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.

Full Gas (Day 57)

Day 57: S88° 04' 12.24", E159° 20' 17.22"

Duration: 9 Hr

Daily distance: 22.2 Mi

Distance to go: 1036.4 Mi

Temperature: -24 °C

Wind chill: -34 °C

Altitude: 10171 Ft

Right. Enough navel-gazing talk about kindness and wobbles and self-pity, today was all about stepping into our ski bindings, going deep and seeing what we could come up with. The weather was kinder to us, with sunshine, sparse, high cloud, good visibility and a milder headwind, and in nine hours on the move we covered 35.72km (22.19 miles or 19.28 nautical miles) which is a record for us, and personally I'm over the moon after struggling like I did yesterday. It's hard, hard work, and I finished each session (90, 90, 90, 80, 70, 70 and 50 minutes respectively) feeling hungry and drained, but after 10 or 15 minutes sat on the sled eating, drinking and resting, I felt just about ready to go again.

We left our final depot this morning, so lighter sleds was one of the reasons for our turn of speed, and we've gone as far as leaving the Pilot (our satellite transmitter - it's nearly 8kg including cables and batteries) behind, where we'll pick it up again in ten days' time or so. In the meantime, we're sending updates back using the Ultrabook and our Iridium Extreme satellite phone, which is rather slower so I'm afraid the images will be heavily compressed until we reach the depot again.

We're utterly indebted to Tony Haile, who provided impromptu tech support on the satphone last night, and managed to email us the correct Windows 8 drivers in order to get the phone working. I'm still pinching myself at what we're able to do out here in the middle of nowhere thanks to Iridium's satellites and Intel's technology. I wonder what Scott would have made of it all.

I wanted to send a nod of gratitude and respect in Mark Twight's direction. I read his book, Extreme Alpinism, about a decade ago, and it influenced me -and the way I wanted to carry out polar expeditions- greatly. As an alpinist, Mark's focus on training, preparation, equipment, professionalism, commitment, style and ambition led to some groundbreaking achievements in the mountains, and while I can hardly call myself a climber, I realised that this was how I wanted to do things in the polar regions. Days like today are the fruit of the work inspired me to put in over many years, and I'm now lucky enough to call him a friend, as well as a man I respect and admire greatly, as a mountaineer, an athlete, a writer and a coach. Thanks Mark. That's all for now; it's bed time here on the Antarctic plateau as we're going to try to do the same distance again tomorrow. Thanks for following.


# David, December 21st 2013

250km to the Pole, moving brilliantly!

# Torsten Richter, December 21st 2013

Hi guys,

super power! I hope their motivation to come back and they will make it. The very heavy days are sure to come, especially on the return trip. It will certainly be a question of will. I wish you good luck.

# Kevin Wilson, December 21st 2013

Tarka and Ben are indeed doing very well and are nearly half way, well done. Looking forward to the return journey.

Reading what Ben posts and then reading the followers comments is very interesting.
But what it is of greater interest is how the followers react and interact with Bens posts. For example, Ben said in a previous post that he was called a joke or a joker (I forget which) by someone. The followers were up in arms, one even saying that it was “malicious”.

Then we go to yesterday and Ben’s tears and the guilt. Followers commented that they started to well up while reading the blog.

Then we go to today, a more up-beat blog and everyone is more up beat. But those that posted about emotion yesterday haven’t posted anything yet today. Why?

I stand back (away from the emotion) and look at this as more of an expedition. For me personally all the information I would require would be daily mileage, temperature and what the weather was like etc. I don’t know how Ben finds the time or the energy to write all the information that he does.

I would just like to know, are other followers interested more in the expedition or are they getting caught up in the emotion about what the post is about?
If anyone could shed some light on this, then please, post away.

# Richard Pierce, December 21st 2013


The reason I’ve posted so late, and up beat, is because it’s not a week day, I didn’t go to bed till 2 a.m., slept till 10, and had to deal with 4 children, a cat, the washing up, the drying up, the post, emails, World War III between daughters etc etc.

