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.

Once More into the Mist (and a Secret Revealed…) (Day 101)

Day 101: S78° 49' 36", E168° 33' 18"

Duration: 10 Hr

Daily distance: 23.8 Mi

Distance to go: 87.5 Mi

Temperature: -20 °C

Wind chill: -27 °C

Altitude: 160 Ft

The good news, weather-wise, was that we've had clear blue sky directly overhead all day today. The bad news is that we've had either low cloud or peculiar banks of freezing fog at ground (or indeed ice) level, so we've barely seen a thing in terms of scenery again, and we certainly haven't been able to spot Mount Erebus, Mount Terror, White Island, Black Island or any of the landmarks I've read and dreamt about for so many years that will guide us back to our finish line at the shore of Ross Island near Scott Base (I'll write about exactly where we're finishing in a day or two).

It's getting properly cold during the middle of the day now, as the sun dips lower and lower, and we had an ambient temperature of -20 degrees C. as we stopped halfway through today's ten hours. The surface continues to make life very hard indeed, and Antarctica certainly isn't letting up as we approach the final few miles. We picked up another depot today, the second we dropped on the way out, so we're well stocked-up with food and fuel, and we have the backs of the sledges to lug around now too, just to add to the fun.

While we still feel physically very weak, especially with an extra few kilos on the sledges, the additional calories we're taking on now have made a huge difference to our mental states; we're both able to hold trains of thought for far longer, and the sessions during the day seem to pass more quickly as a result of being able to lose ourselves in intricate daydreams and detailed future plans rather than drooling over imaginary burgers every few minutes.

Finally, I've finally been given the all-clear to let you in on something I've been excited about for the past year or so: the custom-made Bremont watch I'm wearing, called the Supermarine Terra Nova (named, of course, after Scott's last expedition). I've been working with Bremont for several years now, and I'm a huge fan of the brand, the incredible timepieces they make, and of the two inimitable brothers who started it all, Nick and Giles English. They're an inspiring duo, and they've worked astonishingly hard to do what many thought impossible, in building a British watch company from scratch that can not only stand its ground against some long-established and deeply-respected competition, but lead the way too. A reliable watch is one of the most critical tools of my trade, and I've been lucky enough to work with Bremont in creating my dream expedition watch, and one that will go on sale a little later this year.

Here's some more detail on the watch that has tracked every second of my 101 days in Antarctica so far from Giles himself:

"This is a custom mechanical watch developed for Ben to be a very effective tool for his expedition, made with an aircraft-grade titanium to reduce weight increase strength and make it 2000m water resistant. The mechanical movement is built with a special vibration mount that has the ability to protect the watch against extreme shocks and that also functions as a thermal insulator. Quartz (battery-powered watches) are prone to being affected by very low temperatures so the Bremont Terra Nova uses a mechanical automatic movement tested to -40c before Ben's departure. This is Bremont's first non-chronograph GMT watch giving a second time zone. This, when combined with the use of the 360 degree bezel, can be very effective as a tool for solar navigation. Scott would be pleased that the watch was developed and built in the UK."


# Pete Vassilakos, February 3rd 2014

Exciting guys!!!! So close, I bet you can taste the beer! I have been in contact with Andy, and a very special gift will be on it’s way over to you from Canada in a few days!! Good luck and Godspeed!!!!! Cheers mates!

Pete Vassilakos

# Canadian Winter Lover, February 3rd 2014

Dear Ben and Tarka,

Thank you for communicating your thoughts and feelings as you have truly endured 101 days of what is completely beyond the comprehension of 99.99% of the population. I have thoroughly enjoyed “tuning in” everyday to see how you are doing. So while we are all so happy that you are going to conquer this amazing trek ... I’m a little bit sad as well, I’ll miss tuning in each day to get my boost of “and you think you have it bad!” :—).

Wishing you all the best as you slog through these last few days and make it home safe and sound. Take good care of yourselves when you reach civilization, you deserve it!!


