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.

Retracing Our Steps (Day 74)

Day 74: S87° 26' 32.88", E159° 34' 56.94"

Duration: 8 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 21.2 Mi

Distance to go: 721.5 Mi

Temperature: -28 °C

Wind chill: -41 °C

Altitude: 9856 Ft

A relatively gentle day for us today as I was keen to ease back into our high-mileage routine without knackering myself out again. It was -41 windchill all day, which normally I'd make a fuss about but I gather rather a lot of the USA have had worse weather of late, so I'll just say that it's still pretty nippy for a camping trip.

We've been lucky enough to be able to follow our old tracks all day today, though at times that proved a mixed blessing as the lack of a requirement to navigate removed any sense of intellectual challenge for whoever was in the lead.

The surface and weather were both about as good as it gets today, though the lack of scenery is starting to drive us both a bit batty. Tarka feigned a hilarious tantrum as we pitched our tent this evening saying he was "Fed up having to build our home from scratch every night".

I thought a lot about Scott and his men as we skied today, wondering how they dealt with similar temperatures and windchill in their cotton jackets, woollen mid-layers and reindeer-skin sleeping bags (which by all accounts were either damp or hopelessly iced-up most of the time). I realised I have no idea what they slept on to insulate their exhausted bodies from the ice -blankets perhaps?- and not for the first time felt spoilt and cosseted with my heat-reflective ridged-foam sleeping mats and down-filled sleeping bag.

Now my brain seems to be functioning again and is no longer near-fully consumed with food cravings (we're back to our normal rations now after retrieving our depot, and I noted with relief today that I no longer had the urge to rip open the plastic wrapper of our chunks of salami to lick up all the white grease) I've been reading in the evenings again. It's wonderful to be able to escape for a while before falling asleep, and I've just started Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in Search of America (thanks Al!). It's a glorious book, full of lines that seem extraordinarily apt out here: "A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us" and "For how can one know colour in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?"

Andy's sending a load of your questions through via email now that we're back online again, so I'll answer a handful of those tomorrow. Thanks for following.


# Allison & Mark, January 7th 2014

Wel that is a relief. Back on track again and you sound much more like yourself. You are right about the temperatures as the news reader this morning says it is minus 51 in Montana.  That does not mean he temp where you are is suitable for sunbathing. Keep safe.

# Ian Calder, January 7th 2014

Sam Johnson’ advice to travellers is useful, though the second part may raise a wry smile on your weathered faces -
“Cast off all care the moment your foot mounts the chaise. Do not practice economy, your health is worth more than you can pay for it.”
I suppose you would cast off care if a chaise turned up where you are.

# Justin Philips, January 7th 2014

Will you empty your resupplied rations and switch over to the pre-existing supplies or would you like to mix them up?

Anyway Godspeed and great going!

# Richard Pierce, January 7th 2014

Good to hear you describe doing 21 miles as a “relatively gentle day.” That shows you’re really properly back on track. Just don’t get too demob happy when you’re going back down the Beardmore - and don’t stop for any geological samples!

Interesting that you’ve started reading again, and apposite that you’ve come across appropriate excerpts. Maybe this is just the beginning of a really special journey for you, one that will become even more special when you pass the point at which Scott’s last camp was.

Your comments about the lack of scenery brought this to mind:

“... we’ve lost track of the days, though not of time. We lose our bearings on the day of the week, don’t know if it’s Sunday or Friday or Wednesday. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the ground we cover. ... The daily taks become increasingly difficult to maintain. A layer of dullness descends on us, a cloak of hopelessness. The beauty of the landscape dissipates. We become a malodorous couple ploughing a field of snow with no promise of harvest.”

Don’t let the cloak of hopelessness descend on you again. Keep reading, keep joshing, keep having fake tantrums, because it’s all those things that will keep you alive; it’s all those things that keep us alive back here, too.

God Speed.


