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.

Puttin’ in Work (Day 44)

Day 44: S84° 49' 1.992", E165° 57' 1.440"

Duration: 8 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 20.7 Mi

Distance to go: 1276.3 Mi

Temperature: -14 °C

Wind chill: -24 °C

Altitude: 5318 Ft

To borrow a line (or was it the title of a song?) from the rapper Gangstarr, today was all about puttin' in work. 20.7 miles in total (33.4km or 18 nautical miles) which, uphill on a glacier on a cloudy, windy day, dragging more than 100kg (220lb) each, when our last rest day was 28 days ago, we're happy with.

I'm not quite sure why we opened the taps like we did today. It was an unspoken pact; everything seemed to flow and gel, and we skied (or walked in crampons, it was fifty-fifty today) in the zone, as it were. Each time we swapped the lead there would be a nod, and a "Well done sir", or "Good job dude", but that was the extent of our mutual acknowledgement of the effort we were putting in and the results we were getting in return.

I don't know much about what Tarka was thinking today, but I remembered a line from a Japanese poet - I wish I could remember who - that goes something like: "We must embrace our pain, and burn it as fuel for our journey". A newspaper wrote an article on me and this expedition a couple of weeks before I left the UK, and I was surprised at the amount of vitriol in some of the comments that followed the piece on the paper's website. One finished along these lines: "As far as I can tell, this joker only has a string of failures to his name". In some respects this was true. In the space of four years I'd made three attempts to set a solo and unsupported speed record to the geographic North Pole, and each time I'd returned from the Arctic Ocean defeated and empty-handed. But with each attempt I learned a little more about nutrition, clothing, equipment, satellite communications, and with each passing year I poured my frustration into training harder, and into chipping away at the big plans I had for the south. Looking back, each of these failures was an invaluable stepping stone to getting where we are this evening, covering distances like this. 

As I walked today, growing older with each heartbeat, as we all do, I thought of the person that typed that comment. I wished them well on their journey, and hoped that they would be able to embrace the hurt and misfortune and plain malice that we all meet at times in life, and that they too might be able to turn it into nuggets of coal to fuel their own glowing boiler. I thought too of Nelson Mandela - we heard of his passing via satellite phone - and wondered who and where my generation's Mandela might be; who next might lead like he did, as a paragon of everything good we humans have in us. Heady stuff indeed for a camping trip.

Today, and today's mileage, is dedicated to Tony Haile. Tony and I worked tirelessly and pennilessly together for a very long time to try to get the seeds of this mammoth expedition to sprout, but time and again we failed too. I know he's following our progress now and I assume it must be with bittersweet and mixed emotions. Tony, we wouldn't be here without you.

P.S. We didn't take any photos today, so I've just poked the camera out of the tent (the dangling cables are from our solar panels) to show you how much closer Buckley Island is now.


# Helen Ayres, December 8th 2013

Hello Ben

This is a really inspiring post.  All successful people have a string of failures to their name. I run workshops about risk, creativity, and fear of failure. I can only imagine your commenter has a screaming fear of failure nestling in his psyche and it blurts out when he notices others attempting great things, despite the challenges.

Often think of you and the team during the day and wonder what you’re thinking, how you’re doing, what you’re seeing, and what keeps you going.

Looking forward to reading more.

Very best wishes


# Jen, December 8th 2013

Helen is right that is inspiring.

Someone once said “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

Great progress two you.

# Jen, December 8th 2013

I think tha poet you quote from is Kenji Miyazawa

# Janet Stanley, December 8th 2013

Wonderful inspiring words. People who criticize other’s actions in such a malicious way have literally not walked in your shoes (excuse the pun!) what they perceive as failures others look at as successes. Shackleton was a glorious failure, he never got to the pole, his Endurance expedition could be considered a failure but it turns out to be one of the greatest rescue stories of all time.  Scott has been much maligned down the years but no one could doubt the integrity, honesty & courage of this man, it would a very mean spirited individual who would do this. & ditto to you!! Over 20 miles! great mileage , stay safe as always :)

# Kristoffer, December 8th 2013

The trouble with your first sentence is that “malicious” is too open to interpretation, resulting in criticism being labelled and disregarded.  With that, your statement is one step away from Fiennes’ argument that no one can write about a person without having lived like they did.  Of course, that argument invalidates the vast majority of history, including for example Anthony Read’s The Devil’s Disciples.  The writer wasn’t in Hitler’s inner circle, so I guess it’s garbage.  Same goes for books about a person written by a person of another gender.

As for Scott’s integrity and honesty, from our research, Sienicki and I can doubt both.

# Chris, December 8th 2013

Guys, I’m very glad that you’ve fared much better than Scott’s crew in terms of weather and surface conditions going up the Beardmore - that is not to take away at all from your achievement in mileage however.  Ignore the naysayers, let them deal with their own issues and look at themselves - as Helen says all of us fail sometimes, but the measure of a man is how you get up and get over the hump, and what you achieve; you guys are achieving a huge deal already and when you make it you’ll achieve something never achieved before!  Put that in the critics’ pipes to smoke.

Your photographs are just amazing - the Beardmore looks absolutely magnificent.

# Roy foreman, December 8th 2013

Had a small op on Wednessday and spent Thur/Fri getting over it by reading every back report of yours. Wednessday 11th of December Wife & I fly to new zealand only taking ipad so we can keep following you. tempture llandudno north wales 6deg
singapore 28deg auckland 28deg

# Gary Fogel, December 8th 2013

Fantastic job today guys. Keep it up!

# Uncle Pete, December 8th 2013

Terrific progress chaps! A very evocative picture of your next significant waypoint, Buckley Island. Following your extraordinary progress up the Beardmore on Google Earth is inspiring, with each day’s distance ever increasing too, dots getting further and further apart! I expect to see a picture looking back at Buckley before long. Wishing you continued precision and progress with every step. Pete

# George Chapman, December 8th 2013

Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic
delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Wishing you a good day and I’m sure your going to finish this journey.

# Kristoffer, December 8th 2013

The quote misses the point.  The critic is not to be in the area, its job is to be a selfless safeguard to prevent disaster.  To them belongs the credit in pointing out incoming disaster, and to them belongs the oblivion of memory when their criticism is disregarded.  Even if they are right and they are mentioned, they are never mentioned by name, and are relegated to a faceless role.  Anyone who takes on this role is worthy of respect.

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, December 8th 2013

Ben and Tarka
You are amazing and even if you turned back today (we know it won’t happen) I bet everyone here would still think you are amazing.
Keep up the good work and remember ‘He who laughs last, laughs best!’

# Sue Orr, December 8th 2013

Invictus- William Henly -
Loved by Nelson Mandela

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

# Lydia , December 8th 2013

Ben all I can say is this is your time here and now. What has gone before was meant to be. You and that bloke Tarka are walking into the history books and will live on forever. You are both the most remarkable individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting. Nothing will ever be beyond reach for you, apart from the top shelf in a supermarket :-) you are inspirational.
Lydia x

# Dave Giles, December 8th 2013

Ben & Tarka
Negative comments normally come from jealousy or narrow mindedness of understanding. As mentioned Shackleton, was he a failure. Yes in his overall goal. But he was fantastically triumphant in success in crisis management of the situation to the extreme, he got himself and his men back. Your so called failures where successes in experience of what could go wrong and in so you gained understanding for the future. At least you had a go and tried and tried again.Knock backs but you got back up and started all over again which shows commitment, strength in character and determination to carry on. Good for you and keep going,your successful in getting started in the first place and getting to where you are now. Best wishes to you both.

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