Emotion is never far away. In fact, without emotion, there is no life.


# George Chapman, December 21st 2013

Kevin. I personally enjoy more of the personal aspects of the expedition. I do monitor the weather and mileage. I am not in any position at all to give them advice. I believe they are both well trained and are in contact with experts on the ground if they need some advice. I would assume most of the followers are not expert on these issues as well and enjoy their superb literary abilities. I’ve been following since the beginning on Google Earth and I was somewhat concerned early on about their mileage but just assumed they knew more then me what was needed. I believe they will make it to the Pole on Christmas day which will be day 61.
I think it’s actually great how a lot of people have become emotionally interested in these post. You can also see the number of post here everyday has increased I’m sure even though I have not done the math. Wishing you and all the followers here a nice weekend.

# Richard Pierce, December 21st 2013


To reduce this expedition to just numbers is to totally disregard the fact that Ben and Tarka are actually human, and that, to go forwards is not just a case of simple biomechanics and logistics, but that it is actually spriti and emotion which drives them.

Every target, every aim, every record has behind the bare numbers a reason (rational or irrational), a motivation (rational or irrational), and catharsis.

Without emotion, Ben and Tarka will fail. Without emotion, there’s nothing for us to be interested in, nothing for us to become attached to and involved in.


# wonderwoman, December 21st 2013

This is getting boring,but I completely agree with Richard again:it is spirit and emotion that drives them. And us all. What we do in life is determined by our thinking -not by our bodies.

Ben and Tarka: Great day, you are heroes! I wish there was a way you could feel our souls trying to ease the steps you’re taking. We send you love from Finland and pray for you.

# dj, December 21st 2013

My duo pesos. Blogging an adventure is not a new or even unique phenomenon. As a writer of an offroading blog, I’ve “watched” several others post their adventures either real time or retrospectively through diary entries and have noticed several common trends. There are as many different types of “commenters” as there are types of “explorers” as there are types of “humans” on the planet. All come to their part of the venture with expectations and are ecstatic when they are met, become “vested” easily, and disappointed when they are not. This particular endeavor (endeavour) started with “friends and family” who have their hearts and dreams tied up in two bundles of fleece stuck out there in the snow and respond as any intelligent person thinks they would respond - and things are taken VERY personal. But why do others bother to follow?

The “reality show” and “soapbox drama” phenomenon turns a huge profit these days and makes “rock stars” of people providing entertainment. The “mothering instinct” is easy to get jump-started for people you perceive are in harms way. There is also a group of very intelligent people who have expertise in some aspect of the activity (either first-hand or by research) who become vested in the activity; and there are those who have already done it, wish they were doing it again, find similarities with what they have experienced themselves, would help in a heart-beat if they were able and willingly offer encouragement or advice. [Of course there are also those in the background with financial interest who, as human nature dictates, watch and are pleased if they see their name or logo acknowledged - even if they don’t expect it; as there are those who merely like to argue or bait others to do it.]

What they all have in common is either an ability or lack thereof to comment in a constructive manner civilly - what I’ve seen so far, plenty of each on both sides. A person following for reasons of information and intellectual pursuits, identifies easily with the explorers, usually can readily spot inaccuracies and resents it when they are not acknowledged, explained or corrected and watches and hopes for description and thoughtful insight. Someone following with their heart or entertainment reasons, bonds or becomes infatuated with the explorers easily, willingly “suspends disbelief” and watches and hopes for the human nature and emotional part of the interaction.

Those listening mostly with their heads want data, observation, reports of results, description of attempts at problem solving and discovery and they become distressed at fabrication, inaccuracies or obfuscation. Those listening mostly with their hearts want human experience, feelings, emotion, vulnerability and connection and are distressed with anyone who they see as critical or even questioning. Both are human and expected.  In the era of Scott, common human nature and civil training enabled respectful and even cordial communication between groups of disparate expectations and beliefs. In this era of “twitter anonymity” it’s all too easy to take the lazy way out and “vent” mindlessly and disrespectfully.

