon. Aside from the color, is there any advantage to navigating in one circumstance over the other?

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