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.

In the Hurt Box (Day 86)

Day 86: S84° 4' 9.41", E170° 23' 57.84"

Duration: 9 Hr

Daily distance: 17.9 Mi

Distance to go: 466.6 Mi

Temperature: -4 °C

Wind chill: -14 °C

Altitude: 2303 Ft

It wouldn't surprise me if I have recurring nightmares about today; Tarka called it one of the "Top ten worst days" of his life, and it was certainly character-building from start to finish. We were woken up just before 5am by some of the strongest winds we've had on the entire expedition, with our trusty Hilleberg tent (pitched at a wonky angle on blue ice, with only four ice screws and two spare ski poles pinning it down) flexing and bowing inwards under the strain. We had to shout above the noise of the gale, and we started melting snow for breakfast and for our drinks for the day at 5.30am.

About a minute after taking the tent down, and before I'd put my crampons on (we do that outside the tent to avoid tearing the fabric) I was blown over on the blue ice, landing so hard on my right elbow that I thought I'd broken something. The day got worse from there, really, and the Beardmore assumed a horribly menacing, malevolent air, like it didn't want to relinquish its grip on us as we neared Mount Hope and our exit to the safe ice shelf beyond. It tried to smash or to steal everything we own, it tried to swallow us whole a few times, and our sledges, blowing crazily in the wind and sliding around on slippery ice descents, were possessed by spiteful poltergeists. Mine kept running into the back of my legs so hard that it bruised my calves, doing its best to knock me over or to trip me up with the trace (the rope that connects the sledges to our harnesses). It tried to push me into an open crevasse and when I stood firm, it tried to pull me into another a little later in the day. Another of its favourite tricks was to wait until I was gingerly walking over a snow bridge spanning a closed-up crevasse, then to hurtle forwards and join me on the bridge, like an obese, idiotic dog that didn't understand the snow might not hold our combined weights. 

We had to stop several times to repair Tarka's crampon, often stacking the sledges on top of each other to make a windbreak to work behind. Tarka was incredibly stoic all day, but even he roared a few choice swear words into the wind at times, and I came close to full-on rage with the weather, the ice, and my crazy sledge, hurtling and veering around like a schoolboy bully that had just learnt to lock up the back brakes of his bike and pull skids, taunting me before thumping me in the calves again.

The surface was really difficult to read, and there's been a lot of snowfall since we climbed the glacier a few weeks ago, so it all looks rather different. Neither of us actually fell in any holes today, but we both put feet and legs through the crusty snow surface at times, and it was all quite nerve-wracking.

Anyway, we're safe and warm and lying in the tent again now, and of course no one said this would be easy. If it were, there'd be queues of people out here right now traipsing up and down. And speaking of things not being easy, I wanted to reassure those of you concerned about my hungry-sounding post yesterday that it's absolutely par for the course to be feeling like we are. Being hungry on a multi-month, human-powered polar journey is a bit like racing in the Tour de France and feeling out of breath or having hurty legs.

Research I've seen by Dr. Mike Stroud here in Antarctica, and also on Rune Gjeldnes and Torry Larsen's massive Greenland expedition, suggests that it's entirely possible to burn more calories per day (more than 10,000 in Torry's case) in low temperatures, high altitude and dragging heavy loads all day than the human body can digest, even given unlimited food intake. We're eating full rations of 6,000 calories per day at the moment, and if we're quick on the Ross Ice Shelf we may even have double rations towards the end, which is a rather different prospect than Scott and his men faced. Tomorrow should be our last full day on the Beardmore, so we're keeping everything crossed for better conditions. Thanks to Tarka's skill at navigating glaciers we've come further west now than on our ascent, and the view of the ice from our tent looks promising, like the worst might be behind us now. Watch this space...


# Paul Adams, January 19th 2014

Ben, Tarka, huge respect to you both! Keep safe and god speed.

# cifa, January 19th 2014

top o’ the morn to you both…space being watched ;)
they say pictures tell a thousand words?  your 760 (yes I counted them- lol) gives much more insight - that wind sounds horrendous (terrible pun). thanks for keeping us posted.
keep ‘er lit lads!

# Michele P, January 19th 2014

I am in total awe of your stamina and determination, when the already immense challenge increases you both dig even deeper into your psychological and physical reserve and come up trumps. Unbelievable. Please don’t forget that what you are doing is inspirational to us tucked up in our homes, we are reading and learning from your incredible blogs and most importantly we are with you in spirit willing for better conditions to come your way. Stay safe and stay strong.

