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.

Hoolie (Day 12)

Day 12: S78° 38' 57.12", E168° 30' 57.72"

Duration: 6 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 8.1 Mi

Distance to go: 1713 Mi

Temperature: -28 °C

Wind chill: -46 °C

Altitude: 141 Ft

Today looked set to be pretty much the same as yesterday - a bit of sun, pretty cold, lots of sastrugi - except with a mild but irritating headwind, and we trundled along making reasonable progress until our fifth hour of the day, when a grey bank of cloud started rolling towards us, like a slow-motion shockwave from some enormous explosion. The wind started picking up and I noticed ice crystals glinting and sparkling in the air. Twenty minutes later and we were in the middle of our worst weather yet, and we called it a day after skiing into the viciously cold wind for an hour, almost being blown off our feet. 

Pitching the tent is an interesting exercise in teamwork and communication in these conditions. We were wearing goggles and facemasks and couldn't hear each other shout over the wind, so the only vocal communication was with an arm around the other person, yelling into the side of their hood. Making sure you don't rip the wildly flapping fabric on the tip of a ski or pole is key, as is keeping hold of it and not letting go. The same goes for sleeping mats, sleeping bags, down jackets, mittens, etc. 

It looks set to be a noisy night for us, but our Hilleberg is solidly reassuring once it's up, and my hope is that this front blows through and that we can move tomorrow, as I don't fancy a day of skiing into this. 

Here are a few answers to some of your questions...

Q) What's it like at night? Windy?

A) Tonight it's extremely windy (and noisy - rumbling, flapping and hissing) but it really depends on the weather. It's been pretty still most nights until now. It's also bright daylight as we're technically skiing at night, though the sun never sets here at this time of year, so we sleep with eye masks that we picked up on the flight down to Chile. I've sewn a fleece nose-warmer into mine as I like to sleep with my face exposed, whereas Tarka seems to tunnel into the bottom of his bag and disappear entirely. We have earplugs for storms like this too, but then you run the risk of not hearing the alarm in the morning...

Q) How do you and Tarka deal with the monotony? Do you have music? Or audiobooks?

A) In slightly different ways! I ski along listening to music a lot of the time, but Tarka prefers audiobooks. He's listening to Game of Thrones, whereas I find electronic music works best for skiing to, and the worse the conditions the more frenetic it needs to be, so today was drum and bass, mostly from Hospital Records. We can read in the evenings if there's time, and it's wonderful to have a bit of mental escape from the routine and the discomfort (I've just started William Boyd's Restless which is so good). And last up, for the ultimate treat we have a few movies on the Ultrabook, and a headphone splitter so we can watch them in our sleeping bags. We've yet to do that though, as we're usually too busy/exhausted at night.

Q) What item can't you live without?

A) Right now, in a very literal sense, our tent. Without it we'd be in a very difficult predicament indeed!


# CaninesCashews, November 6th 2013

Hi guys,
And I thought we were having a bit of a cold snap here - not quite -46 though :-)
Hope the weather improves for tomorrow - still managed 8.1m though - definately nothing to sniff at!!
Stay safe.

# Kevin Wilson, November 6th 2013

Due to the day job I couldn’t get on here for a couple of days. But I think that the next interesting questions which have already been raised and are still left unanswered are about the depots.

Firstly if this expedition (and Ben has mentioned it earlier in this blog) has taken 10 years of planning and I think Ben said 7 years of tweaking spreadsheets with weighs and gear. Then simple and very basic questions such as, have you left a depot? where are you leaving the depots? how much in the way of supplies and weight is being deposited at each depot? should be very easy to answer with 10 years of planning, the support team should know straight away. Captain Scott knew exactly where he was depositing his depots, so this expedition 100 years on should surely know.

Secondly where Ben deposits the depots should have been approved by ALE/ANI as they are in charge of Ben and of what he does (and doesn’t do to the environment) reflects upon them. This is a quiet route compared to other more tourist trails, so if Ben does not make it back to pick up the depots, then I would have thought that the responsibility and the costs to clear them up lies ultimately with ALE/ANI. Maybe Steve Jones of ALE would like to clear this up (no pun intended). Or maybe they would even charge Ben for having to doing so, because there’s certainly going to be many, if it’s now day 13 and this is depot number 2 that’s about to be/or has just been laid, and we still have a long way to go. Under the Antarctic treaty the continent must be left in a pristine condition with no rubbish left strewn about by any expedition.

I also think we need real answers to the real questions that are being asked, and not there will be a blog in a few weeks about depots. Unless of course Ben doesn’t have a clue where he’s laying them??

Oh one last thing I know that the mileage question has been asked before and the answer was that you are using statute miles, so why are the co-ordinates of the present positions being given in Nautical? Any professional expedition would never cross the two over.

# Tom, November 6th 2013

Wow…I can’t believe the negative comments are persisting!  Kevin, it may surprise you but Ben & Tarka are not completing this expedition for the benefit of you sat in your office.  They have more important things to worry about than immediately replying to your questions about logistical details that have no impact on you.

