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.


# Richard Pierce, January 8th 2014

Dear Ben,

It’s good to hear that you’re getting on each other’s nerves at times, because that’s real. To me, too, it indicates that you’re both actually still (or again) much stronger than you thought you were. And, to be honest about myself, I always find myself withdrawing from friendships (at least mentally) at the very moment something happens to make those friendships really close and meaningful. I don’t know what that says about me, though I think it might say something about us humans in general, too.

You’re both right about your efforts on the plateau, of course, but the deciding factor will be how carefully you pick your way back down old man Beardmore who seemed to be rather forgiving on your ascent. I hope he hasn’t kept back any nasty surprises for your descent.

Thanks for the long answer on the kites, not for my sake, because I understood the rationale from the start, but for the benefit of all who read the blog. Scott and his menjust strung up stray bits of canvas on their sledges to assist their hauling; at no time would those “sails” have managed to drive the sledges on their own. And, to put the comms into context, neither Scott nor Amundsen had radios with them because, in 1911, comms technology was utterly unreliable.

I’m glad you’re making good distances. This time next week, you’ll hopefully have started your descent.

Take care, and God Speed.


# Dan Fall, January 9th 2014

Pretty neat story hearing about you lolloping though Antartica.  I can’t imagine trying to match pace with another human for 1800 miles of skiing and pulking, while battling the cold.  My old friend works with me and he goes into the lumberyard at about 1/3rd my pace and I usually tell him to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself, so I’ll try to be a little nicer and ask him not to lollop next time.  Was there any cushion in the planning so if you are 3 miles ahead of plan one day, you could run at a reduced rate or is the schedule that tight?

# Intrepid, January 8th 2014

What a scene that argument must have been—smack dab in the middle of the blasted deserted white flat as a pancake plateau, two men letting their difference rip while both wanting to be done with whatever agonies the 1100 miles has brought with them. If you end up writing a book don’t forget to include what you were actually thinking while you couldn’t forgive Tarka for using lolloping to describe your pace. That would be very telling, ie, were your thoughts orderly or discombobulated, did they show wear and tear or did you have some kind of breakthrough moment?

On a different note, even with keeping to your mother’s and doctor’s orders you guys are down to under 700 miles to go. Congratulations!!

A picture of the pee bottle is pretty funny. It got me to wonder whether leaving a yellow trail would be helpful.

Hang in there.

Peace & Godspeed

# harry carey, January 8th 2014

dear Ben and Tarka

i am following you because i’m inspired by your bravery and, i’m learning about you in my school. we have learnt about Scotts and Amudsens race also for you to put up with what scott tried to do I think that is amazing and really courageous.

from Harry carey   age 9.

# t.g, January 11th 2014


# wonderwoman, January 8th 2014

The human factor is the most interesting thing on this expedition and in life. I can find in myself what Richard says about withdrawing. And every married couple knows the facts Ben is talking about: being to close and irritating. What amazes me,are the ways we cope with it, start getting closer and helping each other over and over again. Like insects around a light in the night.

We send you love from Finland and pray for you.

# Jen, January 8th 2014

Disagreements are to be expected, but to be able to deal with them in such extremes, well that takes something rather special. Although I can imagine in my head a Gary Larson cartoon of the pair of you, with some kind of huff going on.

You’re both wonderful, keep it up. Doing so well.

# Alison Lowndes, January 8th 2014

Lolloping! .. my new word for 2014.
You’re both, as ever, my Heros. X

# John Brain, January 8th 2014

It is really good to see that you are now both making excellent progress again and massive support for you remains across the world. We are all with you.

Thank you for your excellent answer on ‘kite travel’ which makes a lot of sense. I too thought that using a kite would not jeopardise the notion of ‘unsupported’ but I am now convinced otherwise.

It is well to remember that almost all other like expeditions have had real problems in terms of personal relationships between participants, under what are the most stressful psychological circumstances. You two have been remarkable for your mutual teamwork and lack of attrition and it is clearly making a great contribution to your success. So keep smiling at each other, whatever!

# Hilary, January 8th 2014

Yay, less than 700 miles to go. You are getting there slowly but surely, although over 22 miles in a day is not so slow. Keep going, not too long and you’ll be at a lower altitude with more air to breathe and the homeward stretch in front of you. Cheering you on as always, take care, and look forward to tomorrow’s blog.

# Stephen Hackett, January 8th 2014

Sharing a pee bottle must make for a very special bond between you guys. Can’t imagine RFS going in for that: unless it was one for gentlemen & officers, and another for PO Evans.
God speed.

# Richard Pierce, January 8th 2014

Actually, I can imagine RFS going for that. It was Shackleton who had a separate room for himself in his hut at Cape Royds, while RFS actually shared an open sleeping cubicle with Wilson and Teddy Evans in the Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans.


