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.

Routine (Day 9)

Day 9: S78° 16' 29.46", E168° 27' 53.28"

Duration: 6 Hr

Daily distance: 7.5 Mi

Distance to go: 1738.9 Mi

Temperature: -26 °C

Wind chill: -29 °C

Altitude: 141 Ft

Today was better on every front. The weather was great: -26ish when we set off, with a bit of sunshine and hardly any wind or cloud, and it stayed the same all day. The surface was consistently hard and smooth as well, and the sleds ran as well as could be expected considering each still weighs 190kg or so.

The principal challenge now is mental: settling into the routine, and trying to negotiate the crushing reality of three-and-a-bit more months of the same, racing against dwindling food and time, yet nursing bodies and equipment through a prolonged battering in one of the harshest places on earth. I'm not sure I'd say it's fun, but there are some real moments of magic.

I turned to look back along our tracks during the first hour's skiing this morning, and Erebus looked just like Mount Fuji, with dark flanks ringed by a fuzzy skirt of cloud and a white summit cone framed by the swimming pool-blue sky.

I'll answer a couple of questions, but I'm on cooking duty tonight (we swap each day) so can't reply to 'em all:

Q) What does Tarka do when you blog?

A) Right now he's fixing a broken zip, but usually he'll be choosing photos or video to send back, setting up the solar panels to recharge our four battery packs, setting up the Pilot (our satellite data transmitter, that lives outside in a sled) or - every other day - cooking.

Q) Why 12.9 miles on day one and now 7 or less?

A) The sea ice was a far faster surface than the snow we're on now, but the main reason we travelled so far on day one is that we left a lot of our food and fuel near where our plane landed on McMurdo's sea ice runway by Scott's Discovery hut, before skiing fast to Cape Evans with lighter loads to visit/start from the Terra Nova hut, and then picking up the food and fuel on the way back. We wanted the plane to drop us and all our gear at Scott's Terra Nova hut but new regulations prevented that, and skiing there (the wrong way) from McMurdo with 200kg each in tow would have taken another two days, before we'd even reached "day one", which was time we couldn't afford to waste, and was never something Scott did.


# Lacey, November 3rd 2013

Hi guys - as a student with the ice caps as my major I am following with great interest.Good to see that Ben has explained the higher mileage at the beginning - but a bit disappointed that whoever resplied to the question from his team didnt explain that they werent carrying much of their kit on the first day. My question , or observation is with regard to the number of days of this Expedition.! There seems to be such a conflicting timescale. Could someone give us the actual date the guys have to be back at McMurdo. ( I know there are always weather considerations etc ) - but the published dates that the Logistics company (also published on Explorers Wed )state that they are leaving Antartica on 27th Jan. Surely that means these guys would have to be back before that to be extracted..? These dates have been published for a long time - so by my math they have around 94 days from their start. (Unless they have a different logistics company - but I cant seem to find any others that go there?) Keen to know as it does help with following the times etc.They are well lucky with the weather - its perfect! Happy walking.

# Steve Jones (ALE), November 3rd 2013

To help clear up some of the confusion on end dates for the expedition and end dates for ALE’s logistics - ALE’s normal season is planned to end on 27 January, however The Scott Expedition has made special arrangements to have a longer season and have 110 days to complete their return journey - with a planned pick-up in February.
A few expeditions have attempted return expedition journey’s from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back, two successfully and the daily distance skied on the way back has been several times the daily distance on the first half of the southward journey. So there is little point in running numbers on daily distance skiied at the start, in my opinion the key is for Ben and Tarka to stay well and un-injured each day. They have time to reach the Pole in similar times to the handful of expeditions that have skied this route in the last 102 years and to make it back to Ross Island by going much faster on the northward journey.

# Kevin Wilson, November 3rd 2013

Steve Jones, Thanks for clearing that up.
If the team had come up with that explanation in the first place….....
It is not the individuals fault if people start to query what people are saying if there is conflicting information already out there. Gone are the days of 100 years ago when explorers such as Scott said they were going to the south pole and weren’t heard of for a couple of years. Now technology has taken over, as with the likes of this expedition, daily blogs and hourly updates are available which allow the likes of me to sit in the comfort of my own home and watch things unfold on the ice. But it is also the responsibility of those that are doing the expeditions to provide the correct information. If they proclaim that they are going to do X amount of miles per day, say that they will complete the task at hand (instead of saying attempt) or break a world record and they don’t, then obviously questions are going to be asked. Just like running numbers and analyzing information, it is of course, human nature. This is the era of open information and if you don’t wish to be judged on your actions or the lack of, then don’t make the information freely available, and half measures only result in more questions. But if you do wish to make information available (warts and all), then put up with the criticism.

