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.

My Turn for a Turn (Day 73)

Day 73: S87° 44' 55.44", E159° 21' 32.4"

Duration: 0 Hr

Daily distance: 0 Mi

Distance to go: 742.7 Mi

Temperature: -29 °C

Wind chill: -37 °C

Altitude: 10079 Ft

Apologies for the late update. As you might have spotted, we haven't moved today (5th January) and there's been a bit more drama and suffering than I was expecting. We set off for our mid-plateau depot yesterday morning feeling relatively strong and well-rested, but mid-way through the morning I started to feel quite ill and nauseaous, with stomach cramps that seemed to be accentuated by the tugging of my sled harness as we skied through lumpy fields of sastrugi.

The rations we received in the resupply were brilliant, but contained a lot of sugary gels and chewy energy 'blocks' compared to the food we've eaten for ten weeks, and I think I started to suffer from what a sports scientist or nutritionist would call impaired gastric emptying; I simply wasn't processing the calories I was putting in my mouth. It was a vicious cycle as the day went on and I felt weaker and weaker at the same time as the temperature started to drop and the wind (thankfully coming at our backs) became stronger. With about an hour to go until we reached the depot I realised I wasn't warming up after our break, but reasoned that we'd soon be in the tent and I could warm up then. What followed was my first ever experience of hypothermia, and not something I'm keen to repeat in a hurry. 

Tarka was in the lead when we reached the depot, and finding it (marked with a spare ski sticking out of the snow and a long streamer of fabric flapping in the wind) was a piece of cake, as we'd picked up our old tracks halfway through the day so didn't need to refer to our GPS. Tarka stopped to dig up our food and supplies and I skied on for a hundred metres or so to start pitching the tent, but realised when I stopped just how chilled and lethargic I was becoming. I don't remember an awful lot of the evening that followed, but thankfully Tarka was firing on all cylinders and made sure I was in my sleeping bag with a hot drink and a hot meal before I conked out with the most profound feeling of listless exhaustion I've ever experienced. I slept like a log but was still pretty spaced-out this morning, so we decided to stay put and recover properly for a day before carrying on. 

After spending the day in my sleeping bag, dozing, drinking and eating, and after a reassuring conversation with our doctor, Rob Conway, I'm now feeling back to my old self this evening and much stronger. The two of us are both very lean, with next-to-no body fat for insulation any more, and if we mess up our calorie intake - as I did yesterday - it's alarming how susceptible we are to the cold, and how quickly the situation can become serious, especially up here above 3,000 metres.

We've also had the chance to catch up a little personal admin and start sending some higer res photos and video back now we've picked up our Pilot. Today's photo is of us at the South Pole last week. 

If all goes to plan, we should only have another eight days on the high plateau before we start to descend quite rapidly, and I'm looking forward to seeing the mountains again, and to enjoying a little more oxygen in the air. Last up, tonight marks a bit of a threshold for me: it'll be my 73rd consecutive night living in a tent on an expedition, and my current record (set when I skied solo to the North Pole in 2004) is 72 nights, so it'll be another step into uncharted territory, pushing the outer limits of sleeping bag hygiene...


# torsten richter, January 6th 2014

Good Luck !!!!

# CaninesCashews, January 6th 2014

Hi guys,
What a great partnership you guys have - some polar expeditions have really suffered because of strained relationships on the ice. This is definitely not the case here.
You are a team in the real sense of the word – borne out of a friendship that I imagine has only grown stronger through your training and is now paying off in the frozen days (and nights) of Antarctica.
Seventy three nights in a tent – I think it must be good to have personal goals along the way wrapped into the expedition. Accomplishments to keep you energised.
Hope your stomach settles today and I look forward to the photos.
Stay safe,

# Jennie Hale, January 6th 2014

Pure inspiration.

# Andrea Topi, January 6th 2014

Good to hear from you, guys. And to know that Tarka is firing at all cylinders in full android power :-) ...  stay safe,  and Dr. Conway, keep in touch with these guys very frequently please.
My best wishes.

# Rob Conway, January 6th 2014

As ever, will keep and eye on you two. Head down, keep plodding, glory (or at least some clean socks) await :)

# Helena, January 6th 2014

Good to hear from you, you are doing just great. I think of you all the time. We are with you, friends from Brno, Czech Republic.

# wonderwoman, January 6th 2014

You had us all worried again, but thankfully the situation seems better again. I hope and believe the worst part is almost over now. A few more days and you will feel better, when you descend. We send you love and hope, so you can keep on fighting. Your friendship and companion will make you able to do it.

