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.

Stop, Start (Day 15)

Day 15: S78° 46' 30.6", E168° 33' 58.5"

Duration: 0 Hr

Daily distance: 0 Mi

Distance to go: 1704.3 Mi

Temperature: -27 °C

Wind chill: -39 °C

Altitude: 187 Ft

Apologies for the lack of an upate. Day 14 was a tough one, which started with Tarka popping his head out of the tent - as he was nearest the door - and reporting that while the weather was still poor and the wind was still high, there was just enough visibility to make a go of it. We breakfasted in near-silence, neither of us much looking forward to what lay ahead, then set about taking the tent down and freeing our half-buried sleds.

It was a grotty day, and the wind swivelled 90 degrees from a headwind to a crosswind without dying down. The cloud came in again during our last hour and we pitched the tent in what was quickly becoming another full-blown storm.

At night it was so windy as we lay in our sleeping bags that we had to shout at each other to communicate and I struggled to sleep, even with earplugs. The gale hitting our tent and sleds, and the guylines and straps anchoring them to the snow (sometimes, I think, like a tiny tick or flea clinging to the skin of some giant beast determined to fling it off) made a noise like a classic motorbike revving, not far from my head.

We woke to the same conditions and it was my turn to poke my head out to see if we could travel. There was no horizon or contrast, just thick whiteout, and only in the slight shadow of the tent could I see the blizzard flying past us. We decided to stay put on half rations and go for it tomorrow (Day 16), so I'm lying typing this after another day waiting for a slight break in the weather. The wait is frustrating but Tarka and I have had a good look at the maps, the plan and the number of days' food we have left, and we're feeling optimistic. We've done the heaviest lifting, and we should begin to get faster. And as Tarka said today, "If it wasn't hard, it probably wouldn't be worth doing".

I'm way behind on answering questions, but here are a few: 

Q) Do you reduce your food intake if you have a day in the tent?

A) Yes, we go to half rations, which seems manageable at the moment!

Q) What's the best temperature for good snow conditions?

A) Based on our experience here, I'm really not sure. We've had an extraordinary range of surface conditions in a fortnight, with no obvious correlation to the weather. In past experience, the minus twenties (centigrade) seems good, though the amount of sunlight the snow receives might play a part too.

Q) What animals have you seen?

A) Almost none! We saw four seals in our first two days before we climbed away from the sea onto the Ross Ice Shelf, and Tarka and I still talk about how incredible it was that they seemed totally content lounging around naked in a -45 degree C. windchill, and how their skin cells don't become frostbitten. Do we have any seal experts reading?!

Q) Does sastrugi make it treacherous for your equipment?

A) Yes, it's hard on the sleds being banged around and there's a very real risk of breaking a ski if you're spanning a big gap between two ridges and hauling hard, or breaking a tip by inadvertently "kicking" a frozen ridge. This is one of the reasons we chose not to travel in this storm.

Q) How does the altitude affect your speed and distances?

A) I'll come back to that one when we're a bit higher up! Hopefully not at all as we'll have acclimatise slowly and will have lighter loads on the Plateau.

Q) Are you scared at times?

A) The high winds at night can be quite frightening but so far it's been a lot less scary than my North Pole trips and it's wonderful not having to keep an ear open for polar bear footprints when you're lying in bed!

Q) What are your favourite dinners?

A) In the normal world, ribeye steak! Here, Tarka and I are debating whether beef stew, chicken jalfrezi or lamb stew are the best freeze-dried meals we have...


# Enrico, November 9th 2013

Hi Ben and Tarka! I have some “alpinistic” questions. From the maps it seems to be a straight way through the Beardmore but really how difficult it is? Will have you problems with the sleds? There are points with significant difference in level?
Great journey!

# CaninesCashews, November 9th 2013

Hi guys, Hope the weather improves for you soon.
In light of Tarka’s hard work comment, I thought you might like this quote from the American politician Newt Gingrinch - it seems quite apt for when you are able to emerge from the tent…
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
Keep safe,

# Mal Owen, November 9th 2013

You must be so disappointed to be holed up again… Keep the spirits up, all will be well. Thought about you this afternoon when in the garden pulling up rotting vegetation…my fingers were hurting so much from being cold I thought I had got frostbite ! Do your meals taste like the real thing or do you have to pretend ?