# Kristoffer, November 4th 2013


You make an excellent point about getting the facts right the first time.  Sadly, this is not the first gaffe that this expedition has made. 

On 18 October, Saunders implicitly admitted that his expedition was not the first foot journey from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole and back again, just the first to retrace Scott’s route in full: On 28 October, Land Rover posted its promo with Saunders here: In this promo, Saunders states his journey will be the “first return journey to the South Pole on foot.  We’re skiing from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again…”  Since this was most likely filmed months prior, couldn’t Saunders have contacted Land Rover to delay the release until this was corrected?

Then there is the matter of the Scott party’s journey having never been surpassed in distance travelled for man hauling in Antarctica.  My friend will have something to say about that in his book while he is debunking Fiennes; he might mention Saunders as well.

# Kristoffer, November 4th 2013

Correction: what I meant to say was: “Then there is the matter of Saunders’ claim that the Scott party’s journey has never been surpassed in distance travelled for man hauling in Antarctica.  My friend will have something to say about that in his book while he is debunking Fiennes; he might mention Saunders as well.”

# Kevin Wilson, November 4th 2013

Kristoffer One of the biggest gaffes is in saying this on the youtube site and everywhere else….

“At 1800 miles, The Scott Expedition will be the longest unsupported journey in polar history and first time Scott’s 1910-12 Terra Nova expedition has been attempted since Scott himself more than a century ago.”

Er… doesn’t Ben realise that his patron Robert Swan attempted the return in 1985/86 “The Footsteps of Scott” expedition and Peter Hillary in 1998/99 on the Iridium Ice Trek expedition, so this is the third attempt.

# Scott Expedition (Chessie), November 4th 2013

Hi. As a Scott Expedition team member, just a note to clear up any confusion. Ben and Tarka are setting out to complete the Terra Nova expedition undertaken by Captain Robert Falcon Scott just over a century ago. It is a definitive journey – setting out from Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at the very coast of Antarctica (‘very coast’ meaning a point that can be reached by boat at some point in the year) to the South Pole and back again and is being undertaken with the utmost respect to those who’ve trodden the path before. It’s expected to take approximately 110 days and Ben and Tarka are due to return mid-late February 2014.

# Kevin Wilson, November 3rd 2013

Yesterday my comments were asking about a cut off date for when Ben and Tarka had to be back at McMurdo. I had replies stating that the expedition was 110 days or 120 days in length. I also had Jon saying that Ben would have his own logistics in place. All answers were welcomed. But now I have been sent a link which goes back to my original question. Why then has ANI (the logistics company) told Explorers Web this (below) if the expedition ends in February?

“Ben and Tarka have planned to be hauling 110 days to complete the expedition, though if successful in returning, they have to be finished before ANI closes the season on January 27th, by evacuating all staff and assistance from Antarctica.”

Explorers web receives ALL information first hand and always does their research BEFORE publishing. If the published information is wrong, then to save further confusion perhaps someone should let them know.

# Kristoffer, November 3rd 2013


My friend-whom I have mentioned previously to Mrs. Alamo-wishes to point out that you are missing the point.  The sledging velocity is variable and will vary throughout the journey; what matters is the sustained velocity. 

Considering that, I think the expedition should have given a rough estimate of journey time, rather than a rigid number like 110 days or 4 months, and should have reconsidered launching the journey at all if ANI could not cover sufficient time.

# Jon, November 3rd 2013

For those questioning daily distances - the Shackleton Centenary expedition from 2008 which followed this route to the pole, albeit not as a return journey,  gives you an idea of how distances vary over the course. I would wager that Ben has planned for very light sledges and multiple depots on their return journey, meaning they can move fast and light. I would be interested in Bens strategy for finding their caches, as if in blizzard/white outs looking for GPS points, I would imagine this is quite challenging.

Also Steve has pointed out that Ben has ‘special’ arrangements in place for their flights out which accounts for their Feb finish date.

The effects of altitude as they reach the top of the Beardmore will be noticeable, but I imagine they will acclimatise quickly. From the Shackleton ice falls they will have about 280 NM to the Pole and would hope they could knock this off in less than 15 days as polar athletes but all dependent on weather and their health. So a steady pull to the base of the glacier and then the race will be on. I mean come on if it was easy everyone would be do doing it wouldn’t they…...