A blog moderator should be skilled enough to dampen the “poor communicators” on BOTH sides - the criticizers AND the apologists (even though they are “defending” them) and to recognize “baiters” before they get out of hand.

BOTH the brain and the heart are absolutely critical in surviving this type of activity.  It’s difficult to admit you’ve made a mistake, and to “grow-up” in a very public arena; although, remember, it’s a courageous choice that Ben and Tarka have made to do - perhaps even more courageous than they anticipated.

# CaninesCashews, December 21st 2013

An interesting observation Kevin, but I think that he difference in posting is simply just a weekday/weekend thing. I imagine quite a few of the regular contributors may do so from work and that family commitments take priority at the weekend.
Regarding the technical and emotional engagement of the expedition, personally I agree with Richard and George. I trust that Ben, Tarka and the team back here have planned and prepped this expedition over a number of months and years, and that they are experts in their own fields. I do not have the knowledge nor the inclination to second guess their intentions and that aspect of contributing doesn’t interest me.
I like to think I am supportive of their efforts and interested in the emotional and historical aspect of the expedition. If this were just a numbers game I would struggle to sustain my daily interest. There are not many places left in the world to explore and the South Pole has had its fair share of visitors over the years. My feelings about this historic expedition is that it is not about exploring the place but more about exploring the human body - the physical, mental and emotional challenge of the ice.
Ben (and Tarka’s) blogs have given me the chance to explore that aspect and I am grateful for the candid nature of the posts.
The English novelist Arnold Bennett illustrates my point much better than I could hope to, he said, “There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.”

# Kat, December 21st 2013

Kevin, I was one of the people who posted an emotional response. I don’t necessarily want to post every day, because I truly don’t have much to add to the discussion most days. I have wished for voting buttons, because many times I’ve agreed strongly with someone’s posts, but don’t want to clutter up the blog.

I admire Ben’s honesty.  His account of an emotional day touched me deeply.  Does it make me foolish to be affected by a story?  I don’t think so.  As I get older, I find I empathize more with the emotional truths in a story.  This is a story to me, and it involves real people doing real things. 

At the same time, having read many many accounts of and by the original explorers, Scott, Oates, Cherry Gerrard, Bowers, Mawson, Shackelton,Amundsen, et al, PLUS modern day explorers and travelers, including Sarah Wheeler (yes),Gareth Wood, Henry Worsley, and many others. My personal interest is in the personalities and their reactions to the hardships and extraordinary landscapes they travel.

Ben’s and each of these stories shed light on what it takes to be a human being living in a difficult world, and what it takes to undertake something extraordinary.  Yes I’m fascinated by routes and their extraordinary physical distances made, and their rig and technology. But I’m hoping my questions will be answered when the time is right.  I’ll let the others ask those questions and make those comments, and when Ben & Tarka are ready, now or later, if there’s a book (I hope there’s a book!), we’ll go deeper there.

Does that help answer your question, why some of us moved by the human element don’t necessarily comment all the time?  I noticed that some very prickly people demanding technical answers about distances traveled, weights and depots at the beginning of the journey have disappeared. 

All of us respond to what interests us, or moves us.

Meanwhile, good luck Ben and Tarka!  I’m looking forward to whatever you write, with thanks!

