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.

Monotone Monotony (Day 95)

Day 95: S80° 55' 5.16", E168° 48' 7.20"

Duration: 9 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 23.6 Mi

Distance to go: 247.5 Mi

Temperature: -6 °C

Wind chill: -9 °C

Altitude: 203 Ft

Another day, another whiteout. As we stood up groggily and got ready to start skiing again after our third or fourth break of the day, Tarka said "I'm amazed you're able to keep explaining to people on the blog just how awful this is". "I said it was like staring at a blank grey wall for nine hours", I replied. "I'm not sure they'd really understand", he said, threading his mittened hands into the wrist loops of his ski poles, "After all, how many people have done anything for nine hours straight?"

The man has a point, and it really is difficult to know how to put into words how mentally challenging this weather is proving for us at the moment. We travelled all day today - nine-and-a-half hours - with no visual reference points at all, just cloud and mist and the occasional faint pale cream disc of the sun, always too feeble to cast a shadow or dispel the freezing fog that clung to our clothing and gear. Tarka even spotted a monochrome rainbow today.

We took the tent down in a hazy mist this morning, we pitched it again in a hazy fog this evening, and in between we did all we could to force our weary bodies to keep trudging forwards to meet our minimum target of 38km today.

We both cracked up with genuine belly laughter at one of the breaks today (which hasn't happened in a while) when we both realised we'd been battling the same thoughts when following each other leading; namely the urge to stop and sit on our sledge to rest, and to shout forward to say that we just needed a little breather.

We both wake up feeling exhausted, we're both hungry around the clock, and we're both unable to hold any loftier trains of thought than fantasising about what we're going to eat when we're finished.

On a cheerier note, we've nailed a load of milestones: we're inside 80 degrees south, we've passed 2,500km total distance, we're into single figures (nine days left) and we're pretty sure we'd have lost sight of the mountains, if we could see anything at all.

We're very grateful for all the support online, and please do keep the messages and comments coming. It's great to hear that the amazing Leo Houlding has been chiming in (Leo - I'm looking forward to catching up over a slap-up dinner when I'm back!), and we were chuffed to get a video message from Mark Twight (though the last shot of the eggs-and-bacon breakfast haunted me for an entire day).

So that's it: a miserable day's slog, and it seems Antarctica is going to make us to suffer like dogs right down to the finish line. Onwards!


# Ian McNee, Hull, January 28th 2014

Remember to collect £200 when you pass go.

Keep going!

# pat in nc, January 28th 2014

I have never done anything as arduous as you have for nine hours straight, including childbirth.  However you still sell yourselves short. You have been doing this for about 2,280 straight hours!

# Christian , January 28th 2014

Tarka, Ben,
you are absolutely right, for me it is hard to imagine how it should be to walk day by day without any changes of the landscape in a whiteout. I am wondering if you dream from each other or lets say from the view of the one who is in the lead as the one who is following? Ben, Tarka 9 days left this is brfilliant you are eating the miles and it seems so easy but it isn’t, we know. Keep your day dreams of food, shower, coffee but the most important keep your humour and laugh, let Antarctica know that you are on the way to make it! The dreams will push you forward.
Stay focused, stay strong, keep laughing. Best regards from snowy Berlin.

# Rebecca, January 28th 2014

We’re here. We’re with you as much as we can be from this distance, willing you on. Even without being able to fully appreciate what you’re going through, we’re amazed, impressed and in awe of how far you’ve come. Rest and food and friendship are all waiting for you…soon…soon.

# Heidi, January 28th 2014

Well said, Rebecca.

# Offroading Home, January 28th 2014

Actually guys, you’ve be surprised how many people have done something they disliked for 9 or more hours a day.  Why do you think some of them are probably following?  You’re not the first, you won’t be the last, now lets get this over with on a high note.  Watching your dot move across this screen is interesting and entertaining; but, we’ll give it all up for a couple of photos: 1) you and tarka making an “ice angel”, and 2) an aerial shot of McMurdo station as you leave. How about it?

A side note for those who’ve been following using the Resource File. Especially now that they are coming down the home stretch on the Ross Ice Shelf an interesting way to watch their travels is with NASA’s MODIS satellite image turned on as a ground overlay in Google Earth.  It gives you the latest “Ice sheet” images to actually view the terrain that their “We’re Here” dots migrate over during the day. You can watch them navigate around the bumps.

The MODIS image is available free in the Antarctic Resource File available on this page: ; and there are a couple new items of note. The trail has been split into “coming” and “going” segments so that you can turn one off if you want to avoid the confusion.  That goes for the trail, campsites and the NEW “track timings.”  Look for the “There, and” and “back again” folders and click the box next to them on or off.

Track timings are new and show every GPS point transmitted during the day and night.  Hovering over the tiny diamond icon will make the time that it was transmitted appear.  Actually clicking on the diamond will pop up the coordinates and other statistics like: hourly distance, slope of the terrain, compass heading and more. You can get an estimate of the terrain Ben and Tarka are going through without waiting for Ben to describe it the next morning.

# Ariane, January 28th 2014

Things i have done for 9 hours straight:
-and once, while on..never mind, not family friendly ;)

Transmitting 9 hours of fortitude.