# Ian mc, January 6th 2014

Keep going guys! Great blog.

# Mia Bentley, January 6th 2014

Hi Boys

It looks like you have both been having some trying times! Every step you take is another one into history. Your smart moves will allow you to tell the story of this epic adventure for many years to come and I am lucky to be able to say that my big brother really is a hero.

Tarks - It dawned on me when I read the post yesterday which mentioned the video messages, that I had not made one (nor knew that I could) but also that I had not said goodbye and good luck to you in the same way I would have had I realized what an incredible and life changing journey you were both about to embark on. Like so often as we were growing up you said you were just off to play. I hope this message gets to you and you know how incredibly proud I am of what you have achieved. I might even go to say that you are a remarkable example to follow.  In this New Year you have refreshed my faith in believing that I can achieve anything I want if I try hard enough. 
Look after each other as you have been doing and smile on your way back at the thought that you two are making an inspirational mark in history.
Memy x

# Matt, January 6th 2014

Good job guys. My thoughts are with you sending warm prayers be careful and continue on at a safe pace.

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, January 6th 2014

H. G. Wells said ‘If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.’
Looking forward to more adventures Ben and Tarka.

# Štěpán Hnyk, January 6th 2014

I am glad you are both up and running again. Let’s hope you are done with the bitter and the journey will be less dramatic from now on. May Antarctica treat you with good weather and smooth surface. And then just hop on your sleds and enjoy the ride down the Beardmore ;-)

# rajesh, January 6th 2014

God bless you both, wish you good luck

# Leigh Phillips , January 6th 2014

I normally pick up your blog on my phone during my work commute so don’t have access to Google earth to check your progress. Stay on your epic journey.

# Uncle Pete, January 6th 2014

Gentlemen, as you have demonstrated you clearly are, thanks for the brilliant hi-res shot from the Pole, a magnificent achievement in its own right!
Remember, Tarka, how your Great Uncle Bill redefined his own original solo-round- the -world- nonstop voyage in the face of adversity from the elements and still achieved a First. Hopefully you have spent the day resting and stuffing yourself with more familiar fare from your buried stash and will build up your strength and energy for a safe descent of the Beardmore. My guess is that you would very quickly see the benefit of increased Oxygen on the descent but, as always, take care of each other and remember we want you safely home. Best wishes and admiration,your Uncle Pete.

# Richard Pierce, January 6th 2014

I tell you, boys, if you don’t get an official award for Team of the Year for 2014, we blog readers will club together and get you a trophy made. The way you help each other out, the way one of you manages to be string when the other’s week is really quite remarkable.

Hope you both now go from strength to strength, and that you getb off the damn plateau as soon as you’re physically able.

God speed.


# Andrea Topi, January 6th 2014

Well put, Richard, I totally agree with you. Count me in for that trophy, they deserve it.

# Hilary, January 6th 2014

Well said Richard! These two guys are amazing, they are already Team of the Year!

# Willie Hannah, January 6th 2014

Ben and Tarka, I agree with Richards sentiments entirely.  There is no “I ” in Team, and in my experience, the smaller the team the stronger the friendship and bond has to be, as you do not have the luxury of going to any other team members, who you may get on better with.  You only have the other half of your team with you and everything you do and what you do for each other,  affects the total output of the team.  You are obviously are a great match, and make a fantastic team.  Enjoy the days rest, get your strength back and the face the remainder of the challenge with the maturity and determination that you have demonstrated to date. Be strong, Be safe. Willie

# Andrea, January 6th 2014

They are, they did this 21 miles in illness. I think they will do the descent circumscribable to the envisaged 110 days .

# Mal Owen, January 6th 2014

Pleased to hear that you are both recovered, energised and feeling ready to tackle the Journey yet again. What a team ! These experiences serve to strengthen the resolve. Onwards and downwards you go with your blog followers always close behind, wishing you safe and sound.

# Sue (and Noodle ), January 6th 2014

Well done chaps. Homeward bound. I am sure thats a song. We are all singing your praises…x

# Kerry Rogers, January 6th 2014

I’m so happy to hear you guys could finally get some much needed rest. I know how gutted you must have been to have to rely on getting assistance but it was 100% the right call. You both are hard as nails and pushing so hard that it blows all of our minds. Plus a little bit of “drama” makes for an exciting read. I so look forward to reading your post first thing every morning. Stefan & I and everyone from Selling are so excited for you both!! Well done & keep up the hard work! Godspeed ;)

# Kiwawa, January 6th 2014

Two very proud sisters. Very proud family in fact, wife,boogiedog, and friends I expect. Miss you, hope to hear from you soon xxx

# Christian C, January 6th 2014

Nice teamwork (again)!

