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.

The Last Degree (Day 60)

Day 60: S89° 01' 33", E157° 38' 49.44"

Duration: 9 Hr 15 Min

Daily distance: 21.7 Mi

Distance to go: 970.3 Mi

Temperature: -27 °C

Wind chill: -40 °C

Altitude: 9875 Ft

If you eavesdropped on our daily banter up here, you'd be forgiven for thinking Tarka and I aren't enjoying this expedition all that much. Our conversations at break times, when we turn our sleds so we can sit on them next to each other with our backs to the wind, usually go something like this: Tarka: "What on earth are we doing with our lives? This is ridiculous." Me: "Tell me about it. I'm retiring after this trip." Tarka: "Mate, I'd already retired from this nonsense..." Etc.

But there are occasional moments of magic. We talked briefly today of what it must have felt like for Shackleton and his men as they turned for home near here, and for Scott and his team as they headed on to the Pole. For us, the South Pole represents people, air traffic, vehicles, noise, buildings, warmth, safety; it's a huge distraction and we're keen to arrive in the dead of night, take our photos by the Pole and get away again before anyone notices us. For Scott and Shackleton it was a point in the centre of a vast expanse of nothingness. The feeling of remoteness and isolation they must have felt at this stage of their journeys must have been immense.

We're also talking about food more, and have both noticed that our senses of taste seem to have become sharper, and that we're getting enormous pleasure from all of our rations. I often close my eyes at breaks while I'm munching away, and I suspect very few people have derived quite so much pleasure from a "Cocoa Delight" Nakd Bar, a "Nutty" 9Bar, a "Belgium Chocolate" Organic Food Bar, or ten squares of Green & Blacks 85% dark chocolate, all of which featured in my 6,000 calories today. I'll take a photo of a whole day's food soon, so you can see how we're fuelling our progress.

We would also like to thank everyone who was involved in sending us a message in Intel's Christmas card which we reciveed last night on our Ultrabook. It's wonderful to have such support from around the world. Thank you all. 

We bagged another 35km today and have crossed the 89th degree of latitude, which we're pleased with, though we're both feeling as tired as you'd probably expect us to now we've been out here for two months (with two days off) and have covered about 32 back-to-back marathons. It was -40 degrees Centigrade windchill all day today and we were outside for 12 hours, and I often feel it's almost miraculous that we can get up again every morning and do the same thing. Apologies for another scenery shot, but the sun was creating an amazing effect on the horizon today, which I'm hoping you can see after we've compressed this photo to send it back via the phone.


# Martin Seidl, December 24th 2013

Dear Ben, dear Tarka!
It is really astonishing, what you do, it is encouraging and impressive.
I reckon the question: Why are we doing this? is common, when men go to their limits like you do. I have deep respect for what you are achieving.
I wish you a Merry Christmas here from my warm room and all the best for the next weeks.
Keep on eating up the miles and stay save!
Cordially Martin

# Mike, December 25th 2013

Remember to pose at least once in front of the SA webcam to “prove” that you have arrived. Or at least leave a sign or signal of sorts in case you chased away by the pole patrol.

# wonderwoman, December 24th 2013

Dear Ben,
Thank you again for a wonderful post. The question is exactly the same my teenage boys asked, and the same that interests us all: Why would anyone do anything like this? There are many reasons we could and can think of, but does any of them really explain why you are able to get up every morning and do the same thing again. Beyond the rational reasons there seems to be a deeper meanig and some magic-like powers.
We send you love from Finland and pray for you.

# Mal Owen, December 24th 2013

Lovely shot , no need for apologies! Looks like the star over Bethlehem and would make a fitting Christmas card. May I offer my warmest Christmas Wishes to you both now ... could kick myself for not adding to your Intel card, I’m afraid I procrastinated and thus forgot. Can quite understand the need to be at the Pole with no other humans… Would be a shock to the system after so many days alone with your thoughts and it surely should be a very personal experience. SEASON’S GREETINGS.

# Rosie Vidovix Unsworth, December 24th 2013

Hey Ben and Tarka
Your blog of today reminds me of something Muhammad Ali once said ‘I hated every minute of training, but I said, Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’
I know you don’t ‘hate’ it but you get the gist…

# Caro, December 24th 2013

Merry Christmas, you two. So excited about that last degree!