# Mal Owen, December 21st 2013

Just returned from spending the day getting prettied up for Xmas (nails, hair etc) visiting friends and family, delivering presents, sharing experiences, as some of us emotional humans do!  In answer to your question….. No internet access all day so my first action on return was to log on… Wow. .. Took note of distance covered, miles to go and conditions our two intrepid explorers had to contend with today.
Thinking back to a previous post you made (HOOLIE (DAY 12)posted November 5th), I thought you didn’t want to know about how cold (temperature)or how windy (what the weather was like).It is the coldest and windiest place on earth after all!
Amazing expedition…...interested ? I think so .... I, along with many others are reading, viewing, learning everything possible…. addiction I think is the word. We respond each day in accordance to our varying interests, needs, emotions…after all, unlike Tarka we are not androids!
Here’s to another day of continuing favourable weather, record-breaking mileage and magical moments, with whatever interesting blog addition appearing from Ben or Tarka at the end of it,  to which we can all respond in whatever way the mood takes us.

# Liz Porter, December 21st 2013

You guys are an amazing inspiration. Each day, I look forward to reading your daily blog & seeing your progress as you steam closer to the Pole.  Your journey has had a tremendous impact on me. In fact, an hour before I was due to get married the other week, I still had to check your progress before I left for the ceremony!!
Keep going strong & true guys.
Lizzy P

# Mal Owen, December 21st 2013

That is true addiction ...congratulations on your marriage .Perhaps you should print off a photo of arrival at the Pole for the wedding album ....many years from now it will be a wonderful memory to look back on.

# Mal Owen, December 22nd 2013

Re Richard Addendum
‘Hitting the nail on the head ‘seems to be the very appropriate idiom.

# Uncle Pete, December 21st 2013

It is thanks to the brave endeavour of the the two of you that we have something to follow! Well done on your uplift in distance. Keep it up and don’t worry if the photos are fuzzy, just keep them and the miles coming. Best wishes.

# Andy Lawrence, December 21st 2013

Awesome, just awesome

# James Rich, December 21st 2013

I’ve been following you all the way from the early prepartion days since watching your TED talk, till now. It’s such an enspiring journey you guys are taking, what amazing and detailed prep you have gone to and awesome accomplishments physically on your way to the pole. It’s great to read about your experiance sand thoughts as you are making your way. Keep it up! Nb Great music taste. Would be keen to know what headphones you use? J

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, December 21st 2013

Hooray! Brilliant news.
I got my tshirt this morning and I really like it. Will wear it on the day you reach the South Pole.

# George Chapman, December 21st 2013

Great going guy’s sounds like you had a terrific day. I was following you all day and could see you were cranking out the miles. With good weather lighter sleds and the adrenaline increasing the closer you get to the Pole should result in great mileage. I’ve been predicting you can make it to the Pole on Christmas day and I still think you can do it. It may be at the end of the day we will see. Wishing you guys a great day. Really enjoy all the Photos and Post.

# Keith, December 21st 2013

Well done guys, keep up the chins and plough on. If the going gets tough just think of us underground explorers in central London currently attempting to navigate our way through the transport system at this time of year when everyone seems to be attempting to return from their office parties. I managed Tooting to Leyton last night without a break in one hour twenty minutes. One or two people were leaving “liquid depots” on the platforms which hopefully will be gone now. Enjoy the space and stay focussed ...if technology allows then save this and find half an hour to listen to this on Christmas day  In case you’ve run out of music to listen to this may help (or drive you insane) The people at Hospital records have received the message regarding your current music collection I think they’re impressed. Therefor nothing would give ME greater pleasure than thinking of you listening to my Christmas aural adventure on the dig day next Wednesday. Plough on, good luck, well done, happy Christmas xxkeith xx

# Richard Pierce, December 21st 2013

Great effort, great distance. From catharsis comes strength. Take care. R

# AlisonP, December 21st 2013

Ah, the ever eloquent Richard.  These were my thoughts exactly today and Richard said it well. 

Great day, guys.  Do you plan any sort of celebration when you get to the pole?  I for one have champage at the ready and will be toasting to you two, and i am sure I am not alone in that.

# Richard Pierce, December 21st 2013

Alison - you flatter me. R

# George Chapman, December 21st 2013

For some reason The Scott Expedition portion of Google Earth is not working today (12-21-13) 9:00AM EST. Anyone else having this problem?