Hope the journey becomes a bit more fun for you as the elevation decreases and you’re back on normal rations.



# Intrepid, January 6th 2014

Sorry to hear of your travails with gas and hypothermia. Hope your digestive track has recuperated and you are ready to make haste after a good long warm rest. It is exciting to watch your daily mileage cause a decrease in remaining miles.

I was on an airplane again yesterday. 10,000 feet is the marker for when the pilot turns on the intercom to say it’s okay for passengers to turn on electronics. As I thought of you guys on the plateau at 10,000 feet, I became curious whether it really is 10,000 feet of solid ice. After doing a little research, I learned a few things about the continent.

Have you seen any diamond dust or a sun dog?

Hoping the wind continues to aide you as well as you two have aided each other.



# Mal Owen, January 7th 2014

#  Intrepid
re - sun dog
look at….or use ‘search’on left hand side of blog entries for more references
The Land of the Midnight Sun Dog (Day 17)
Beardmore Battles (Day 40)

PS I hope I’m not trying to teach grannies (or grandads) to suck eggs   :-)



# Intrepid, January 7th 2014

Mal - Thanks for pointing to past blogs that mention/picture sun dogs. Although Ben calls halos sun dogs, I was wondering whether they’d seen that particular small ball of bright light on the side of the rings that’s like mini suns.

# Sheila England, January 6th 2014

Good to hear you faired well through that scary bit. Hypothermia can happen so easily. I make fun of my husband, when even on a day hike, he makes sure we have hats and warm clothes ‘just in case’. He worked in ’ search & rescue’ many years ago in NZ, and told me some stories.
Stay warm and safe.

# daniela barbieri, January 6th 2014

I’m very glad to find your siary of this expedition. I found the new on FOCUS. My thoughts are with you. Wishes from Maranello, Italy

# Lydia, January 6th 2014

So good to hear that you are fairing better now chaps.  Sorry to hear about the gastric problems - no one likes to hear that.  I also agree with many of your Blog Fans that you both deserve a team medal and we should make sure that Sports Personality of the Year Team goes to you two - I am sure you must come into one of the many categories they have on there these days.  Or we could apply to the Brit Awards or Oscars for best Male Lead for you Ben and Support would defo go to Tarka - imagine the speeches, if there is anyone on here who knows how we can make progress on these then shout - let’s get these awards rolling in.
Sending you both lots of love Lydia x

# dj, January 6th 2014

As most of your other commenters can say much more eloquent and salubrious than I: we’re extremely glad you’re safe, and we’re with you all the way!  However (and I’ll probably catch heck for saying this) I must confess, from this end of the saga, it’s becoming a tad bit distressing to become enlightened about just what your “team” considers: “tired but absolutly fine and are just spending a day catching up on admin.”  (big breath)

Obviously, I was building into a right indignant tantrum there, and there’s more that could be said and probably should be said; but, just speaking for me, I’d MUCH, MUCH rather hear nothing (and make up my own plausibilities) than be given… let’s call it… “mis-information,” - and I think so would most of your mothers.

Let’s just leave it at that, I’ve already been more direct than is my custom on a public forum and I’m probably going to catch it from the gallery. [And I do hope you understand that I’m assuming this merely reflects “mis-information” and not the much more serious break-down in command and control structure - you do still talk to each other, right?]

Here’s to a successful and safe and more “transparent” return journey to McMurdo and home!

[And just so there’s no mis-understanding, the term “transparent” I’ve used is the latest buzz and euphemism the press in the states are using under Obama for “honesty.” I’m not aware how it is in Europe and the Commonwealth.]

# dj, January 6th 2014

And I’ll be the first to comment on my own comment.  GUYS… really… we truly are behind you, sometimes more than you seem to give us credit.

This is a great story, even with any miscalculations, over-reaches or accidents.  We realize that you’ve got concerns over what you say with sponsors and supporters and relatives listening. But, we’re not imbeciles.  We all want you to succeed. We’re on your side. Remember, spin and PR, while having its place, more often than not turns a perfectly human and understandable accident or mistake into a much less forgivable catastrophe.

To at least my way of thinking, this real-life drama needs no “spin” or “PR” to make it better.  As one of my childhood heroes used to say:  “We like you just the way you are.”