# CaninesCashews, January 7th 2014

Hi guys,

Great to know that over 21 miles is ‘easing back in’!

Really glad you are back on the books – a very good sign that all is well. That Steinbeck book is one of my ‘go to’ books – a well thumbed edition – read two or three times over the last twenty years then re-visited when in need of a shot of Steinbeck!

As you say a very apt book in your current circumstances – it has some wonderful lines – Don’t know how far you have got with it, but I think this one is particularly appropriate,
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

Thanks for the great hi res Pole selfie.

Stay safe,

# dj, January 7th 2014

@Richard… I’m suprised to see you advise not to gather any geo samples.  Forgive a dissenting opinion if you will. IF it is still legal, and IF their track takes them within reasonable reach - if it were me I would willingly trade 30 minutes of evening reading for the tremendous enjoyment of actually “doing something” hands-on out of the ordinary!  Perhaps there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that they aren’t revealing to us, but I don’t think we’ve seen too much actual “science” being done so far on the journey and it should be a welcome change of pace for everyone both physically and mentally.  [And if not for science, just think of what a couple lucky charities back home could get at auction for such a momento coming with such a “back-story!”]

I do think I understand the gist of your message and our shared anxiety to “just get off this flippin’ glacier and get back home”; but, to me at least, stopping to examine, photograph and sample a unique “geo” would be like stopping to smell the sweetest of rose.  Also something we haven’t seen either of them doing much of.

# Richard Pierce, January 7th 2014


Sorry, I was making a possibly inappropriately jokey allusion to Scott’s decision to stop for a day on the way back from the Pole and collect 30 lb of geo samples, which were discovered with the men’s bodies at their final camp. The samples were valuable science, and, it must be said, too much has erroneously been made by many analysts of the additional weight they would have had to pull (which in the scheme of things was actually irrelevant, in my view).

It would indeed be nice if Ben and Tarka had time to do something other than plod the rest of the course, of course.



# cifa, January 7th 2014

good to hear you are both back on track.
its a gripping tale & well told :)


Smart boss + smart employee = profit
Smart boss + dumb employee = production
Dumb boss + smart employee = promotion
Dumb boss + dumb employee = overtime

cheers ;)

# Lydia , January 7th 2014

Whoop Whoop back on track and Android man The Tarkaster having a laugh - this is such amazing news. Today is going to be a good day!
Thank you Ben!
Lydia x

# Alastair Humphreys, January 7th 2014

Glad you’re enjoying the book, Ben!

I often think I’d like this excerpt as my epitaph:
“I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.”

# Richard Pierce, January 7th 2014


Thanks for that quote. I love it (and live it).


# David Simmons, January 7th 2014

So proud of you guys, well done. My favorite book, Travels with Charley, if Tarka says “phtt” let him out….readers of the book will understand this

# Mal Owen, January 7th 2014

Good mileage for a “gentler day” and good to see humour and literature on the agenda yet again. How heavy must Scott’s damp sleeping bag have been? Frostbite in Michigan…unbelievable scenes on TV. Must go buy some salami’ve given me the taste for it !

# Richard Pierce, January 7th 2014

Cherry’s sleeping bag on the Winter Journey to Cape Crozier increased in weight from 18 pounds to 45 pounds because of its frozen dampness. Not nice at all.


# Mal Owen, January 7th 2014

Its hard to believe it took 45 mins to chisel into it !

# Richard Pierce, January 7th 2014

We can’t really imagine it, can we? When I was over there, my sleeping bag was so warm and efficient, I slept in just my underwear. Mind you, it was only -10C at the time, and it was only for a week.


# Janet Stanley, January 7th 2014

Terrific stuff, glad you are back on track & reading again! Am also loving the quotes & comments everyone :) Stay safe Ben & Tarka

# Louis, January 7th 2014

I find my morning mood depends on these blog posts now! Great to read that everything is back on track. Good luck with the rest of the journey!

Commenting is not available for this entry.