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.

Steady Plodding (Day 54)

Day 54: S87° 13' 23.52", E159° 33' 51.24"

Duration: 8 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 18.2 Mi

Distance to go: 1096.1 Mi

Temperature: -21 °C

Wind chill: -32 °C

Altitude: 9790 Ft

A quick update as it's 9.30pm as I type this, we're both tired, hungry and just about to eat dinner, and I'm on cooking duty while Tarka is busy with the GPS working out speed and distance estimates between depots for our return journey.

Antarctica treated us to a whiteout this morning, and we set off in pretty glum moods into the near-impenetrable gloom, with only the faintest foggy line marking the blurred horizon we were skiing towards. After a couple of hours we started to see glimpses of the sun behind the cloud, the faintest disc of light like a torch being shone through a blanket. After about six hours of trudging blindly on a compass bearing, the horizon started to change colour, through lighter shades of grey and finally a pale blue sliver that grew taller as we crawled towards it. Just in time for our last hour of travel, the ceiling of cloud that had smothered us all day suddenly dispersed, like a plug had been pulled out somewhere, and we pitched the tent under a blue sky.

The testing hills we've skied up for the last few days, like giant moguls, seem to have gone, though we spent the last two hours of today climbing a gradual incline that dented our day's mileage and has left us camped just shy of 3,000 metres (2,984m), or not far off 10,000 feet. I found this morning's weather quite oppressive and tried to escape the monotonous gloom through planning how I'm going to reward myself for making it through the next forty days, which I reckon will be the hardest of the expedition (we'll be on the finishing straight after that).

It was perfect escapism and I created a list in my mind of 40 treats that included predictably decadent self-indulgent splurges -holidays, a new road bike for the summer, a suit from Norton & Sons, an Oli & Suzi painting, some John Lobb shoes- alongside taking a friend's two boys mountain biking (D&K, we're going to Swinley Forest when I'm back!), speaking to a Scout group a friend volunteers at (Jon G, we'll arrange this when I'm home), and arranging a big dinner in London for lots of friends.

The daydreams had fewer food-related fantasies today, though interestingly it turns out that Tarka and I have both been secretly hankering after freshly-toasted bread with butter and Marmite, which led to a conversation where we wondered if our diet out here might be low in sodium.

So, changeable weather, a day working hard in our sled harnesses, and daydreams of happier places and times. Captain Scott said much the same in his diary: "The marches are terribly monotonous. One's thoughts wander to pleasanter scenes and places, but the necessity to keep the course, or some hitch in the surface, quickly brings them back. There have been some hours of very steady plodding today; these are the best part of the business, they mean forgetfulness and advance".


# Richard Pierce, December 18th 2013

“Forgetfulness and advance.” What a great phrase. We often forget what a fine writer Scott actually became, regardless of what we think of his actions.

Your treats are quite wondrous, and I hope you will stick to your guns and really go for them when you come back (thinking mainly of the ones you’ve promised yourself as I have no doubnt you’ll stick to your promises to others).

Interesting re the sodium levels in your diet. Will you ever be able to reach a conclusion? I’d have gone for Bovril, myself, rather than Marmite, or fresh baguette with unsalted butter!

Keep going.


# George Chapman, December 18th 2013

Glad to see all is well again at the South Pole. The daily struggles seem hard at the time but in a few days they will be in your past memories and will be looked at as not so hard after all. Wishing you guys the best and staying in touch every day by following you on FB Google Earth and Twitter. Keep thinking about how exciting it will be when you get to that Pole marker you will see in a week or a little more. Take care and stay warm. Thanks for all the post, photos and videos.

# Austin Duryea, December 19th 2013

Forgetfulness and advance is an awesome phrase. Stay warm an safe and if y’all have hot chocolate make sure to drink some.

# Janet Stanley, December 18th 2013

Stay safe! :)

# David , December 18th 2013

309 km to the pole:  About 10 days.  Go for it guys: your progress is fantastic!

# Ty McClelland, December 18th 2013

Keep up the strong work. You guys are an inspiration!!

# Stephen Hackett, December 18th 2013

Inspiring and enthralling as ever. Keep marching on.

# Brendan Smith, December 18th 2013

Keep thinking about what a great memory this will be when it’s over.

# dj, December 18th 2013

Sorry guys, you’ve slipped back in to speaking “British” again. Bovril? Marmite?  Sounds like something a veterinarian would give to a sick cow to me. (Although, perhaps we’ve got something of equally endearing nature here in the “states” with a much more “palatable” sounding name.)

Sodium regulation in the body is a highly complicated mechanism because of it’s relation to the body’s water. Too little sodium (rare) -> volume depletion -> ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) release -> water retention -> diluted blood = low blood sodium.

There is such a thing as “exercise-associated hyponatremia” seen in marathon runners etc. (i.e. 13% of Boston Marathon Runners finished with low sodium levels). Easily resolved with a short “lie-in” to allow the body time to do its normal balancing act.

Nausea and vomiting, lethargy, headache and confusion, muscle weakness, spasms or cramps (and other less common things) are all symptoms to watch for.  Some people think that a severe case may be heralded first by noticing increased falls, altered posture and gait and reduced attention (really); ALTHOUGH, with fifty-four days on essentially “fast-food” from a “take-out” vender I would think (if anything) you’d be getting overdosed on sodium. Those foods are notoriously noted for containing an excess of sodium.

I’m sure your “team physician,” (which Cassie referenced before) has already told you of this if your mention of it was anything more than a humorous coincidence to you - which I would guess it was. As we say in the states (well some people do): “Ya’ll keep on truckin’!”

# Phil Satoor, December 18th 2013

Isn’t the US equivalent called “Vegex”?  Many people I know either love or hate “Marmite”.  In fact there’s an ad on UK TV featuring a child who hates it.  But Ben and Tarka, couldn’t you have taken a small plastic pot of Marmite with you?  You only need a little taste of it now and then.

# Jason H, December 18th 2013

That’s the second time you’ve used “changeable” to describe the weather…

# Willie , December 18th 2013

Ben and Tarka, great mileage today and Ben great descriptive writing.  The monotony of long days on ski’s while the body executes the plod, allows the mind to wander and treat the soul to an element of escapism.  Just wondering Ben did a Devon Cream Tea (fresh scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream, washed down with copious amounts of tea) reach your top 40 hit list?  Keep tucking those miles away, stay safe and be strong.  Willie

# Intrepid, December 18th 2013

Dear Ben and Tarka,

Below are two quotes. The first was inspired by your post on the weather yesterday. The second seems to be what Richard Pierce has let on about you.

“Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.” Frank Gaines

“The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother.” Charles Dickens

I wish there was a way to edit posts after pressing send. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking how Tarka’s theory would be a fun way for you guys to have a conversation about how some days are plodding along while other days include slogging through fear and doubt.

I’m going to turn Scott’s quote around, speaking as an observer from the sideline—-  we’re tracking advances that are simply unforgettable!!!

# ANTONIO, December 18th 2013

genial…. es increible todo esto….

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