# Andrea Topi, January 6th 2014

Dj, you raise some good points, pity I don’t have the skills to elaborate in depth, in a language that’s not mine, I would risk misunderstanding and it’s a delicate matter. All I can say is that I fully agree with your conclusion, “we like this guys just the way they are”.

# Andrea, January 6th 2014

If may I, disregarding the case of the public institutions and representatives,
  honesty does not mean being extrovert, with regard to the effort and intermediary intentions and thoughts. Were not euphemisms when they wrote wards like: we pushed in all, hard tiredness, we pulled hard ourselves; or that the air was cold (it felt cold with all the special cloths). The expedition moves and actions are in an environment that permanently stresses the human organism at the level of survival.
And besides, there is no time and concentration to make explicit descriptions, with details, for these kinds of road thoughts.

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, January 7th 2014

Hey DJ

I m organising a tour of motivational speakers to inspire people with their positivity.
Just wondering if you are available.

# DJ, January 7th 2014

@Andrea… sorry, I’ve been trying for many days to understand the translation into English that you use - but I can’t.  Somehow I get the gist that you disagree with me - which is too bad because it also seems that you have a hard time understanding my brand of English.  Sorry.

# Scott Expedition Team, January 7th 2014

DJ - there is no ‘PR’ or ‘spin’. The simple fact was that Ben and Tarka were fine by the time the post went up. We’d had a number of concerned emails from people and it was appropriate to reassure our community until Ben’s delayed post went live with full details from the earlier 24 hours. Thank you for your support - but please, enough hints at lack of transparency. It simply isn’t true. Ben and Tarka’s experience is being told openly and honestly. If you want to discuss further please email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). This stream is closed.

# Janet Stanley, January 6th 2014

You guys are a great team, hope all is well now. Please stay safe :)

# Deacon Patrick, January 6th 2014

Glad you’ve improved! Best avoid the junk food disguised as performance food, aye? How do emergency supply drops work? Are they simply generically packed by someone who doesn’t know nutrition and so includes a lot of “sugary gels and chewy energy ‘blocks’”? Stay safe and aim for fats rather than sugars! May God startle you with joy!

With abandon,

# dj, January 7th 2014

@Deacon… “Emergency Rations” are always simple carbohydrates - it’s the fastest and safest way to increase blood sugar. Even in an unconscious person, simple sugar can be absorbed through the cheek wall without even needing to swallow. It can also be given as a suppository or enema, and is readily absorbed.  Next in line for ease of assimilation is complex carbohyrates, then fats and protein which actually USE extra energy to be broken down and assimilated.

Unfortunately, simple and complex sugars come with a price and that’s an osmotic load which, if used heavily, can produce “the runs” and lots of gas. I’m sure the pilot brought what he had quickly available and also that they don’t intend on continuing them when their regular store becomes available.

# Andrea, January 6th 2014

I would be glad if you will accept my compliment.

# Ann L., January 6th 2014

Dear Tarka and Ben,

Congratulations on your 73 consecutive days in a tent!  And thanks for letting all of us peer into your tent through this blog.  It has been fascinating to follow your daily challenges and progress, to see the incredible power of teamwork, and in light of you experiences to further contemplate what happened during Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition.

Way back around Day 25 I asked a question about your daily pace and whether the use of kites on the return would help speed your progress, only to learn that you are not using kites.  At the time I didn’t follow up, but am still wondering why you chose not to use them.  I know the plan was to be “unsupported,” but it seems to me that kites are simply a way to harness the power of one of the few things the continent can give you.  I know that Shackleton used sails on the return from his “farthest south” so it is not a new or unprecedented technology.  Why would the use of wind be any different from using solar power for your communications and navigation?

Wishing you health and strength and fair weather!

# Constantinos Vlachos, January 6th 2014

Hello from Greece guys!  We are all so proud for you, “keep walking”

# varry mccullough, January 6th 2014

Awesome stuff-what a horrid combination cramps, calorie deficit and hypothermia. Onwards!

# George Chapman, January 7th 2014

Hope you guys on the ice are getting in some rest and building your strength. Take care of yourself and stay warm. Remember there are a lot of us here following and praying for you.

# Peter McCarthy, January 10th 2014

Hi Ben and Tarka, have been following your inspirational journey even though I am back in NZ now. Your progress still features on the PADs screens in Scott Base (when PADs is working!). Great decision making on the resupply, thankfully you managed to make it in the clear light of day. The donkey v lion occurred to me as well. The only thing better was your writing, its amazing how eloquent you are despite the hardships you’re both enduring. Take care, particularly on the Beardmore Gl. Cheers, Peter

Commenting is not available for this entry.