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.

Mirages, Mindfulness, Minna Bluff (Day 6)

Day 6: S77° 59' 39.0120", E168° 15' 36.7200"

Duration: 6 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 5 Mi

Distance to go: 1758.8 Mi

Temperature: -29 °C

Wind chill: -32 °C

Altitude: 108 Ft

I feel I should apologise for the amount of whinging and complaining that's been transmitted via satellite from this tent of late. Today was another improbably hard slog, but it struck me this morning that it's a tiny and pretty illustrious band of men who've manhauled on the Ross Ice Shelf in October, and that that club quite rightly comes with a steep entry price.

I also found that working to keep my thoughts in the present helped my mood. Think too far ahead and the scale of this challenge becomes overwhelming, so better to concentrate on the few yards in front, and in looking for beauty (like the immaculate frost flowers on the side of my boots as I sat on my sled to rest) amidst the monotony and pain.

Our spirits were lifted today by the sight of Minna Bluff, a mountainous promontory jutting out from the west (and possibly the last bit of land we'll see for a while) and by stunning mirages on the horizon as we skied towards the midnight sun; great rolling, licking tongues of yellow flame arcing into the sky and then dissolving before our eyes. Tarka and I both thought mirages were caused by heat refracting the sun's rays, so we're puzzled how this happens at -30ish. Does anyone know?

We've been sent a few questions:

Q) When/where will you leave your first depot?  

A) We've actually left a depot at the start/finish in case we need to wait for a plane at the end, and our next is in about 40km. 

Q) How do you wash?    

A) Infrequently! We both have a small bottle of alcohol hand wash gel that we use occasionally, and we can actually wash outside in the snow on warmer days. So far it's been seven days in the same underwear!

Q) Do you have anti-fog on your goggles?

A) We haven't treated them with anything. They tend to stay clear on warmer days, or when we're heading into the sun, but they get bit iced-up otherwise. Mine have windproof fleece sewn into the bottom to protect my face and to deflect my breath from the lens, and it works really well.

Q) Do you see others e.g. researchers?

A) We saw a lot of people when we landed, and some New Zealand scientists working near Scott's Hut, but the further we get from McMurdo the less likely it is we'll see anyone for the next three months or so, other than perhaps at the Pole. I'm sure there are scientists on the Ross Ice Shelf, but it's an area the size of France so it's unlikely we'll bump into anyone.


# Gnanaruban, V, October 31st 2013

I’m following your blog, and GPS hourly updates which doesn’t seem to update properly. Probably I’m checking during your resting hours. I know you are moving during the New Zealand night. It would be wonderful to know your starting hours,if you are trying to follow one.I was also wondering how low/high does the temperature get in your tent (around your sleeping bags) when you are resting?
You two are part of my routine these days. one step at a time - Ruban from San Antonio.

# Gnanaruban, V, October 31st 2013

Nice photo by the way,such a good timing Tarka.
Stay strong and keep in mind that again, the sun will shine (Then again, it never stop shinning)
Looking from the sun and your heading, the photo was taken around 16:00 UTC. Was it after a break?

# Deacon Patrick, October 31st 2013

When faced with challenge and adversity we have a choice: seek the gift or dwell on the pain. The gift diminishes the impact of the pain, the pain diminishes our capacity to receive the gift.

May God startle you with joy and wild abandon!

# CaninesCashews, October 31st 2013

Thanks Ben, Nice Q&A!

I think the mirages in your region are called Superior Mirages (of course!), as opposed to Inferior mirages you get in the desert. Superior is when the mirage appears above the object rather than below it.

It is a temperature inversion where cold air lies close to the ground with warmer air above it. (the opposite to the hot version). Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground, changing how a distant object appears.
Especially common over large sheets of ice that have similar low temperature - so pretty much everywhere there :-)

The Icelandic people call a particcular type of Superior Mirage a Fata Morgana and they have dancing spikes, towers and ‘flames’ caused by temperature inversion and turbulence.

Hope this helps, stay strong!


# dj, October 31st 2013

Mssr Cashews:  Thanks for this.  Really helpful.

# Shelly, October 31st 2013

As a Caribbean national, I do admire you guys since the coldest I can bear is 20 C. The coldest I have been in was 3C while in Australia where I had many memorable times including learning about the Scott expedition. Don’t apologise for the complaints since they are part of the adventure! Reminds me of my time in the cold and it pales in comparison to what you are doing. Keep going guys one step at a time and know that there are lots of people out here who are cheering you on!

# Lydia , October 31st 2013

Loving the blogs Ben. A bit concerned about Tarkas digestive tract I hope for your sake it passes so to speak. We are all following you, thinking about you and sending you our bestest wishes. If anyone can do this it’s you and the TarkaMan! X

# Audrey Alamo, October 31st 2013

These are your finest hours! Hang tough!
-Unicorn Country

# Claudia Tynes, October 31st 2013

My thoughts and prayers are with you guys. Hey, post a picture of your tent from the outside, if you can!

# OffroadingHome, October 31st 2013

@Ben, knew you would get there in the end.  Thanks for the Q&A, more please. Minna Bluff now added to the Expedition Resource Map which also shows you are now headed directly toward “Linda Station” (some kind of weather reporting device claiming that it is currently -13 degrees but feels like -32).

Directly abeam Bluff Station is where Scott stored his second food cache. I assume that’s where you’ll be dumping yours - and wont it feel great? Think of that any time you need to - it would be much more mentally reachable for me at least. [Did we ever tell you thanks for doing this so we don’t have to?]

# dj, November 2nd 2013

Oops, correction - directly abeam bluff station is where Shakleton stored a cache, Sorry. You mentioned your cache would be in 40km - that would be coming up on “Linda Station.” It’ll still feel great.

# Alan Beekman, October 31st 2013

Ben and Tarka;

I was curious as to how you are sleeping? Are you able to get a deep, relaxing sleep and for how long at a time?

I’m sure that is an important element in your quest.

Regards from Napa, CA.

# Luke Hull, October 31st 2013

Ben and Tarka, do you feel any connection or affinity with any particular person in the original Scott team?

# not murica, November 1st 2013

Huh, daily distance of 5 meters seems really low ...

# Kristoffer, November 1st 2013

It’s 5 miles.

# dj, November 2nd 2013

Perhaps he’s trying to point out the confusion when only the letter “m” is used as an abbreviation. These days usage recommends “mi” or “Mi.“to avoid confusion.

# Nick, November 1st 2013

Your navigation tools are no doubt better than what Scott had, very much so, your computers will give you that extra what Scott & his team didn’t have. 

I agree, like running and walking, keeping in with your surroundings and ‘the feel’ of what is out there.  Enjoying the challenge - how do Polar Bears do it?  You have to become that Polar explorer !  Polar bears are survivors, through snow and cold, they’re survivors.

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