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.

No Easy Miles (Day 66)

Day 66: S88° 58' 43.56", E157° 53' 21.72"

Duration: 10 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 21.6 Mi

Distance to go: 827.8 Mi

Temperature: -22 °C

Wind chill: -30 °C

Altitude: 9888 Ft

Tarka called today "Unequivocally the toughest day of the expedition" and it certainly ranked up there with the most challenging for me too. Perhaps naively, we thought that the mileage would come relatively easy on the flat(ish) plateau with our sleds at their very lightest, but Antarctica always seems to have a way of showing you who's boss and we've really struggled hard for every metre today.

We'd set ourselves a target of 36km per day until the next depot, but I called it a day just shy of 35km this evening after about ten hours on the move, and with Tarka getting worryingly cold as the temperature dropped. Thankfully I seem to be a human furnace and usually wear one layer less than Tarka when we're on the move, though of course the flip side is that when he's on form I have to bury myself to keep up with his lanky strides.

We'd thought we'd be able to retrace our tracks all the way to the top of the Beardmore, as Shackleton and Scott did, but we lost them yesterday in a lot of fresh snow and in a very flat light when the ky clouded over for an hour or so, so we set a bearing straight for our last depot -as of course unlike the men here a century ago, we have its coordinates saved as a GPS waypoint- only to rediscover our old tracks again this afternoon.

We seem to have passed through a weird Bermuda Triangle up here near the Pole; our satellite tracking beacon is on the blink and has turned itself off twice now, with a battery indicator that goes from full to flat in a few minutes, and our spare GPS (a little Garmin Gecko) conked out a few days ago and needed a hard reset that deleted all its waypoints. In addition, our main GPS was giving us some very wonky magnetic bearings to follow as we approached the Pole, but it seems to have sorted its act out now. It's quite alarming to realise how much faith we have in these tiny gadgets, and how utterly reliant we are on them to find our depots on the way home.

It's another late night now here (nearly 11pm as I type) so I'm going to sign off now. We're rushing to get off the plateau, but we pick up our Pilot at the depot so we'll have way more bandwidth for videos, decent photos and answering questions again. Thanks for following as we trudge north again, and sorry if I'm moaning a bit at the moment!


# Andy Lawrence, December 30th 2013

It seems to me that you have had better weather than Scott and that your equipment (navigational and clothing) allows you to make progress in weather that would have brought Scott to a halt. As a consequence you have not experienced the days of forced immobility that plagued Scott. Nevertheless making those depots must still put pressure on you. Are you carrying food in reserve?

Despite the struggle 35k is more than respectable. We’re all with you, God speed.

# John Brain, December 30th 2013

Despite the more than difficult conditions, you have put some great mileage in again, so very many congratulations once more. Already you are 1 degree away from the Pole. Let us hope you are able to sort the problems with the electronics. It makes you realise even more how skilled Scott/Shackleton/Amundsen et al all were in the use of sextants, chronometers and unreliable sightings of the sun.

# George Chapman, December 30th 2013

Sounds as if you had one of those day where you’re worn out at the end. Glad to see you’re still able and willing to write us. Hope all your problems with the technology clears up. Finding those storage depots is a must for you I’m sure. I wonder why you’re having electronic problems, I’m sure your keeping those devices protected from the elements as much as possible and temperatures recently have not been excessive. If all your electronics were to go out would you still be able to find those depots or would that be nearly impossible. Not expecting that to happen just wondering. Wishing the both of you well and I’m sure you will take care of yourself. Stay warm and enjoy the trip.

# Jake Doxat, December 30th 2013

Belated Christmas greetings, and congratulations on reaching the half way point, and the pole, from the team at Montane.

# janet stanley , December 30th 2013

Still good mileage none the less! Stay safe :)

# wonderwoman, December 30th 2013

Stay warm and stay safe. We send you love from Finland and pray for you.

# Katshark, December 30th 2013

Hello from Egypt :) I hope this finds you well and safe. Can I just say, you started your expedition the same day that I began my training as a scuba diving instructor and you inspired me not to give up. Okay, so becoming an instructor is no great feat compared to yours BUT I am terrified of being underwater without my scuba mask on. Your mask has to be off, eyes open, a LOT as an instructor. I was terrified to the point of panic attacks. I battled with my fear day and night, I underwent therapy, training, tears and fought every day not to give up and hide. All of this as you took your steps onwards in your great adventure and fought your own battles. I am pleased to say I made it and qualified just before Christmas. So thank you for unknowingly inspiring me to keep walking forwards and may you be warm and safe as you welcome in 2014. We are all cheering your onwards. All the best, Kat

# Bill O, February 15th 2014

After reading YOUR comment, I just wanted to tell YOU that it inspired me to tackle some problems that I have been avoiding for too long. There are no “losers"when you keep trying! Just go one day at a time!
Everyone wins when you can love life. 
They are 2 amazing people and so are you!

# Richard Pierce, December 30th 2013

Brilliant mileage bearing in mind the conditions. GPS conkage is a bit concerning. Have you any traditional devices with you?

Hopefully you will find your next depot with the Pilot quickly and easily, and be able to build in a rest day when you’ve found it. I do believe you have time to do so, especially if the rest allows you to regain some of your strength.

We’re all rooting for you.

Take care.