Well done guys we are with you every glide of the way.

Remember you love sastrugi

# Scott Expedition (Chessie), November 4th 2013

Hi Kevin. Thank you for highlighting this article. We’ll contact them now to ensure the info is corrected. Ben and Tarka are expecting to take approximately 110 days and are due to be picked up mid-late February. All the best

# Rob, November 5th 2013

Completely shocked that people are complaining about information/duration of the Expedition and so on. whats wrong with some people! why the need to complain about it? it will take as long as it takes!
To Start going on at Ben about previous comments is also just petty, what’s the point on coming to this site and reading the updates if all you are going to do is be negative?? I think you guys are so jealous that you cant be positive and supportive like so many others on here !
Good luck Ben & Tarka.
“To Strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”

# Kristoffer, November 5th 2013


We have a right to complain when the information we’re being given is completely wrong.  We didn’t come here to complain and we’re not jealous over a lack of positivity: just look back at previous blog posts to find my comments where I’m enjoying my experience.  There’s nothing petty about complaining about what Ben has said in the past when what he said was plastered around the world thanks to the media-which never knows better.

My friend who is writing his book is even less restrained than I am at Ben and Tarka’s progress, provisionally suggesting to me that they might turn back in a mere 2-3 weeks.  I do not agree with him, as I think it is too early to judge due to upcoming depoting of supplies, but I cannot watch Ben and Tarka’s progress so far without feeling a sense of foreboding.

# Scott Expedition Team (Chessie), November 5th 2013

To be clear Ben and Tarka are making excellent progress and are absolutely on track. Their daily distances are as expected (if not greater!) and in keeping with progress made by other polar expeditions carrying similar weight. The route remains as it always has been - a return journey from the very coast (‘very coast’ meaning a point that can be reached by boat at some point in the year) of Antarctica to the South Pole and back - retracing Captain Scott’s 1910-12 Terra Nova route. The next 3+ months is looking incredibly exciting and we hope you enjoy watching as this remarkable challenge unfolds.

# Alastair Humphreys, November 6th 2013

Hi guys,
A few thoughts on a few separate comments that have been left here:

- Kevin: I don’t feel that people on expeditions have a “responsibility… to provide… information” unless they are being paid / contractually obliged etc. The blogs are here for the public to enjoy - it’s no more serious than that. It’s just a couple of blokes on a winter camping holiday, so should be treated in a similarly light way.

- Kristoffer: it is so hard to comprehensively explain expeditions in the soundbites that YouTube videos etc often require. Ben and Tarka quite clear about this trip: it is NOT the first return journey from the coast to the pole: Amundsen did that. He is attempting to be the first to do so without the support of dogs, kites or motors. The guys will be the first to acknowledge the impressive feats of those who have gone before. This trip is about competing against themselves rather than point-scoring against others.
Please would you also let me know which expedition has purely man-hauled further than Scott’s? Thanks.

- Kevin: Rob Swann’s “Footsteps of Scott” trip was not a return trip. A heck of a trip, but not a return one. Ditto Hillary’s trip.
I also think your friend should reserve judgement about Ben and Tarka turning around in 2-3 weeks. Let’s wait and see and judge the trip retrospectively, on evidence, rather than on advance speculation. There is so much that can go both wrong and right in the coming months that it’s impossible to predict the outcome. I am sure that the guys have done their utmost to tip the odds in their favour and will be trying their bloody hardest. Foreboding is certainly not required.

- Gav - don’t pity them on the food front. Biltong plus Fuizion foods are both fabulous!

# Kristoffer, November 6th 2013


According to my friend’s book, which is nearing completion, he estimates that Scott and his men covered about 1,329 geographical miles in their journey.  Shackleton, Marshall, Wild, and Adams, during their attempt to reach the South Pole during the Nimrod Expedition, covered 1,370 geographical miles before back marches and relay work are taken into account.  If those are taken into account, then the total distance travelled by Shackleton et. al. is about 1,525 geographical miles.  Thus my statement.

I agree with you that we should withhold judgement of Ben and Tarka’s future progress so far, as it is still early, but as I have said before that does not prevent me from having a sense of foreboding.

# Alastair Humphreys, November 6th 2013

Hi Kristoffer,
Those are both epic treks, indeed!
I look forward to reading your friend’s book. Do you know when it will be out / what the title will be?

# Kristoffer, November 6th 2013

Alastair and Mrs. Alamo,

The book’s provisionary title is “Captain Scott: Icy Deceits and Untold Realities”, by Krzysztof Sienicki.  The book is nearing completion and should be published next year.  Hope that helps.