# Offroading Home, January 9th 2014

Good point Richard.

Tangentially, the MODIS satellite image shows that today’s treck (1/8/14) has put them back in the more difficult terrain as the ice sheet bunches up before going down the Beardmore. The difficulty is even evidenced in the increased variability in their hourly pace today from days previous.  Perhaps overcoming the terrain will distract a bit from other concerns?

# Uncle Pete, January 8th 2014

The best of superheroes can get p****d off! Maybe it will humour you to read the manufacture’s website hints (* for wider audience!)
‘Fill our flexible CANTENES with 32-, 48-, or 96 ounces of your favorite drink’
‘Gusseted bottom allows Cantene to stand when full’
but beware temperature (that’s how you spell it!) range is only ’ -29ºC (-20ºF) to 104ºC (220ºF)’

Good - don’t keep the emotions bottled up, eat up the miles, heed Richard’s caution for the descent and look forward to all that Oxygen! Best wishes as ever.

# Janet Stanley, January 8th 2014

Hi! This very human of you both,you are in good company, Scott & Shackleton’s men had more than a few disagreements, it’s human nature after being in each other’s company for so long & in such close quarters…just like an old married couple but oh the stories you can tell….& the bond you will have. Pace yourself, it is your body telling you what is best & lollop is a great word! Please be safe :)

# Pavol Timko, January 8th 2014

I am thinking many times of you guys, how you struggle in lady-less South. Being without people you love is something hard but in the past it was even harder because early expeditions had to spend one or two polar winters in order to dare to travel to Pole during antarctic “summer”.

Here are the words of dedication from the book which describes such an endeavour :
To the little family, the officers, the scientific staff, and the crew of the “Belgica”, whose fortunes and misfortunes made this story of the first human experience throughout a south polar year;
To these men, whose close companionship and sturdy good-fellowship made life endurable during the storms, the darkness, and the monotony of the Antarctic, this book is dedicated.

(Through the first Antarctic night, 1898-99; a narrative of the “Belgica” among newly discovered lands and over an unknown sea about South pole (1900) Frederic A. Cook)

# Jon Bradshaw, January 8th 2014

I am sure that the arguments and getting on each others nerves can be the highlights of what are pretty monotonous days. Do you rant off at each other for the first half hour after you set the tent up and then once you have had your first cuppa, you calm down and laugh and enjoy each others company?

In 2008 I walked HI to SP with a guy called Shaun Menzies and we used to slag each other off for a good hour each evening in the tent before we got down to eating and chatting as friends, its a great way to let off steam. I also found that as we had been under so much stress for the whole day and were so tired, that the remarks made in frustration were often poignant and incisive, albeit harsh. I think we had 9 hours all day marching to think about things in such detail, that as soon as we had someone to vent at, we would unleash.

6 years on, its those moments arguing with Shaun that I cherish the most about Antarctica, that was her gift to me - a strong and meaningful relationship with Shaun and a better understanding of myself, which I think you can only get through interaction with others. I can see the white and the blue and sort of remember the coldness and vast emptiness of Antarctica, but I can’t feel it anymore, I think the beauty and solemnity of the place is only felt while you are there and when you fly off, the amazing thoughts and feelings you had about A, will vanish, the gift of peace and clarity of thought (two of the things I enjoyed the most about A) don’t follow you home, they are the gifts A grants you only when you spend time with her. However the relationships with your team mates and then greater self awareness developed, that is whats in your party bag to take home.

Careful back down through Shackleton Ice Falls and watch your speed down the Beardmore, don’t want you sliding on your arse into a crevasse.

Your writing is brilliant, amazed you are so eloquent under so much duress.


# Lydia, January 8th 2014

Lolloping what a word - my father used to tell us to stop lolloping around and get outside and do something - not sure he would ever have thought about it in the context of Antarctica.
I am so pleased that you and DarffTarka are crossing swords every now and again, I can’t imagine there are many people in this world who have spent such times together without a crossed word or two.
As for peeing in a bag together - do you take it in turns who goes first or is there a pecking order?
Can’t tell you how darn proud we are all of you both. 
Keep trucking, keep safe - we are with you every step.
Lydia x

# Snowbirdie, January 8th 2014

So that’s the formal name for the condition I had on the plateau ...polar thigh ....and painful it was!
Enjoying your blog and the progress you are making…well done guys x

# Anthea Henton, January 8th 2014

Well with a lolloping - bit between teeth combo you’re now under 700miles to go. You rock guys. Loved ones including Boogie & Molly are getting nearer. You brilliant pair.

