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.


# Willie, December 8th 2013

Ben and Tarka, Hoofing distance today, you broke the 20 , I hope I get the chance to buy you both that well deserved pint of Guinness, how sweet that would have tasted after a day like you have had today.  The big man is truly providing you with some great weather and conditions at the moment, long may they continue.  I have been reading your blogs from the beginning of your journey, and I find it amazing how many Antarctic expedition experts and critics there are, who vent their opinions on your blog and in national media.  I tend to find most “Critics” are quite spectacular at sitting on their buts and have huge opinions built on their own self importance and little practical experience; as for putting their heads above the parapet, no chance.  Stay strong, keep well and keep up the distance, Willie

# Kristoffer, December 8th 2013

Your denigration of critics is disturbing.  You honestly think that critics draw from their own self-importance?  Do you realize the self-importance needed to dismiss critics through this statement?  Not to mention your repeating Fiennes’ garbage argument about needing to live like the people you are writing about.  You ironically disqualify yourself there, since I don’t see you out in Antarctica dragging 100 kg around.

# AlisonP, December 8th 2013

Ben, what a beautiful post today.  I too think that people who criticize with such vitriol have pain in their hearts have deep pain in their hearts, and bringing down others makes them feel good about themselves.  I too try to bless these individuals, for they need more love and compassion than others.  Your post today about this made me cry.  Just beautiful what you are doing and what you write.

What a thrill to see how close Buckley island is!  You two are going like gangbusters, simply amazing!  I am soooo happy for you both that you had a day that went so swimmingly well.

# Peta McSharry, December 8th 2013

If setting (or breaking records) was easy, everyone would be doing it. Failng a record attempt is merely learning and correcting for the next one. Few could dream of trusting their own skill to survive this type of trip and even fewer the guts to train for it. Most of us live vicariously through others attempts, for which we are grateful so we needn’t leave the comfort of our sofas. Great reading the updates and wishing you all the luck getting there and back safely.

# Richard Pierce, December 8th 2013

Having been out all day supporting the pilgrimage of one of my daughters towards her dream of playing cricket for England, I’ve only just seen this post. What a superb effort, physically and mentally, outside the tent and in.

You’re not just “growing older with each heartbeat” but more mature, too, and this has to rank as one of your very best posts. To be confronted with malice and face it down with humility and determination takes a lot of doing. Thank you, and well done.


Ages shaped this, grew this
Horizon, solid and translucent
At once, inconquerable to the ancients,
Cold and barren and unscaled,
An ice island, relentless
On the slowing sea.

It lives, this beating end of earth,
Stretches its white tentacles
Across ocean and rock as one,
Breathes its stillness as a cliff
Into the swirling crystal night,
The never-resting light.

Down from the Pole it flows,
The white blood of this continent,
This untamed unquenchable stream,
An untravelled highway
Into an unknown heart,
Hard and unforgiving.


# Mal Owen , December 8th 2013

May I ask where you were when you wrote this poetry….. Lovely.

# Richard Pierce, December 9th 2013


Thank you ever so much.

I wrote the first two stanzas after having read all the Antarctic literature I could get my hands on, and after having spent a week in Nov 2007 in NZ on an unsuccessful attempt to get out onto the Ice. The last stanza I wrote after getting back from the Ice in January 2008 after finally having managed to get out there and seeing the wonder of it.

I wrote a lot of poems out there and turned them into a collection (that I’ve not tried to sell) which then turned into my novel Dead Men, published by Duckworth, which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award in 2012. I explain the link from poems to novel at a talk gave at the Natural History Museum last year -

Thanks again.


# Mal Owen, December 9th 2013

Hi Richard,
thanks so much for your response…had previously watched NHM Nature Live,  am reading Dead Men at the moment, have today received the Worst Journey in the World and also watched SouthPole-sium. I am learning loads and thoroughly enjoying the experience.





# Richard Pierce, December 10th 2013


You’re very kind. I do hope you like Dead Men, and let me know either way.

Worst Journey is just brilliant - savour.


# Luca, December 8th 2013

Keep it up guys! Congrats!

# CaninesCashews, December 8th 2013

Hi guys,
Wow what a great mileage on that ice. Great stuff.
Love the pic out of the tent with Buckley calling out for you in the distance.
Nice dedication to Tony Haile - for others following this great adventure Tony has written an excellent blog about Ben and never giving up - you can find it here:
Oh and in my experience most naysayers are pessimists and Helen Keller has a great line about them… “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”
Stay safe.

# Kristoffer, December 8th 2013

The direct link to Tony’s post is here:
Oh and in my experience most people dismiss naysayers out of hand simply because they aren’t saying nice things.  Most people also miss the point of so-called “pessimists”; they do not have the job of achieving Helen Keller’s goals, but rather to prevent mishap and disaster.  If they act to call out unethical intent, we call them whistleblowers.

# Sharyle, December 8th 2013

Loved your post today.  Every time we try and fail, we learn something valuable.  Ok, that didn’t work.  Do it differently and better next time.  Experience is valuable.  You’re proving it on this expedition. Carry on, gentlemen!

# Marielle, December 8th 2013

Today is the day of the Lights near Lyon (France) and many people put some candles at their Windows to commemorate a religious tradition about people saved from the plague by Mary.  I can’t post a photo to share it with you and give you some warmth (because the temperature was rather chillier than other days!!!) but also to give you some guidance and also give light to those who don’t know what failing means: there’s a French song saying “those who never try are mistaken once”... and you can only learn from your failures. There is also a saying for this kind of people: “This guy does not have light at all floors”.  He or she might learn a great deal from people like you and Tarka.
I keep learning from your really interesting posts.
Just enjoy. Thanks

# McD, December 8th 2013

Amazing work, fellas. Truly inspirational! I’m amazed at how negative people can be, when the course of human events proves without doubt that perseverance alone allows us to do things few have done before. As Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Failures, properly seen, are merely preludes to victories.

# nicole scott, December 9th 2013

<3 that you quoted gangstarr

you should stop and make some snow angels!

Also with the constant cold weather how is the battery life on your Ultrabook holding up?

# Intrepid, December 9th 2013

The picture from inside the tent is pretty cool - Buckley Island and blue sky sandwiched between two greys (clouds and the reflection of grey in the snow).

In regards to comments, we all have partial views. I once read that it is easier to smile than frown, yet there are many who choose the path of greater resistance. The comment about failure is true, but not complete, and the manner in which it was spoken seems as though it came from bitterness, rather than honoring all the attempts made.

It’s difficult to not get attached to what is said, whether we are speaking or someone else is trying to screw us. Because language is put together by each individual’s choice of words, it’s similar to the view from the tent; a partial view.

# Mal Owen, December 9th 2013

20+ today .... what an achievement :)
Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
I think that the tent makes an excellent picture frame for Buckley Island (  success Ben ! )

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