This is a highly professional expedition and I’m sure Ben & Tarka know exactly where they will leave depots, and ensured that the bespoke logistics mentioned in a comment yesterday (I think) includes pick up of any depots left. I think Ben’s blogs have been really informative so far, I’m sure depots etc will be covered in due course. He has got approx 98 blog updates left!

Also mentioned previously (by Ben I think) was the fact that the majority of the expedition support team are still stuck in Antarctica without internet access. So perhaps you need to cut the team some slack when you don’t receive instant responses to questions.

# Alex Hibbert, November 6th 2013

I’m a vocal advocate for honest exploration, but does anyone else think Mr Wilson needs to get out more?

# Tom, November 6th 2013

Way to get the point across in one sentence rather than my 3 slightly ranty paragraphs!  Agreed.

# Mal Owen, November 6th 2013

Re Tom, Alex comments…..‘hear, hear’..... Enough said methinks .

# Jen, November 6th 2013

Keep safe guys.

(and yus, Mr Wilson needs to chill out. Pun very much intended)

# Scott Expedition Team (Chessie), November 6th 2013

Thanks everyone. Ben and Tarka clearly have a plan for the expedition and their depots. We get lots of questions every day that are and will continue to be answered so please work with us as we go through them. Rest assured, as you say there are 3+ months to go and the info you don’t already have will come!

# Kevin Wilson, November 6th 2013

Tom and everyone else,
Thank you for the comments. Tom I don’t expect them to do the expedition for me sitting in my warm luxurious office, that would of course be wrong. I expect them to do it and to complete it for themselves, not for anyone else.
I don’t think any of my comments are negative, they are inquisitive and informative…. after all that’s what a question and an answer is.. they may come across as negative to the uninitiated such as yourself, but that is due to the fact that in the past I have been involved with polar expeditions especially on the nutritional side, so I’m interested. Telling me that it’s windy or cold isn’t really giving much relevant expedition information. It is the coldest and windiest place on earth after all.

Mr Hibbert, maybe you are correct, I need to get out more. By the way Mr Hibbert, what movies will you be watching in your tent when you’re on your Dark Ice Project?

If everyone including Tom, Mal etc. wish to hear about how cold and windy it is for the next 90 odd days, then go ahead. I on the other hand will keep asking what I would like to know, that is what this blog is for…......comments and questions…. otherwise if it wasn’t for that, then why would Ben be spending all that time writing the answers.

# Scott Expedition Team (Chessie), November 6th 2013

In the interests of avoiding further confusion and confrontation we’ll close this post for now. Kevin, please email us your questions at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

# Alex Hibbert, November 6th 2013

This isn’t the place for questions about another expedition but no, there won’t be any movies on Dark Ice - power will be too limited and the tent temperature too low.

# Mark Davies, November 6th 2013

Kevin Wilson, please take a moment to re-read your posts from the viewpoint of people who don’t know you. You say that you don’t think you are being negative, but I put it to you that phrases such as “Then simple and very basic questions…should be very easy to answer” and “Ben doesn’t have a clue where he’s laying them” and “Any professional expedition would never cross the two over"are bound to rankle and it is no excuse to say that, because of your own experience in this area, this is just you being “interested”. I don’t doubt that you are, but you are also being disrespectful towards this expedition.

# Kristoffer, November 7th 2013

As much as I wish to play devil’s advocate to the full extent, I will not for fear of bringing the comments section down in flames, so I will only address Mark Davies.

Kevin Wilson’s statement about “Unless Ben doesn’t have a clue where he’s laying them” was made as an alternative explanation to why we have not already received detailed information on logistics, ripping it out of context is uncalled for.  As for “Any professional expedition would never cross the two [statue and geographical miles] over,” my friend Sienicki had the same complaint.  At the polar latitudes, 1 geographical mile =  almost exactly 1 minute of arc, which is useful when determining distance.  No wonder Scott used geographical miles as well.  I see skepticism in Kevin Wilson, but that is not disrespect.

# Mark Davies, November 7th 2013

Kristoffer, the concern I am raising is not about the questions that are being asked, it’s the way in which they are being asked.

# John, November 6th 2013

Thanks for the fascinating insight Ben - following your journey is welcomed break to the monotony of being in an office everyday - I can tell you. Truly inspiring stuff. Wishing you guys every success with the rest of the expedition. Good luck.

# Rob, November 6th 2013

Well said Tom!!! I to am completely shocked at the negativity here.

# George Chapman, November 6th 2013

Glad to see you had another good day even if the wind was a problem. I can surely see where that tent would be something you could not do without. Wishing you guys another good day.
Following you on FB and Google Earth from sunny Central Florida U.S.A. Todays temperature 68ºF.
Like your picture of your weather tracker. For those who want to know more about it you can see it here: KESTREL 4500 POCKET WEATHER TRACKER, W/TRUE HEADING;=&manufacturerItemNumber=0845B

# Mal Owen, November 6th 2013

Keep safe and warm in that ‘hoolie ’ guys ... Yes, I have learned yet another new word!!