# AlisonP, January 8th 2014

I’ve been amazed how little strife there seems to have been between you two in such extreme circumstances and continual close quarters.  What counts is not whether or not you get angry with each other, but how you deal with it and whether or not you can quickly make peace of it.  To that end you have done very well.  I wonder if you expected to have to go so deeply inside yourself emotionally on this trip.

Thanks for showing the pee bottle.  At first I thought it was one of your drink bottles!  My husband keeps asking me how you deal with the other waste product.  Do your have to expose your butts to the bitter cold to poo?  And do your bury the waste in snow?  Are there rules in the Antarctic about what to do with human waste?

Yeah, less than 70 miles to go!  What a splendid accomplishment!  Stay safe, the bitter winds will soon be gone and you’ll be able to breathe more easily.

# Nick, January 8th 2014

What do I think?  The walk is the walk.  Really tough.  Even in nice heat and that’s where your problems lie solely.  It’s really cold.  And I know that does knock peoples minds off everything.

700 miles is still a lot, but look at Scott, this could be said a point where it went wrong for him and his team.  I saw the film, black and white.  Not having read any book or any literature.  I’ve just seen his film.  The cold in the end finished them off.  700 miles to go?  Actually no, 699 miles to go ! that’s having gone an extra mile.  is it not?

Staying a team is… look at kids playing in the snow.  Some like an extra hour in the snow / but some begin to realise how cold it gets.  I know snow tires the body through walking in it like sand and the cold is annoying.  But is it the mornings that getting ready is worse than the walk itself? or is the walk worse than getting ready (in the cold)?

You may think if you argue that it’s all not worth it.  But look at the difficulty Intel have faced over 100 years !  Sheer mind calculating problem solving.  I mean, very tough stuff.

What about the Land Rover team and founder/s? Building an engine from scratch and calling it your creation and adding a body and chassis to that is not easy.  What about the Evoque?

This is it not a thing to think about?

So I learn, there’s a side to human/system of life measures that we have to fight off in all corners of life.

So, all i’m saying is tackle these matters in a solid smart manner of walking into work with a suit and you are not taking any **** from the boss.

The ***t? is the cold and the cold is the boss.

The only alternative is to pack in or walk on.  Like the film 127 hours.  He had 2 alternatives.

A nice ending !

# Ann L., January 8th 2014

Dear Ben,

Thank you for replying to my question about the use of kites and for explaining how, while you are covering old ground, you are still exploring. On this blog there have been many more comments about the personal aspects of your expedition, the tests of your physical and mental strength, than there have been about the continent itself so it is pretty clear that the majority of followers find the human-powered nature of this expedition, and the human reactions to it, compelling.  Thanks again for allowing us all to explore along with you.

I was also interested to read about your Smartwool socks.  I have trained for 1500 meter races to marathons in all kinds of weather - freeze-eye cold (as Annie Proulx might say), pouring rain, blistering heat and stultifying humidity - here in Austin, Texas, and my feet have always remained comfortable and blister-free in Smartwool socks.  Unfortunately my local running shop doesn’t stock them because the owner’s claim that no one else here buys them.

Wishing you and Tarka warm hands and strong hearts,


P.S.  May I recommend for a bit of evening entertainment in your tent that you read – aloud – Annie Proulx’s short story “The Blood Bay” from her collection “Close Range.”  I first read it in The New Yorker many years ago and my family and I have enjoyed reading it again countless times.  I think you will enjoy her wit, the fine craftsmanship of her writing, and you may even find reason to laugh a bit at the cold.

# Sanna from Finland, January 8th 2014

Dear Ben and Tarka!
Here is something fun to play when you are skiing. Look a snowflake and discover a name to it. According to how it´s falling down or twinkeling or to its shape etc. Perhaps you will see a bee, a butterfly, an umbrella, a funnystar and so on, according to you imagination.  Anyway I hope you will see in your surroundings something more fun.

# Leigh Phillips , January 8th 2014

When reading your blog at times it strikes me just how many attributes of a classic high performing team you demonstrate. It comes through very subtly in your writing but factors like being able to criticise openly, positively and without resentment, the mutual support and respect you both have for each other is very clear. I guess you can’t be successful in your expedition without functioning at that level but i find it fascinating to see it in action practically and far more informative than any text book or training course. Have you had to work with the team psychologist to get to that level or is it the result of all your prior experience?

# TG, January 8th 2014

i am inspired at watching you and admired with your bravery and stamina it is interesting listening to your journey and makes me realise how hard the conditions are to live in. Good luck and keep safe.

T.G Class 4

# CaninesCashews, January 8th 2014

Hi guys,

What a great mileage - well and truly back in the saddle.

I am more than impressed that it has taken 1100 miles to ‘come close’ to having a full blown argument. Once again the training, prep and teamwork showing through.

Loved the explanation about the kites. Godspeed.

Stay safe,

# 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 9th 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.

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