# Offroading Home, December 21st 2013

George… the icon seems to be moving along for me.  Let me know some more specifics through my blog and I’ll try to help if I can.

# George Chapman, December 21st 2013

Offroading Home. Thanks for your comments. I noticed this problem at 9:00AM EST this morning and notified the team of this problem and they have fixed the problem. They are still working on correcting the fact that Day 47 marker is not located in the correct location.

# dj, December 21st 2013

Eagle eye, George!  I’m not sure specifically what you mean by the wrong place. I do see that the end of day 47 (when forward motion stopped) seems to take a 6 meter jump to the “left” when movement started the next day.  I obviously can’t speak for the team but I may have some insight. Each day I hand capture the GPS point where the forward momentum stops and code that as the “campsite.” I do that because, as you know, their “ping” is every hour even during the hours of sleep.  The “normal” GPS fluctuations due to atmosphere (and whatever) make their red balloon bounce all over the place during the night for no reason except measurement error.

The next day the first “ping” prior to when they start moving becomes the new “anchor” point, its own built in portion of error and all. That’s what I think occurred on day 47’s camp.

Ohhh, I just looked at the day 46 camp - it’s true their blue balloon is close to a kilometer south of where they camped. Their coordinates are: -85.193333, 161.588000 when the actual camp was at: -85.184980, 161.590300.  Doesn’t look like a mere typo - but could be a typo that subsequently went through a mathematical conversion.  At any rate, it’s an easy fix in their file, a lot easier than 11 days would seem to indicate - the hardest part, I guess, would be to get the person owning the problem in the loop. Perhaps the numbers I’ve just given will make it easier for them.

# George Chapman, December 22nd 2013

DJ, Sorry brother you just checked in after they had fixed these problems. This morning at 9:00AM EST. I noticed that Scott Expedition portion of Google Earth was not working. I notified the team and after about an hour they had that fixed. But the location of Day 47 and 46 were nearly on top of each other. They fixed that also but it took about 3 hours to fix that problem. By about noon EST all was working well. It must be every thing was fixed before you checked in. All seems to working and all markers are now properly located. It now 7:00PM EST here in North America.  Thanks and I wish you a nice weekend and Christmas. About 105 more miles to go and they will be at the Pole.

# dj, December 22nd 2013

Good to hear - although, their day 46 coordinates are still (like I say) 1 kilometer south of where they actually stopped for the night.  The coordinates I previously posted will put their marker exactly on the spot their own track shows they stopped.  You are correct, I did come to the party late and didn’t see their “bundled” placemarks.

Same back at you! Only thing that would be better is if we both were sitting on lounge chairs comparing notes in our cold weather gear as they rounded the pole - oh, and if it were dark enough to see the aurora in the background of the photo too.

# dj, December 22nd 2013

You know - now that my mental wish-juices are flowing.  The American South Pole Station has two web cams that come on-line whenever the satellites line up.  I would guess that, if someone had thought to think of it, one of the researchers might have been enticed to move the one camera over to view the “pole” as the guys tag it - who knows.  I suspect that the fact that they left their Pilot behind means that we’re not going to see a live up-link from the expedition.

# Laurence Jacobs, December 21st 2013

Many thanks Ben, reading you Blog everyday from the Great White Continent is such an inspiration. Especially when you’re having one of the tougher ones and digging deep. Cheering you on as you and Tarka make history, enjoy the journey.

# Willie Hannah, December 21st 2013

Ben and Tarka , well done today a fantastic achievement.  When you are down, people rally around to pick you up; when you are up, they applaud, back slap and encourage greater things.  If you blogs were just facts, figures and data, which I’m sure will be available, post exped, then would there be so many followers?.  I doubt it, for it would be boring and your writing makes your endevours human.  Now for the quick blast, touch the pole and then head back home, safely.  Hoofing.  Be safe, be strong, Willie

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