# wonderwoman, January 19th 2014

Dear Ben and Tarka, thank you again for this post that gives us all hope and belief. It seems you are coping incredibly well with all the harshness. Hoping for much better weather tomorrow we send you love from Finland and pray for you.

# SJC, January 19th 2014

Ben, sarah here! Katherine and Marina’s mad neuroscience friend, you may vaguely remember! .... Have been following all blogs since they told me too! Having just had a spinal nerve block, and feeling rather sorry for myself as it’s all gone a bit pear shaped, but am now feeling rather humbled and ridiculously whiny after reading your blog today!!!  Sending you lots of good energy and will continue to watch in awe. To both of you, your determination, resilience and passion are behind inspiring!

# SJC, January 19th 2014

Oops… iPad autocorrect, should read BEYOND inspiring !

# Hilary, January 19th 2014

Thank goodness you are both ok and survived yesterday’s horrendous conditions. I’m glad too that your post today sounds more upbeat even though you had the day from hell, and that the hunger is what you expected. What you are doing is nothing short of heroic, we all await each day’s post and read it in awe! You’re nearly off the Beardmore now, just keep going, we’re all walking each step with you. Sixteen miles to go then you’re at the half way back from the pole point, and three quarters of the total journey done. We’ll done lads, you are amazing!

# CaninesCashews, January 19th 2014

Hi guys,

Another brilliantly descriptive post.

Well it seems the old man is asserting his authority – must be bad if Tarka ‘the rock’ described it as one of his “Top ten worst days”.

Interesting though, throughout the post you write about how ‘it tried’ (nice bit of cadence by the way), but it seems from your tone that it wasn’t successful, that you both battled back and refused to be beaten by this ancient glacier.

It’s obvious that you had a really hard time of it, but you didn’t bend (well maybe just a little) but you definitely didn’t break. At the end of the day that’s the thought you have taken to bed.

Hopefully your westerly run will bring a somewhat easier day.

Lastly a word from Theodore…
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Stay safe,

# Richard Pierce, January 19th 2014

Rage is good. It sends us a better sign than yesterday’s resigned hungry man did that your spirits and bodies are relatively intact three quarters of the way through your quest. Brfilliant!

I don’t suppose it makes sense to have the sledges in front on really steep parts of the descent.

Be wary, still, of old man Beardmore. I got goosebumps reading of his menacing malevolence which we all knew he would be too tempted to reveal towards the end. Reminds me a bit of Hotel California, too. “You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.” Make sure you find the way out and leave and slam the door firmly shut behind you at the Gateway.

I hope for better weather conditions for you today, and for less devouring terrain.

Onwards and downwards, to miscoin a phrase.

God Speed.


# dj, January 20th 2014

“Onward” would be what they did going to the pole -
“Homeward” - would be what they’re doing now, keeps things in perspective, don’t you think?

# Kiwawa, January 19th 2014

Oh gawd. I feel so panicked reading this. Please be careful. There are no words to express how proud/terrified I am for the both of you. Your little red dot is moving so fast across this huge ice rock- you will be on the flat before you even know it. Hopefully the memories of this experience will escape your mind and be replaced by images of smiles and sunshine- the only record of it being these written blogs. Tarka, I sure am proud of you but blimey do I hope you decide to be a cobbler or something risk-free when you finish this. Miss you xxxx

# Mal Owen, January 19th 2014

Many thanks for your reassurance re-hunger. Sitting here helplessly armchairing sometimes leaves an empty feeling, difficult to push to one side….all part of sharing the adventure. “No pain, no gain” springs to mind, speaking of which I hope the elbow and other body parts have recovered from the onslaught.
Ben, your descriptive writing today was top notch….an adjectival Beardmore transports us to the spot, if only in mind.  I reckon you must have had a crash creative writing course with an excellent teacher, before you left.
Your mileage today was impressive, considering the Battle of the Beardmore you were confronting… (at its best or worst, depends on how you look at it)
Keep pushing forwards, pulling more appropriate but doesn’t quite sound right. Those double rations await.

# Uncle Pete, January 19th 2014

Fervently wishing that by the time you read these comments you will be through. or very near, the Gateway and can wish farewell to the Beardmore and look forward to an easier dash on better rations across the ice shelf. Best feet forward and hoping the day has gone better than above.

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