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.

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.


# Intrepid , January 8th 2014

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crises is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanize or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Dear Ben and Tarka,

Being alive is about is being the unique expression of your true self. As nature we create diversity, and are meant to have different views.

The journey of your expedition exists on many levels. As you have stated in many posts, even the difference in each of your body types acclimates differently, as well as reacts differently to different situations. It is with great pride to watch how you embrace each day, each travail, compromise, desire, each other. You have what it takes to do this trip - all the way.

I agree with comment above about how the trip will last in your memories. That the weather and land will fade to but a few images while what happens between the two of you will continue on in vivid detail. May you keep your wits, your mind clear, know the boundaries of staying safe, and stay real with each other. May you both continue to surf the edges of what is possible…

# Courtney, January 8th 2014

Ben & Tarka,

I’ve been keeping up with your expedition since the beginning and I must say what your both doing is absolutely amazing! You’re pushing your mind, bodies and skills to the limit. I applause your brilliant effort and know you’ll continue doing great! Stay positive even in the worst situations and push forward! I’ll be thinking about ya! Stay safe!

Warm wishes from Cocoa Beach, Florida

# Richard Urban, January 8th 2014

Hi Guys,
Just wondering if the monotony of the landscape might cause you to hallucinate sometimes. Funny how the mind will come up with all kinds of stuff to entertain itself. I lived next to a mountain stream for a year and thought I could hear all kinds of sounds in the creek,including Beethoven’s Fifth.

# Austin Duryea, January 8th 2014

Good job on the 22miles. Sharing a pee bottle must not be very fun, but at least y’all don’t have to go in the bitter cold and go pee. Even though you and Tarka fought don’t let it get in the way because then it could ruin y’all’s friendship. I’ve been thinking about how every part of y’all’s body has been cold and wouldn’t it be great if they came out with cloths, socks, and underwear that had heating pads built into them to keep you somewhat warmer?

# Sheila England, January 9th 2014

Describing your living conditions in the tent,and how you both are coping makes my admiration for you both grow immensely. It also brings with it a better understanding of what it must be like for you, and really that is a huge part of the whole experience, isn’t it? After it’s all finished, you will have experienced something very few people will ever do.

# Nick, January 9th 2014

You can’t put too much or any empathise (spelling) on where Scott/team got to and what you’re trying to achieve.  I think that gets in the way of just getting by…like someone waking up one morning, winning a great deal on the Lotto such as X amount and you know it will cause certain emotion or panic or adrenaline or excitement/over joy or such an over powering thing and even a loss at knowing what’s just happened.  We all would like something like that.  Yeah a loss.  Age does that to people.  Even with really young people.  When you have so much pressure or your hopes are dashed - but when you’re young you bounce back quicker I think.  To add to much empathise on life situations….look at it this way….

On a whole you have 1800 miles of space, almost white blanket space which you’re travelling - like spending 24 hours or weeks at sea.  Usually a distance of 13 miles a day is something most of us know is within our mindset - we can take that.  But 1800 miles is really overwhelming to just sit there and think it out too much.

Almost unreal to want to believe it, yet only because if you were to travel in nice heat or up and down the UK your mind would probably be occupied different I guess than being in a wide open and cold area of this world and I think that would be different to us all to handle - you have a distance either way, even if you travelled the Sahara 1800, again very different a thing.  I think i’d prefer cold than Sahara heat.  Yet in the UK I would prefer summer than winter.  A happy balance of temperature.

Isn’t it solely a conditional thing your journey or purely a thing of atmospheric air and distance?  no doubt.  It’s down to survival and determination and time.  Put yourself in the mindset of a soldier and if you think - tactical survival - then who dares will win? yeah?

Empathise, yeah that’s the right spelling.  If this long trek is a whole too much, then as you’ve done for the last few months, in your mind you need to break the journey into more understandable distances, in your mind, not your physical legs and feet.  I’m not saying do any less that 15 to 23 miles a day.  But I think to look at this expedition challenge too hard as a whole creates too much of a strain we (would all) not need in our lives.  But 10 to 20 miles a day, is by far, if you look at one day then I think you would be glad that the white blanket area where you’re at is now nearer to the land at the edge and California Santa Monica is your goal…and it’s really there and worth fighting for.

Empathise is thought and understanding.  I think the cold can sometimes be better than heat and heat better than cold and rain better than wind and wind better than rain.  One hour at a time even gets all of us another day on…

# Nick, January 10th 2014

Look at the film Alive.  They lived on cigarettes for much of it so tells the film.  I think If I were there I’d want to at least smell a good regal cigarette !

I don’t smoke, but every time I pass someone who does smoke I do inhale a bit free timeless essence of Regal or Malboro ! ah, nice cigar from that Duty Free airport.

Like a fire of twig and wood outside and fresh cool autumn air or bonfire night and lanterns.

Nice memory of smoke and the smell.

But with the film Alive they knew every effort really mattered and they were not experts in survival.  They were a team of ordinary people with no survival kit or clothes of the right kind.

Every effort they achieved mattered and you can imagine how difficult and ‘energy and motivation’ that was for them.  Not only would you need to get back to home, normal life etc, but even if they were affraid of heights, they had mountains to climb on top of little help of any material kind or much of anything to aid them.

So the film goes.

Work for us all is like that.  But what gets me about work - in the beginning it was anxiety and stress and lack of anything good coming my way, but over the years human begins to stand up for ones self better.  And that means either walking from a job or standing up to a manager or wanting a time of start and finish to suit ones self or a better wage.

In other words, everything we do accounts for an effort or leads to something, our every action makes another action and the next thing we know…

Whilst some people in politics and some people in high end £100k jobs and the system of unemployment, or a GP - they try and take too much control of others (society).  Managers are like that sometimes and people who you come across try to ‘use’ or ‘make usable’ to ones weaknesses of others.

Only time and age - makes people stronger and let not anyone take flack out there.

You will be thinking this journey is damaging to you in physical ways even mentallly? and other days good and a joy.

But isn’t that something in this world we live in, already?


Our actions make us who we are, not what ‘some’ others try to disease our life with (political science and control).

But what life and reality makes us throughout time of being human.

Commenting is not available for this entry.