# Dave Monaghan, November 6th 2013

I must admit I am extremely envious of your adventure and it is absolutely wonderful to vicariously be involved, in some small way, through your updates on the blog :)
I’m always reminded of the terry tempest williams’ quote in the Monterey bay aquarium that says, “wilderness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from”
Wishing you guys all the best, as we say in Ireland…. ah sure you’ll be grand!

# Graydon Hazenberg, November 6th 2013

Great to see your progress and read your blog.  I am envious; sounds like an astonishing landscape to measure yourself against.  Just looking at the expedition track so far, are you at all concerned about your rate of progress so far?  1 degree of latitude in 12 days; a linear extrapolation would be 130 more days to the Pole, and then the return journey.  How is your rate of progress comparing to that of Scott or of Amundsen, or of other more recent expeditions?  Obviously as you eat food and burn fuel and cache depots, you will be getting lighter and moving faster, but it must still be a concern, especially if (like Scott and his men) you get weak and start moving more slowly.
Also, how does it feel in terms of your daily energy balance?  Are you able to eat enough to overcome the enormous energy expenditures involved in hauling those loads?  6000 calories sounds like an optimistically small intake for such brutal work and crazy cold.  If I were in your harnesses, I’d be concerned about weight loss and exhaustion in the long run.  Good luck and be careful with your bodies!  May you have good weather and tailwinds!

# Scott Expedition Team (Chessie), November 6th 2013

Hi Graydon, thanks for your note. Ben and Tarka are making excellent progress and are absolutely on track. Their daily distances are as expected (if not greater!) and in keeping with progress made by other polar expeditions carrying similar weight.As you say, they will travel faster as they get further into the expedition. In terms of keeping up their energy/weight, again, as you say they’re consuming almost 6,000 calories daily each (here’s their ‘menu’: They also put on an additional 10kg before they left to allow for weight loss.

# John Brain, November 6th 2013

It might be as well to remember that Scott was not man-hauling at this point. Most of his food/gear etc. was being hauled by dogs and ponies. His deputy Lt. Evans was however man hauling, the motor sledges having broken down. I am assuming that providing there are no weather hold ups, or accidents, that daily distances will gradually increase.

# rod pattinson, November 6th 2013

5th nov bonfirenight its raining. following you with great interest thank you for your blogs rod

# Al, November 6th 2013

Hi guys,
Just came across this quote. It will serve you well:
“A good laugh doesn’t require any additional weight but counts for so much on any expedition.” Ernest Shackleton

# CaninesCashews, November 6th 2013

I like that one - well done.

# Gareth, November 6th 2013

Hi Ben and Tarka. This is fascinating stuff, and quite thrilling to read about your expedition. Ben, you came on our forum to ask about prepping your Land Rover to go on a training trip, I hope we proved useful.  I just want to wish you good luck and forward progress from all on the DISCO4.COM forum. We are all watching!

# dj, November 6th 2013

From the looks of the “We’re here” satellite coordinates, today (6th) is their first forced ‘tent day’ due to weather.  I’m glad that those of us who have become ‘bonded’ and care about this endeavor had Ben’s blog to tell us what is going on or we would be wondering and worrying.

They are camped directly abeam ‘Minna point’ which marks the boundary between the ‘Scott Coast’ (running northwest-southeast) and the ‘Hillary Coast’ (almost a protected little cove running the opposite direction). One might anticipate that the junction would produce some (as the British say) “inclement weather.”

At 45 degrees to the right and ahead of them (as they are traveling) is a gap between the ‘Britannia Range’ of mountains and the ‘Churchill Mountains’ where sits the ‘Byrd Glacier.’ That’s the far side of the Hillary Coast and marks the beginning of the ‘Shackleton Coast’ which runs all the way down to where Ben and Tarka are heading: The ‘Beardmore Glacier.’

The reason I mention this is because, from what I see in Google’s database, there is an, as yet, un-named stretch of coastline between the glacier and the ‘Amundsen Coast’ further on down. [A massive oversight I’m sure] How about we start calling it the ‘Saunders-L’Herpiniere Coast,’ do you think anyone would mind? From what I can tell it’s the first person who thinks of it, and can get it to stick, who gets to make up the name. Or maybe the ‘Ben-Tarka’ Coast for short. What do you think?

“Minna Bluff - next stop Schwerdtfeger Station, Elaine Station, the Ben-Tarka Coast and South Pole” - I like it, has a nice ring to it!

# Grade 5 Green Class, TCS, SJ NB Canada , November 6th 2013

We love reading your blog! Thank you for providing us with a real time experience!
We have learned a great deal about different leadership styles through Polar explorers such as : Amundsen, Franklin,Shackleton and Scott. We are about to set off on our very own expedition and we would love to hear about your thoughts on leadership. Which explorers do you admire most, and why?
MERCI!  Danke! Thank you for sharing your amazing experience with us. You have all become our heros!

Have you listened to Stan Rogers? The North West Passage has become our anthem.


The Green class

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