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)

# 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.

# Jo, January 11th 2014

The fact that you share almost in real-time what it is like to do this endless journey is very interesting. And it´s somehow bizarre, too. You´re so far away and at the same time you can stay connected to family, team and public through a satellite transmission.
Part of me feels ashamed to read about your suffering. I blame myself of being kind of a voyeur. And yet I can´t help to check your blog everyday because I´m so curious about your progress and the troubles you´re confronted with. To be honest, to read about some suffering adds to the interest. I would feel very different about this particular point if I´d know you personally, that´s for sure. But I promise I very much hope that you´ll only be confronted with problems that you´ll eventually get over with. Seriously, I really want to read the final blog post about reaching Scott´s hut! And I believe this is going to happen… :-)

# Dean Swann, January 12th 2014

Keep up the great work. Your adventure is nothing short of amazing. The world needs more adventurers and explorers like Ben and Tarka.

# Intrepid, January 12th 2014

For Tarka—A little theory.

We are not separate from the planet we live on. A system exists in which the energy flows between the continent and you (and vice versa).  It is a fact that human innovation taps the rich resources of the planet creating energy to use for various endeavors. It is also true we can connect with the rich subtle energy sources to consciously use for various endeavors.  Although Antarctica’s surface is a very inhospitable climate, the continent has a solid core.  Use it as a resource. Allow the essence of Antarctica to solidify resolve in you. Explore the specifics of what boundaries are seemingly endless, requiring slogging through. Explore which boundaries are shifting as you do so, and what is being re-established in you. What energy is being provided through layer after layer of exceptional solid support. It may seem apropos. It may require practice. But it’s there if you need it—- the land does offer it’s support (and passage) if you know how to listen. You seemed to know what to look for going up the glacier. You’re good in both directions, right?

Be well. Take care. There’s more fun to be had….

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