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.


# Martin, January 11th 2014

I bet there are a lot of us enjoying an occasional bike ride or two that are majorly happy when they clock in at 1800 miles on the bike at the end of a full year. You guys are doing this distance not only in considerably shorter time, but by foot with a sledge behind you and in one of most hostile places on earth. This is nothing but absolutely impressive.

Gentlemen, our travel destination down by the coast is almost in sight. Thank you for not smoking. Please fasten your seat belts.

# Willie Hannah, January 11th 2014

Ben and Tarka, grey days tends to form grey moods and the monotony of the task must be eating at your soul.  Dig out some good thoughts and memories, the double dinner and some well earned sleep will help chase the “greys” away.  There is much comment on why Scott never penned his deeper personal feelings, but I think underlying would have been the fact that he was first and foremost a Naval Officer.  So to pen his thoughts on how he felt, his moods and how he was coping, could possibly have been viewed as a form of weakness, in front of the men, and if the “Skipper” is seen to waiver then the men’s resolve could just evaporate.  Stay strong, the blue sky will return, regards, Willie

# Lydia, January 11th 2014

Today I had a minor milestone, I was able to wash my hair for the first time in 12 days post my op and of course thought about you two,as one does when one’s head is hanging over the bath, could I go without washing for 110 days and only 3 pairs of clean foundation garments…....... let alone all the other hardships that go with what you are doing.  The conclusion is of course I couldn’t. 
You are two men of a unique make-up what that make-up is I have no idea, would I like a little of it, absolutely. 
Ben/Tarka I have said it before and will keep saying it you are remarkable unique men who are walking into history dragging those pesky sleds behind you.  Not only are you built of Superhero quality but you both have a sense of humour - just how rare you are!
I imagine there will be many people adding you to their dream dinner party guest list - you are certainly on mine.
Stay warm, stay safe, we are all with you!
Lydia x

# AlisonP, January 11th 2014

I hope that you two had a terrific yummy tummy-filling energy-boosting sleep-inducing double dinner, and woke up feeling a bit more refreshed and ready to face one of your last days on the plateau.  Those days will very soon be behind you, leqving you with memories, images, and stories.

I too felt the lack of description of how the days for Scott felt, but thought that he needed to keep his stiff upper lip, manage the expedition, and not reveal his insides.  It is clear that virtually all of your blog followers are so incredibly appreciative that you write so beautifully and deeply about that part of your trip.  This journey is clearly as much of an inner journey as it is an outward one.

The Beadmore will soon be upon you, and you will leave the lower oxygen windy plateau behind you.  Know that we your faithful readers are cheering you on.

# Hilary, January 11th 2014

Just checked today’s tracker and you’re below 86 degrees (85 59 59). Don’t give up, you’re getting ever closer. We’re all here willing the miles to be smaller, the days brighter, and the wind chill warmer. You’ll have mountains to look at soon too, so something to view instead of the endless white and grey. Shackleton didn’t put true feeling in his diary either, the “All cheerful” was there to often hiding the underlying anxiety and discord that was going on.

Ben, reading your inner thoughts makes you seem so human and that is why we all follow you! It’s not just the journey but also how you are getting there, body and soul!

# Vladimir Pauliny, January 11th 2014

Dear Ben,
I do share with you your longing to know what where the innermost feelings and thoughts of Scott and other polar explorers of the classic era. I always missed that in their writing and it is a pity that the “stiff upper lip” attitude somehow did not render them capable of unveiling their inner selves to the reader.
Which brings us to the fascinating honesty and openness of your blogging. Lot has been said about it in the comments here but I do feel that we all somehow tend to overlook the fact that yours is the genre of “stuff written in a tent, in the middle of icy hell, knackered after hours and days and weeks of the hardest toil imaginable” and not “stuff written with hindsight in a cosy study, with a nice cup of coffee on the table”.
Taking this into account makes your writing even more amazing. Your ability to produce a few paragraphs of highly lucid, deep, and at the same time entertaining prose EVERY NIGHT is to me fully comparable with the physical side of things up there on the plateau.

Dear Tarka,
The same applies to your fascinating contribution on temporal perception!

Wish you both strength and courage to finish this extraordinary endeavour. Best of luck and keep going!