# Janet Stanley, December 24th 2013

Remember Cherry Garrard’s words ‘Stick it, stick it’ I know you have your mantra…what ever works! Please stay safe :)

# Richard Pierce, December 24th 2013

Dear Ben, dear Tarka,

Amazing, just amazing: the photo, the blog post, the achievement, the endurance. And your attitude and wishes for the Pole. I hope it does turn out the way you wish for, because it encapsulates what you’re trying to achieve, because it’s all about doing it for the sake of all histories, all about completing 1800 miles, not about receiving acclaim halfway through your epic journey.

First, to quote what everyone quotes from Cherry’s Worst Journey: ‘Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised. It is the only form of adventure in which you put on your clothes at Michaelmas and keep them on until Christmas, and, save for a layer of the natural grease of the body, find them as clean as though they were new. It is more lonely than London.’

Now, my favourite quote, and the one which applies to you, and to all of us who try to break boundaries, despite our own fears:

“Exploration is the physical expression of the Intellectual Passion. And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. If you are a brave man you will do nothing: if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery. Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say, ‘What is the use?’ For we are a nation of shopkeepers, and no shopkeeper will look at research which does not promise him a financial return within a year. And so you will sledge nearly alone, but those with ewhom you sledge will not be shopkeepers; that is worth a good deal.”

With this, I send you my very best wishes for Christmas, for a peaceful, healthy, successful and safe New Year, delivered with admiration from a coward in a nation of shopkeepers and bankers to two cowards who have indeed proven their bravery already.

God Speed.


# Rosie, December 24th 2013

So well said Richard!

# Richard Pierce, December 24th 2013

Thank you, Rosie. R

# Mal Owen, December 24th 2013

You sure have a way with words !

# Richard Pierce, December 24th 2013

It’s the only thing I’m any good at. Thank you. :-) R

# Carlos, December 24th 2013

Guys, I see that due to Antarctic season and the planning of your expedition, You have to spend Christmas time very close to the South Pole.
I know It’s always hard to spend these days away from the loved ones. Please read this post, as a little bit of warm, and a lot of admiration.

I can see the professionalism and previous preparation when You talk about reaching the Pole with the less human distractions possible.
Otherwise, if you celebrate too much in the midpoint of the expedition, It’s very easy to loose focus or maybe become a PoleDancer.

My best wishes from Mallorca for you two.

# torsten richter, December 24th 2013

Hi guys!

You are doing a great trip and Scott would certainly proud of you. I wish you good luck and Merry Christmas and hold on!
Greetings from Germany

# Steve Jones, December 24th 2013

Ben and Tarka
Best wishes for Christmas, I hope you have a few minutes to celebrate and enjoy the day. I’m delighted to see how good your progress is, you are doing really big miles and from what you have said in the blog, I don’t think the outward journey could have gone any better.

A bit of context for other readers - your recent days average distance if transferred to the more travelled route from Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf to the South Pole would have got you to the Pole on 33 days, which would be the second fastest time ever on that route. Having maintained your progress and hours for 60 days this is nothing short of very impressive.

Best wishes from England, we’ll be raising a glass and thinking of you and your loved ones tomorrow.

# Ian Webb, December 24th 2013

Ben and Tarka

I have watched your progress with a fascination bordering on envy, not just over the past 60 days, but in the case of Ben over many years of planning. As I sit on my Aeron chair on the last day in the office for this year, I can only imagine (with some insight thanks to your blogs) what you are going through. I wish you both best wishes for Christmas day and the rest of your journey. I look forward to catching up on your blogs in a few days time.


# George Chapman, December 24th 2013

Great job guys. Wishing the both of you and the Support Team a Merry Christmas. Will celebrate with you in a few days at the Pole. Take care and stay warm.

# Perran, December 24th 2013

What wonderful progress and descriptions. I can imagine that the Pole will be a rude shock and something you will want to get away from quickly.
I too missed the Christmas Card deadline but send my very best wishers to you both.
I’m also so glad your technology is working well for you Ben.

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