Distance to go:
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 Route Explained (Part 1)
In 2008/09 I had the privilege of retracing Ernest Shackleton’s 920 mile pioneering route from his ‘Nimrod’ hut on Ross Island to the South Pole via the Beardmore glacier. The event was to celebrate the centenary of one of the greatest polar expeditions of the Heroic Age which opened up the heart of the Antarctic and ultimately showed Captain Scott the way to the point the world spins on – 90 degrees South.
I have kindly been invited to help describe to you just what Ben and Tarka's (and Captain Scott's) journey and route entails, the sights they will see, the difficulties they may face, the demands on their clothing, equipment and diet and the just what it will feel like to follow in the footsteps of polar giants.
Like all polar expeditions, both then and now, the hardest times are in the preparation; and I salute Ben for having raised the funds to set off on such an endeavour. I know just how long he has dreamt about this journey and the frictions he has overcome to get to this point. Five years ago, Robert Swan, this expedition’s co-patron was unfailingly kind to me in my own preparation and offered many words of advice but none was more simple and poignant than telling me that the only factors which halt polar expeditions are money and the weather. The money is raised – lets all pray for fine Antarctic summer weather, for it is that simple issue that will be at the forefront of Ben and Tarka’s minds as they play the waiting game in Punta Arenas waiting for the flight to Union glacier at the end of October.
Once on the Antarctic, they will then transfer to a DC3 or Twin Otter for the thousand mile flight to the area of the Ross Sea. The closing few hours of that flight will take them over vast crevasse fields on the Ross Ice Shelf, and within clear sight of White Island, Black Island, Mount Discovery and Mount Erebus. All of these features will have been just names on a map or passages in a diary for Ben and Tarka but what a thrill it will be to now see them from the windows of their small plane.
In contrast, the aerial view of McMurdo Base station will alarm them as four storey accommodation blocks, a bustling airport, runway and port facility for ocean-going tankers dominate the Sound. But as the plane begins to sweep over the frozen Ross Sea looking for a place to land their sharp eyes will pick up the sites of Scott’s Discovery hut at Hut Point, Shackleton’s Nimrod hut and finally their start point – Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans. When the skis of their plane finally touch down they will then know that their journey can now start.
Text and images by Henry Worsley.
This is the first of a six part series explaining the Ben and Tarka's route. Further posts will include 'Leaving the Ross Sea area', 'the early stages of the Ross Ice Shelf', 'Mount Hope and The Gateway','The Beardmore glacier' and 'The Polar Plateau'.