# Uncle Pete, December 30th 2013

As they say, very good mileage, especially considering you have not had a rest day yet. Hopefully you will rendevous with your gear soon and root out any tracking device problems. I noted in earlier post your apparent nightly ‘wanderings’ according to google earth data. I see again last night your position appeared to jump some 50meters. Could this be related to your problem? I would be surprised to see such an error on a static fix on satellite positioning? But stay alert, obviously try to crosscheck your devices - perhaps you have a sat nav device on phone available? Best wishes - Pete

# Uncle Pete, December 30th 2013

postscript to above - from what I read about sat-nav, errors at Pole’s are inherent in system due to satellite orientation, but an error of 50metres seems a bit large (if correct) as in 2000 the Selective Availability (SA) was turned off which reduced the (then deliberate) errors of some 100m down to a few metres. I am sure your technical team would be on to this and you have allowed for it in finding your caches! Tarka, did you remember the sextant?

# Offroading Home, December 30th 2013

@pete… Until I actually got to researching the question you raised I would have told you “50 meters (metres) was not unusual for variability (even knowing the SA was turned off).”  But I looked into the issue by looking at all of Ben’s “night-time fluctuations” over the the past two months.

You are correct that the variability they have experience on this trip averages between 10 and 20 meters per jump (hourly ping?)  However there has been an occasional jump of 40 or so meters (counting one single jump, not additive error), even back on the Ross Sheet.

Another note, there has seemed to be more variability up on the plateau. I think it was day 53 showed an 80 meter jump sideways from the point they stopped moving to where their tent sat most of the night. AND, as you noted last night seemed to be the “poster child” for amount of nighttime variability.

Today, I’ve spoken with several friends (two of them engineers intimately knowledgeable with the GPS system)  who reiterated their previous discussions with me that the ‘system’ has almost been totally revamped since the early days of SA. The satellites are in different positions now. They have a bit less declination BUT there are now more of them and there are FOUR satellites visible at all times anywhere on the earth (including both poles) instead of three - which adds to the accuracy (you only really need three to get a fix.)  Personal experience of a friend who has resided at the South Pole indicates just what we’ve seen, variability is really very minimal (15-20 meters) with occasional aberrancies a bit higher. He thought it might also be due to the atmospheric ionization waxing and waning, which although they don’t see it in the ‘summer’ is still actively going on above their heads.  That definitely would momentarily interfere with a sighting. The biggest issue involved might just be the way they’ve chosen to set it up; meaning, one ping an hour only gives them one shot at a sighting that otherwise might be averaged out if the device had the ‘luxury’ to average signals over several minutes. An interesting issue to think about but probably not too meaningful - unless you are, for example, standing right at the edge of the South Pole pressing buttons trying to get an accurate ‘fix’ upon which to make a map.

The Google Earth Antarctic resource map available free at: has an overlay of nearly real-time aurora ionization levels if you’re interested. I added it back before I realized that in the summer ‘pole-ees’ don’t see the aurora.

# Vimalatharmaiyah Gnanaruban, December 30th 2013

Ben and Tarka,
Going good. Do you by any chance carry any old timy devices to locate the latitude and longitude? I hope with the back up GPS devices, you don’t need to worry about it, but wanted to know how much can we trust the electronics? (It makes me shiver to imagine stranded in an unlikely event of a magnetic storm/ e-bomb explosion with no means of navigation to the next food deport)
We expect a fair share of moaning too as it exposes the real nature of the enormous task in hand and your personal side.In my opinion, it is in fact easy to omit the hardest part and write only the pleasurable and novel events. I also hope you don’t get carried away by some of the negative comments, which is inevitable in such an internet forum with the added anonymity.
I think it is a good idea to get off the plateau as soon as possible, with no full day of rests as too many comments suggested. I tell this not because I’m ignorant of the the toll your body is taking in the past weeks, but because of the confidence on you as trained professionals fully aware of your body condition. Later you can stop for a snow bath in relatively warm Ross ice shelf.
Keep warm.

To my fellow followers,especially the skeptics;
I do agree a constructive comment with healthy skepticism is a good thing. But some nit-picky comments here beg a question ‘are there too many miserable people among Brits?’ presuming all the bad apples are ‘prisoner of her majesty’, naturally :) I know you don’t get much sunshine, but really?
Don’t get me wrong, I admire your sense of irony and most of you namely the good ones, and there are a lot of smart people following this expedition.
A virtual traveler alongside you in the hardest route

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, December 30th 2013

Ben and Tarka

Difficult days make you stronger. Keep going and you will get there.

# CaninesCashews, December 30th 2013

Hi guys,
For the toughest day you sure managed to cover some mileage.
Hope you get the tech sorted soon, picking the Pilot up will probably help (though not with the weight!). I remember you saying in a blog before you left about redundancy/contingency GPS tech that you were taking. So it sounds like the old British Army Seven P’s have come to fruition - well done for taking a back up (automatic or not) at least we have an idea of where you are and hopefully you do too!
By the way the John Mills Scott of the Antarctic film was on the BBC last night.
Keep knocking down those miles and stay safe.

# Kevin Wright, December 31st 2013

Hi Gav. Yep I watched the movie also and it really does betray Scotts team as true Englishmen who cared more about their team members and love ones back home than themselves!  Robert Swans 1985 team was not quite so honourable to each other at times but when things got tough once again the British team spirit shone through!  It’s been a privilege to witness how these two gentlemen have stuck together all the way and kept their cool. Great stuff guys and keep going! Kev

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