# Matt, November 9th 2013

Any plans to leave food behind. To lighten the load and use on the return trip. My thoughts are with you guys. Hang in there.

# Judy Wright, November 9th 2013

I am praying for you guys.  For a significant improvement in the weather and that the held rations you are eating will be supernaturally multiplied!  God bless,

# Kevin Wright, November 9th 2013

Hi Guys
Sorry to hear you’re stuck again! I remember reading Robert Swans story and I quote” Then I slogged on ice-numbed feet to this forlorn point in front of the Beardmore , all in an effort to honour Scott and Shackleton my school boy heroes, by walking to the South Pole. Why? For what purpose? To fail? To Die?
I know you guys can do this and finish what Robert Falcon Scott had planned. Do this and you will honour his name and family forever. Keep Going guys as I have a bottle of Shackleton’s Whisky that I plan to open in Antarctica March 2015 with my brother in honour of all polar explorers which will include you guys and your great achievement. We will be camping on the ice during this time so we are really interested in your blog and the information you’re sharing.
Q Do you like Whisky and did you know about the great whisky find under Shackleton’s hut? They call it the enduring spirit and for good reason!
Keep Going!

# dj, November 9th 2013

Q for you. I’ve been told that there has been so much counterfeiting of the “shackleton” whisky done that there’s more of it being sold than the ‘real’ stuff.  What steps did you take to make sure your bottle was authentic? Or is that just an ‘old drinkers’ tale?

# Mike, November 9th 2013

How often during the day is your position info updated in Google Earth? Once? Every hour?  And I’m not finding any street view support down there. I’ll talk to Serge about that.Oh wait. I guess you have to have a street to view. Nevermind.

# George Chapman, November 10th 2013

Mike, from my understanding Google earth is updated every hour. I have been following them on GE from the beginning and I can see them moving throughout the day. Now they normally are traveling at night their time (NZDT). From my calculations an observations they seem to be traveling from about 2AM (NZDT) to about 9AM (NZDT) which would be 8AM Eastern time to about 3PM Eastern time. If my calculations are wrong maybe someone from the support team can add to this post.

# Scott Expedition Team (Chessie), November 10th 2013

Hi Mike, George. That’s right. Ben and Tarka’s position is updated hourly. Exact start/stop times vary but as a general rule they’re operating on GMT (moving in the day / sleeping at night) which is equivalent to walking at night NZDT.

# Sarah Ballinger, November 9th 2013

Hi Guys

Hope you are able to continue with the adventure very soon.  I was feeling a tad sorry for myself as really overtired. However just read your blog and gained much needed perspective.

A privilege to share in your journey.

# Kevin Wright, November 9th 2013

A). Hi dj. It’s the real stuff. Bought it when it was first on the market about 3 years ago, it comes in a a very nice British Antarctica Expedition 1907 box. Looks very impressive! You then have to contact Mackinlays in Scotland to acknowledge your buy and in return they send you a copy of Shackleton’s original order. My Brother Gary bought one while visiting him in Australia a few weeks ago and its identical to mine. Paid 200 dollars for it. We opened it and it was a real nice malt and I know a good one when I Taste one! Cheers!

# Sadie, November 10th 2013

Im glad you guys are hanging in there alright!! I enjoy reading every minute of it and always look forward to reading them every day!
Love from here in Bellevue, Washington State

# cifa, November 10th 2013

@Been & Tarka. Inspirational & awesome. Loving being part of the moment. Hope your luck is like the capital of Ireland—- Always Dublin :)

# Kerry Rogers, November 10th 2013

I once read that your body will produce extra snot in extreme weather (hot or cold) to lubricate your nose & throat and to add humidity to the dry air.

# Austin Duryea, November 12th 2013

Sorry to hear the weather still is really bad. And yes I do know a little something about seals. These seals are probably keeping themselves warm from there blubber. They can also swim in the water that is colder than it is outside and still be fine. Can you maybe tell me what kid of seals they were?

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