# Ione & Rich, January 28th 2014

be careful of those dreams of food:

A polar explorer Ben Saunders
Has dreams of eating ‘friandisers’*
And when these sweets ooze
A trickle of booze
His pathway makes gentle meanders

* friandises is a fairly weak rhyme but ok with a very english pronunciation!

# Anthea Henton, January 28th 2014

Comments and limericks are making me chortle today.

I’ve only been in a white out once whilst off-piste snowboarding.. even when standing still it felt and looked as if the ground was moving - so I just sat down for a bit and prayed it would lift.. thank goodness it did. 9 hours though that’s seriously mind bendingly tough. I’ve stared at a variety of ceiling unable to move for several months that was pretty bad but at least I could compare air vents and tiles from different NHS facilities.

Sadly I have no jokes, but my mind is strangely thinking of cocktails, think it’s Ione and Rich discussing booze - I think I’ll mix one called B&T which would resemble the 80’s snowball classic and toast the brfilliance of you two.

# Alison Lowndes, January 28th 2014

I’ve coded for nine hours straight before now.. and started lauging at how utterly pathetic that sounds compared to your epic daily polar marathons even before I’d finished typing!  Try memorising the binary powers ; 2^0 =1, 2^1=2, 2^2=4, 2^3=8 ...........

# Paul Bower (Downe Arms), January 28th 2014

If it makes you feel any better your description of the grey sky is just like the uk! What an amazing achievement you the milestone is, fantastic

# Richard Browning, January 28th 2014

Sterling effort chaps. Looking back at just how many pushpins you have accumulated on that tracking map brings home just how extreme the longevity of this challenge is. Its more of a crazy way of life you’ve adopted here for a good chunk of a year than what most of us consider to be an ‘expedition’!

But you both well know that the magnitude of your sense of achievement, not to mention sheer relief at stopping banging you head against that perpetual grey façade, will be in proportion to the sheer torture of the challenge you are enduring. There are no shortcuts to those feelings and you will sure have earnt them.

Look forward to facilitating at least one of those future coffee shop binges the anticipation of which I know is causing you so much torment 

# Richard Pierce, January 28th 2014

Dear Ben, dear Tarka,

I think it’s very difficult for anyone to understand how disorienting a whiteout is because they’ve never been in one. I suppose the closest, for me, is the sense of driving through very dense fog with your headlights on full beam and the sense of panic that brings with it (and it is, of course, stupid to use full beam in fog, but you get the drift).

It is, of course, necessary for you to plug on. You have no choice if you are to complete this journey. It’s still beyond remarkable that you keep going at your current speed, because, at the stage now where your minds are playing tricks on you, it would be so easy to say “We don’t care anymore. Let’s just call a plane and get out of here.” But you don’t and you won’t.

There was an explorer called Tarka
Who walked and slept in a parka.
The days were too white,
And he fancied a bite,
And he desperately needed a barber.

His friend was a ginger called Ben
Who was shorter by at least inches ten.
They were both very tired
And longed for a hot fire,
And the whiteouts made them sken.*

*dialect for squint

The Antarctic still has a lot up its sleeve for you in the ramining 250 miles. Beware, take care, and God Speed.


# Lydia, January 28th 2014

What a fine limeric - simply smashing.  I do hope B&T get to read it I am sure they would both appreciate it. Bfrilliant!
Got to love those boys - truly amazing!

# Richard Pierce, January 28th 2014


You’re too kind :-)


# Phil Satoor, January 28th 2014

What are you going to do with your rubbish?
You can’t leave it behind so why not bring it home and sell it off?  I for one would be delighted to possess an energy bar wrapper or an empty dried food pouch or even one of those salami packs that you licked the inside of to get all the fat, perhaps with some sort of authentication, knowing it’s been all the way to the South Pole and back and helped in a vital way (or at least its contents have) in the execution of your truly epic adventure.  Some people might think it’s a bit trivial to talk about money, but without it your expedition would never have happened, and then there are future expeditions to pay for as well.

# Kat, January 28th 2014

I say auction off them gingery beards!!

# Intrepid, January 28th 2014

Oh an auction! Surely two someone’s would offer a good amount (or perhaps even barter for the guys to stay for a week at a particular resort spot) for the opportunity to do the shaving, including a go of sculpting something into each of those well grown gingery haired beards!

# Jarda, January 28th 2014

Ben and Tarka,
it must be a great strain on your psyche during this “monotone monotony” but your goal is already in sight (even though it is a mist).
I´d like to remind that you are approaching the area where Lawrence Oates died (16th March 1912) - your great journey is also a nice reminder of this brave man…

# Chris, January 28th 2014

In terms of doing exactly the same one thing without changing to even looking anything at all different (or talking), the longest thing I’ve done (bar sleeping) in recent memory is stare at Australia from a plane window for 5 hours straight.  I wanted to, however, and my entertainment system was also broken.  Otherwise I’ve done an 11.5 hour (26-mile) hike with breaks (and conversation with friends) in Yorkshire, that’s about the nearest thing compared to yours but the conditions were warmer and the scenery more varied.

Plod on guys, and give a nod to Scott, Wilson and Bowers when you pass them.  I suspect you already did for Edgar Evans on the Beardmore and would do for Titus Oates if you had a clue where he ended up.

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