# Willie Hannah, February 3rd 2014

Ben and Tarka, into treble figures for days on the ice and double figures for miles to go, many congratulations on you achievement to date.  The additional calories will provide that clearer train of thought you will need to ensure a safe exit from the expedition; please do not allow your guards to drop, Old Beardie tried to get you on the descent, the ice shelf could still have a sting in it’s tail.  Be strong, Be safe and continue to look out for each other.  Ben, I have passed on your updates to your dad.  Hoofing, regards, Willie

# Dave, February 3rd 2014

The more I read your blog entries, the more I’m reminded of the Apollo moon missions, right down to the special watch (if memory serves, the Astronauts wore Omegas).  While I don’t expect to see you and Tarka on the deck of an aircraft carrier or in a ticker tape parade (a TED Talk will be much more interesting) the world should note your achievement and all those who helped make it possible.

I hope spotting those landmarks won’t make you hurry to the point of over-exerting yourselves.  In addition to your finishing location, I’m also curious about who will be waiting to welcome you.  I have this vision of a lucky few spotting you in the distance and documenting your arrival.  A penguin escort would be a treat, especially tobogganing adelies.

Continued safety and progress

# Phil Satoor, February 3rd 2014

One thing that caught my attention in today’s blog was your comment on how lack or otherwise of calorie intake affected your mental state.
Captain Scott’s party was short of calories in the later stage of the barrier due to short marches and shortage of oil.
Perhaps this affected their ability to think clearly and to realise that by leaving behind unnecessary weight, e.g. the rock samples they had collected, they could have increased their daily marches and have increased their chances of pulling through.

# Colin Barton, February 3rd 2014

Ben, love the watch, I am also a big (unfortunately non owning) fan of Bremont. In fact, I met you very briefly at the launch of the Descent LE just off Sloane Square. Reading the small blurb you put onto your blog made me think of another episode between Ran and Mike - Mike had forgotten to get the battery changed in his quartz watch and it stopped working whilst they were underway. This meant that to share the navigating they had to share Ran’s watch too! A pretty big ask eh?!

Perhaps the model you are wearing will go into the Bremont shop/museum for us to wonder the adventures it has had!!

Perhaps this quote from Buchwald can help balance the lack of enjoyment of the constant trudge - I look at this positively not negatively “Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.”

# Emma, February 3rd 2014

Hope you won’t be needing the 2000m water resistance feature of the watch, on this voyage at least.

# Brendan Smith, February 3rd 2014

Glad to extra calories are helping.  You are getting so close to having completed a truly epic journey.  Stay safe and thanks for sending these updates so we can track your progess.

# Rodwell W. Stephens, February 3rd 2014

Keep it up guys, you’re almost there. I wouldn’t shave my beard ‘till you guys get it done. :D
All the best!

# Dave, February 3rd 2014

I wonder how many beards will come off when Ben and Tarka reach their goal.  Maybe a fun opportunity for the team to collect photos via Facebook or other medium.

# Anne-Marie Turner, February 3rd 2014

Keep going Ben & Tarka!  I love getting home after work to read what kind of day you’ve had - it puts a perspective on mine, you are both an inspiration. 

Gods speed x

# Lisa Jane Persky, February 3rd 2014

The watch is beautiful.  I would wear it proudly.  I check in every day to see how you’re both faring. All of our wishing for better conditions for you hasn’t been working very well but we won’t stop now. I hope to soon be reading about the first meal you have that you’ve only dreamt of over the long miles. Loving your photographs and especially happy to see “the Man Hug.” Hugs are necessary for optimal health - no matter the degree of self-consciousness! Love and safe travels to you both from me,  LJP

# Barbara B from Clinton, CT USA, February 3rd 2014

Ben and Tarka, your story has inspired me to learn more about the South Pole and to read much about Scott and the men who entrusted their fate to him.  It has also inspired me to think about what you are doing and the reasons for it.  So, I have composed a limerick for you. I hope you do get to read it and that you get something out of it.

Two explorers who hailed from Eur
Rope with sleds harnessed on and with fur
Round their faces their “staches”
Ice sculpted their glasses
Reflect dreams ne’er a white out can blur

Hopeful young strong explorers from Eur
Rope with readers in tow on the tour
Red their faces their “staches”
Encase crumbs from their caches
Salami, clean socks to procure

Footprints back to Scott’s hut was the lure
Ben and Tarka set out to ensure
Their selfies storm crusted
Sastrugi they busted
Scott’s hell in reverence to endure

While we readers discussed curvatures
And how they should enjoy the tortures
Of which they merely hinted
We devoured what they printed
Now who’ll offer them both pedicures?

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