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.

Fatigue (Day 78)

Day 78: S86° 11' 6.6", E159° 38' 31.8"

Duration: 9 Hr

Daily distance: 21.9 Mi

Distance to go: 634.7 Mi

Temperature: -20 °C

Wind chill: -31 °C

Altitude: 8910 Ft

Another nine-hour day today here and we're both feeling pretty weary with a kind of deep tiredness that I've never experienced before. The photo (the 99th we've sent back from the tent) is of me in the standard pose I adopt if Tarka pauses while he's in the lead, perhaps to remove a layer of clothing or to double-check his bearing. With the ski poles in my armpits, my wrists dangling in the straps, my knees buckled together and my hips braced by the sledge harness, I can relax to the point of almost falling asleep.

As you can see, the blue skies we've been enjoying of late were replaced by a murky, flat grey today. We were both really lethargic getting going in the tent this morning, and both distinctly lacking in mojo for the first session of the day, which is often the hardest mentally as it entails exchanging a warm, comfy sleeping bag for nine hours of hard work and drudgery in a harness and, in today's case, what might as well have been a grey blindfold.

I find it interesting how little Scott talks about his physical and mental condition - and the daily battle with fatigue they must have been waging - in his diary. On their January 10th, still en route to the Pole after leaving their final depot, all he says about it is that "The work was distressingly hard", and while I know more than most what he's talking about, part of me would love to have heard more about what it actually felt like for them, rather than which way the wind was blowing, or how many hours they travelled for before stopping for lunch and to make tea (for of course they didn't have the vacuum flasks that keep our drinks hot all day).

I'm going to sign off now as I'm on cooking duty and we're having a blow-out double dinner this evening with some of the leftovers from our resupply, in a bid to refill our fuel tanks for the last three days on the plateau. It'll be my brother's birthday by the time this gets published, so I'm sending many happy returns from 86 degrees south to you, Steve. I love you bro.


# dj, January 11th 2014

Great going guys. Only a couple more days ans you’ll get more food!  Clean underwear… chocolate cake… you did bring the chocolate didn’t you?

# Mal Owen, January 11th 2014

As I write from my warm, cosy bed I too am finding it hard to exchange it for the day ahead, so I can’t imagine your thoughts when you have 9 hours of drudgery ahead of you. Mind you, do washing, ironing, hoovering etc count as drudgery? I think so!
No doubt there are many, many, many bloggers reading, having been poised for the last hour to press the blog button and all wishing a less weary, less grey day ahead for you both. Hope the food blowout was good and that it reacharges the batteries. And of course Happy Birthday wishes on their way to Steve too.

# wonderwoman, January 11th 2014

Hoping for clearer sky and better weather tomorrow! We keep on sending you love and warm thoughts from Finland.

# Janet Stanley , January 11th 2014

hope all goes well today,please stay safe :)

# Chris, January 11th 2014

Only 5 days until the Beardmore and you’ll be off the plateau.  You guys are doing amazingly well!  When you get back to the coast you will be the first men to walk from the Ross Sea, across the barrier, up the Beardmore, to the pole and back to the coast again in history.  Think about that when all is against you - you can do it.

On another topic I’m quite interested in what your reasoning was for the number of you on the expedition - why two?

# Richard Pierce, January 11th 2014

I’m late to the arty, as always at the weekends - and I’ve been watching the live Cricket Australia video feed from the women’s test match, I must admit.

I think the reason Scott doresn’t talk much about his mental and physical condition on the way to the Pole is that he still had the hope of getting there first at that point, so he was much more focused on logistics and the progress of the whole expedition rather than dwelling on his own state. The tone changes once they’ve reached the Pole and disappointment. The diary for the return journey is full of regret and reflection, and speaks not just of his mind at the time of writing but of how he could have done things differently.

Your double-dinner will hopefully have a good effect on you. You’re already almost 2k feet lower down than you were at at the height of the plateau. Your weariness may well just be readjustment, as well as the impact of the greyness when you lose all sense of proportion and perspective because there is no real horizon.

Keep going, sleep well on a full stomach, wake refreshed, and mark off another day closer to the end of the descent.

God Speed.


# Christy, January 11th 2014

I rather think that Scott also could not write more about his own physical and mental condition during his journey because of his class and rank and the highly proscribed ways of being during the Edwardian era.  I’m so glad we are living in an era where people are more free to express what they are all about! 