# Kevin Wilson, November 8th 2013


Sorry to contradict but ,Robert Swan’s expedition was planned as a return as was Hillary’s.

“Since 1912 only a handful of ski expeditions have travelled Scott’s route to the South Pole. The first was the Footsteps of Scott Expedition with Robert Swan, Roger Mear and Gareth Wood. They set off from Cape Evans and reached the South Pole on 13 January 1986 but were unable to ski the return trip due to their ship, Southern Quest, being crushed by pack ice. This was the first expedition supported by ANI and arguably the first of the modern era of Antarctic adventure expeditions.

In 1998 a three-man team, Peter Hillary, Eric Philips and Jon Muir, set off from McMurdo on their Iridium-IceTrek expedition. They ascended the Shackleton Glacier and reached the South Pole on 26 January 1999, too late, unfortunatley, to attempt the return journey to the coast.”

The above quote is from the ANI/ALE site

# Alex, November 3rd 2013

Hi guys,

Stumbled across your blog via an article in the Independent, and all I can say is good luck! I can’t imagine the mental toughness required to get through the slog of hauling 200kg sleds each day, and knowing there’s three or so more months left. That said, I can’t help but envy you for the experience of the “real moments of magic” as you said.

Random question- what types of skis are you using? In the picture above this post they only seem to be about 150-160cm or so which led me to wonder whether they provide enough flotation for the deeper snow. Although I guess the snow’s usually hard from the constant wind across the surface.

Stay strong!

# dj, November 3rd 2013

@Alex ... to save you from waiting for an answer, the question has already been answered several posts back when they talked about their kit - perhaps in one of the blogs prior to arriving in Antarctica.

# rod pattinson, November 3rd 2013

have just read THE WORST JOURNEY IN THE WORLD wish l was with you . still following

# Raffaele, November 3rd 2013

Great Guys :) i see you from italy

# Nora Wolfe, November 3rd 2013

Goodmorning, I am watching you from Grants Pass, Oregon, USA. I have been a long time collector of 1st edition books regarding Scott’s, Shackleton’s and Amundson’s polar journeys. I thank the heavens for the internet so that now I can go on this journey with you.
What a miracle. I am looking forward to reading your book when the two of you get back, have time to digest your journey and put it in writing for us.

# Perran, November 3rd 2013

Hi Ben and Tarka,
Have been following from the start and just wanted to say how delighted I am that you are underway with full sponsorship after waiting and trying for so long.
Your reference to the solar panels and satellite data link are obviously of interest to me Ben, having discussed and assisted you with some of your training. Any chance of elaborating a bit and maybe some photos ?
May the spirit and determination of those that went before be with you all the way.

# Scott Expedition (Chessie), November 4th 2013

Hi Perran, Ben and Tarka are using a Sony Vaio Pro ultrabook connected to a modified Iridium Pilot to share their journey. The technology is powered by Antarctica’s 24-hour daylight using two custom 62-watt folding solar panels and three lithium-polymer battery packs.

# George Chapman, November 3rd 2013

Glad to see your doing so well and that yesterday was such a good day for you. Take care of yourself guys. Thanks for all your updates and photos. Following you on FB and Google Earth from sunny Central Florida U.S.A. Todays temperature 76ºF.

# CaninesCashews, November 3rd 2013

Hi guys
How is the food - what does ‘cooking’actually mean to you two out there?
Hopefully tomorrow will bring on more ‘moments of magic’.
Looks like a good day on GE.
Stay safe,

# Kate (Scott Base), November 3rd 2013

Hi Ben and Tarka,
I am enjoying following your journey - your photos and blogs are fantastic.
Keep searching for those magic moments !
Take Care

# Jada (5th Grade, GB School, USA), November 4th 2013

Why did you have to cook anything?  Can’t your partner cook it?

# Scott Expedition Team (Chessie), November 5th 2013

Hi Jade. Ben and Tarka take turns to cook on alternative days. While one of them cooks the other does things like write the blog, send back images or repair any kit that might need fixing. It’s good to mix up the duties.

# Miranda (5th Grade, GB School, USA), November 4th 2013

Have you gotten any frostbite?  How do you protect yourself from getting it?

# Scott Expedition Team (Chessie), November 5th 2013

Hi Miranda, a note on Ben’s behalf. No, neither he or Tarka have got any frostbite. A blog will follow in the next week or two with a run down on their clothing.

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