Distance to go:
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.
“I can’t imagine anything more trying to the patience than the endless wasted days of waiting.”—Captain Robert Falcon Scott
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”—Jordan, The Great Gatsby
Short version: Scott 2012 is being postponed, and will become The Scott Expedition. Other than the change of date and name, the plan remains the same.
Longer version: This expedition started as an idea that Tony Haile shared with me in 2003. At the time my sights were set on the Arctic Ocean, but deep down the thought of making a significant journey in Antarctica had excited me ever since I read Robert Swan’s Footsteps of Scott as a teenager. Tony and I started planning that year, and the seeds we sowed then have germinated and morphed and grown every month and every year since, becoming a project that in some form or other has consumed the best part of a decade of my life.
This expedition’s budget, both in dollars and pounds sterling, stretches well into seven figures, purely due to its logistical complexity. The four months it will take to complete pushes us outside the time window that is comercially catered for in Antarctica, and means we pay a huge premium for aircraft, flight crew, aviation gas, support staff and the establishment of fuel depots deep in the Antarctic continent (in order that our Basler can leapfrog between them to drop us at our start point on Ross Island, and collect us again from the same spot some fifteen weeks later). This is new territory for me – a project with such a steep price tag – and if I’d truly understood how much I was biting off in the summer of 2003, I’m not sure I’d ever have had the audacity to start chewing.
We had the option -and enough cash in the bank- to undertake a marginally shorter return journey to the South Pole journey this season, one that would have started and finished at Berkner Island, on the Chilean side of Antarctica. It would have been a mammoth expedition; the first return journey to the South Pole from the actual coast of Antarctica, and the longest unsupported polar journey in history by quite a margin, but deep down I knew that even with that in the bag, Scott’s route would still be hanging out there, unfinished. My ultimate decision, then, is that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly, and it’s worth taking time over. Another year is just part of the challenge, and another year of training and preparation can only increase our ultimate chances of success. My team mates, Al Humphreys and Martin Hartley are both still on board for next year. And Land Rover‘s support has been rock-solid throughout. In a world brim-full of made-for-TV pseudo-adventure, it’s wonderful to have a sponsor who cares as much about integrity and authenticity as I do. I’m also enormously grateful for the support of a few key companies and individuals, and I must doff my cap in thanks to Mountain Equipment, Bremont, Kcom, Drum Cussac, CF Partners, Nikon, Hilleberg, Lifemarque, Jim Coudal, Jerry Colonna, Andy Ward and Alice Stannard for hanging in there.
For now, watch this space. We have a big announcement in the pipeline for the beginning of 2013, and after I’ve taken a week off, we’ll be back into training under the watchful tutelage of Andy McKenzie. I’m looking forward to telling the story of the work that has gone (and is going) into this vast project, and to sharing some of the hard lessons I’ve learnt along the way.