Ben & Tarka, I so treasure your unfolding story and the insights you are sharing!!!

# CaninesCashews, January 11th 2014

Hi guys,
Sounds like you need a bit of a change of scenery! Hopefully the Beardmore will sort that out.
I remember some talk before about how you might make the decent in terms of positioning of the pulks etc.
It looks to be about 6000ft in only 6 or 7 days from when you when leave the plateau, I have a feeling those will be ‘interesting’ days. Well a bit more interesting than a murky flat grey landscape anyway.
Have a good double-dinner, rest well and attack another day tomorrow.
Also saw a sign on the news yesterday outside an American house - UNASSEMBLED SNOWMAN FOR SALE - Only $10 - Make it Yourself.
I like that.

Stay safe.

# Mal Owen , January 11th 2014

Thanks for my daily chuckle :-)

# CaninesCashews, January 11th 2014

Glad to be of service Mal!

# Richard Pierce, January 11th 2014

A serious lack of comments on here today, so I’ll just add another Antarctic poem to lengthen the thread. One about Scott seems most appropriate, with what Ben said in his post. This is what Scott said to me at Cape Evans in 2008. Like all things Antarctic, it’s none too cheery, but true.


“Death was the last thing on my mind
When we set out on this venture,”
Said with frostbitten hindsight,
Fingerless hand brushing cracked hair
From blistered forehead, skull bone
Shining bleached across time.

“We thought we should succeed. It was
Ours, this continent of frozen sand,
We had priority, we thought, but
Science comes a poor second to ambition,
And a better man beat us to our prize.
All we gained was a black flag, made

Heroes for our painful deaths, and
Nothing like it planned. It should have
Been our triumph, that remote place that
Looked like anywhere else, flat and white
And boring. We lost our lives for wanting
Our flag planted into the middle of nowhere.”

His empty eyes stare through his
Questioner, sockets aflame. “There was
No point in returning, no point at all,
Because our news was no news, a worthy
Effort, but second-rate nonetheless,
Because the dogs were better than we.

The last breath? It pained me and
Released me. Too much uncertainty
Strangles a man. All I wanted was
To rest and forget, to have one moment’s
Peace after a life of fighting those
More important than me.”

He gets up to leave. “Don’t let them
Forget me.” Four faces glance in through
The half-opened tent flap. “Or them,”
He adds, with a grim smile. “We were
All there together. Forget what posterity
Says. All here together, too. Always.”


# Mal Owen, January 11th 2014

The comments have come now but I’m glad the early lack of them prompted your poetic post. You say it as it was.

# Richard Pierce, January 11th 2014

Thanks very much, Mal. Glad, too, that the posts came. R

# Andrea, January 11th 2014

As in this poem , in the absence of (any type of) prizing the plateau and the continent, the place is just a “place that Looked like anywhere else, flat and white And boring.” instead of being “this continent of frozen sand”, and the venture no more than “We lost our lives for wanting Our flag planted into the middle of nowhere.”

# Dave, January 11th 2014

A grey blindfold indeed.  The horizon is barely visible in your photograph.

I can’t help but wonder whether, having reached the pole, you feel more fatigued returning from it than you did pressing toward it.  Scott may have felt the same way.  On the other hand, the return trip often seems faster for me.  I hope yours does at some point.  I also hope that you and Tarka feel good enough in your final days toward your goal that you are able to consider savoring moments that will soon be memories.

# Richard McGehee, January 11th 2014

Ben and Tarka
Look on the bright side lads. Getting up to the pole was difficult but now you are skiing DOWNHILL across snow and ice. Its not as bad as tundra tramping across sedge tussocks in the artic summer.

Just kidding of course.

Happy trails to you.

# Don, January 11th 2014

I discovered your blog about 10 days ago and I am overwhelmed reading your entire Journey.  I have laughed, cried, and discovered a new interest in learning about South Pole exploration. Like many other commenters, you have become a part of my daily life.  The first thing I do every morning is check this site.  Whatever hurdle or annoyance in my daily life is now compared with walking to the South Pole, and of course nothing seems so difficult.

I am most moved by your honesty in how you’re feeling each day. 
You guys are my heros!

North Carolina

# Mal Owen, January 11th 2014

That is exactly what happened to me but luckily I discovered the expedition info before it began so have followed for all of the 78 days. I am now hooked on all things Antarctic and shall continue to be so forevermore. (PS my sister lives in NC)

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