# Uncle Pete, January 11th 2014

We are all still here, willing you onward!
Well (this evening UK time) it looks like you are past your ‘Finally Flatter’ outward bound blog, which started that day with an ‘upward’ bit. Good News - that will be ‘downward’ for you ; and for the next week or so ! I hope you digested your extra dinner and you feel fitter and ready to concentrate your all on this section. Do I gather Scott’s team took to sledging down the Beardmore?
From ‘South with Scott’ - Teddy Evans:
“None of us can ever forget that exciting descent. The speed of the sledge at one point must have been 60 miles an hour. We glissaded down a steep blue ice slope; to brake was impossible, for the sledge had taken charge. One or other of us may have attempted to check the sledge with his foot, but to stop it in any way would have meant a broken leg. We held on for our lives, lying face downwards on the sledge. Suddenly it seemed to spring into the air, we had left the ice and shot over one yawning crevasse before we had known of its existence almost—I do not imagine we were more than a second in the air, but in that brief space of time I looked at Crean, who raised his eyebrows as if to say, “What next!” Then we crashed on to the ice ridge beyond this crevasse, the sledge capsized and rolled over and over, dragging us three with it until it came to a standstill.”
Tarka, Please try to refrain from this approach! May your path be safe.

# jan, January 11th 2014

Having followed your journey with tears and smiles since just before Xmas. I have no words of wisdom or great quotes to impart. I really respect you both as two young men who had a dream and know how hard you must have strived just to get the funding etc to get were you are at this moment in time. I just think this time last year I bet you were wishing you could be were you are today and this time next year will you wish yourselves back there again?  The greatest of respect and good wishes to you both you have worked so hard be very proud of yourselves, as we are.

# Intrepid, January 11th 2014

Am in a retreat so difficult to be on time (if there is a better time) to write.  I have always taken the position that ski poles were meant to be leaned on for a rest. I now see that poles are also for keeping vertical when one would prefer to be horizontal. I do hope eating the extra cache of food gives you a boost. Feeling for you guys, having to slog through such dreary landscape, being cold, tired, and fogged in.

Hoping your time in the tent was a true rest and the food as delightful as a belly full of camping food can get, and however it may come… that the tender tired state flies away and you get cracking. Or cranking. Or whatever is motivational for you at this point. Make it work. You guys are AWESOME!!!!  YEAH!!!

# Offroading Home, January 11th 2014

If my calculations are correct from the satellite images, Ben and Tarka deserve a great congratulations today having ‘churned and burned’ close to 25 miles (40km)! I think that would be a new record for them so I’ve measured it 5 times on Google Earth and come up with 24.8 miles every time. I hope it’s close to being true.

This in addition to crossing another degree of latitude and passing former camp #49.  Satellite images show that today’s travel had little “relief” which probably facilitated their amazing distance and poises them well for the next two-day slog up and onto the Beardmore.

If you get a chance guys, how about a few more photos?  Especially of the wind-formed topography that you’ve tried to describe mental images of.  Sure would be nice to put an image to the words.  On your shakedown cruise did you ever put a figure on how many photos were possible per day based on available power and bandwidth?  The reason I ask is because in all my years I’ve never heard anyone return from a trip saying: “I wish I hadn’t taken so many pictures.”  As Sir Peter Jackson told one of his starlets: “Pain is temporary - film is forever!”

# Jarda C., January 11th 2014

Good luck, guys, and I wish you speedy skis! Hold on…

I think Scott began to write about his own physical and mental condition at the moment when he has realized that it is too late for safe return… It could be amplified due to the loss of the pole priority but mainly when it was clear that some members of his team (Evans, Oates) are in condition which doesn´t enable to endure the hardships of a long torturous return (especially when he refused to dependence on dog team).

# Stu, January 11th 2014

You dont know who I am. And to be honest I dont have a clue who you are…. but…. Ive been following you from before xmas. But I’ve never commented. I read every day. I want to show my support every day but I dont really comment on facebook.
Guys…. there are thousands of people reading your reports. Altho they dont acknowledge their pride… they keenly anticipate your reports.  WE keenly wait for your updates. WE are not only proud of your emense progress… but… are more proud to have a link with you when you have hard days.  The hard days show us how committed and how much ball busting work you put in..
Many thousands of people think this. They might not send their support in writing but believe me guys..  they are watching and they are thinking about it. Be proud fellas. If you make 1 mile in a hard day… then you still are going forward.  Keep going forward and you have nothing to worry about. And you make us all proud

Cheers so much.

Commenting is not available for this entry.