Distance to go:
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.
Lolloping (Day 75)
Day 75: S87° 07' 2.7", E159° 35' 28.8"
Duration: 8 Hr 45 Min
Daily distance: 22.5 Mi
Distance to go: 699 Mi
Temperature: -22 °C
Wind chill: -35 °C
Altitude: 9764 Ft
For some reason I got out of the wrong side of my sleeping bag this morning, metaphorically at least, and started the day fed up with the plateau and its biting wind, fed up with my fingers and thumbs that throb painfully when they get cold, fed up with eating and drinking lying on my side in a cramped tent, fed up with wearing the same clothes for two-and-a-half months, fed up with sharing a pee bottle (see today's photo!) and feeling unusually homesick, not only for the people I love (and my dog, Molly) but also for the simple pleasures of sitting at a table, for example, walking around barefoot, drinking out of a china mug and indeed not having to use a pee bottle. All the stuff we take for granted.
My mood wasn't improved by the fact that Tarka, by his own admission, had the bit between his teeth today. His first 45-minute session was the fastest of our entire expedition and he stretched out a huge lead. I tried to keep up at first, but then slowed down, telling myself that I was still under doctor's orders (and mum's orders, more to the point) to take it steadily after being so exhausted only a couple of days ago.
Tarks and I came the closest we've ever come to a full-blown argument when I finally caught up with him to eat and drink. His viewpoint was that we're both tired and depleted, therefore we should get off the plateau as fast as we can. My viewpoint was that we're both tired and depleted, therefore we should travel steadily and conserve our energy. Neither of us was right or wrong, and both arguments had merit and wisdom, but it took a little while for me to forgive (and now laugh about) his use of the word "lolloping" to describe my pace first thing today.
We're often pretty frank with each other, and we're well aware that we both do a lot - especially in such a high-pressure, close-quarters partnership - that we each find irritating, but we've become very good at being able to speak openly without being too judgemental or offensive, and we've become unusually quick to forgive.
I've been given a couple of questions:
Q) Apparently a few people have asked if we've suffered from either "Polar thigh" (skin damage to the inner thighs, usually caused by a combination of frost/wind damage and chafing) or blisters.
A) Thankfully no polar thigh, though strangely my kneecaps got a bit battered early on, I think from the fabric of my salopettes being pulled tight against them when I sat on my sledge at breaks in high winds. I'm also happy and proud to report that we're a blister-free expedition so far. Tarka taped his feet up early on, but I've yet to use a single plaster, dressing or bit of tape on mine, which I'm chuffed with after giving my poor feet more than 1,000 miles of abuse so far. Our Alfa boots, Intuition liners and Smartwool socks have been faultless, and I'm grateful to Christian at Sportsnett in Oslo for his sage advice on that front!
Q) Someone else (alas I'm not sure who - sorry!) asked why we're not using traction kites to tow ourselves and our sledges, and why this might qualify as "support" whereas using solar power does not.
A) This could descend into pages of debate, but from the outset I wanted this to be a human-powered expedition, and an exercise in pursuing and exploring physical and mental limits. Everyone knows where the South Pole is these days, so we're not exploring in the Edwardian sense, but no one has travelled 2,900km in these conditions on foot so to me that's the area of interest. Kites have become so sophisticated and effective that it's possible to travel more than ten times as fast as we can under our own motive power, and recent expeditions have covered more than 400km per day. Some may argue that Scott used a small sail on his sledge when they had a following wind, but they certainly weren't flying along at 40 kilometres per hour, wearing crash helmets. Kite-powered polar travel has become so extremely fast and efficient that to me it bore no resemblance to the way that Scott travelled, and that success using kites depends on wind speed and direction rather than fitness, nutrition and sheer willpower. Comparing rowing and sailing is probably the simplest way of looking at it. The solar power one's interesting. If we were using vast panels to power electric skidoos then things might be different, but the electricity we generate from the roof of our tent every night only allows us to share our story; it doesn't make the pulling the slightest bit easier.