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.

Thermal Imagining (Day 31)

Day 31: S81° 29' 42.18", E168° 58' 29.7"

Duration: 8 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 14.1 Mi

Distance to go: 1515.9 Mi

Temperature: -11 °C

Wind chill: -21 °C

Altitude: 151 Ft

Another rubbish day on the weather front (strong headwinds all day, loads of spindrift, a lot of cloud) though the sun stayed around this time and we had a clear view of the mountains all day, which lifted what otherwise would have been a pretty miserable day. We'd aimed to do nine hours but the going was so slow and the surface so poor for the first three hours that we called it a day after eight and a half.

We left a depot yesterday, and both had a wash and a change of thermal underwear (before leaving our dirty clothes with the depot to collect on our return) which was a bit of a treat. We each have one more clean set -a long-sleeved top, leggings and boxer shorts - to last us until we get home, so we'll change again in a month or so! The bath consisted of taking it in turns to use the porch of the tent to strip off, have a scrub with some snow and/or antiseptic gel and put the now clothes on.

I prescribed myself a course of antibiotics last night as my stomach still wasn't right, and I'm already feeling far better (yay science and medicine!) I was thinking a bit today about remarkable it is that Tarka and I, essentially two very slow-walking pouches of warm blood, can exist out here for months at a time in the coldest of cold places, with only the equipment and food we're pulling along with us.

I went for an emergency, er, bathroom break as Tarka made breakfast this morning, and wearing only my boots, my thermals and a fleece the windchill felt truly malevolent, like it was stripping my body's warmth away with every passing second and wouldn't stop until I was the same temperature as the millions of acres of snow and ice that surround us. Yet with a few different bits of clothing, we can trundle along all day in some form of relative comfort, and at least without any digits falling off.

I think I've said this on a previous expedition, but out here I'm acutely conscious of my own heat, and of having to shepherd and protect it against nature. I often think of us as two tiny pinpricks of thermal red in a giant expanse of deep-cold blue, inching our way across its surface. The feeling of self-reliance and self-sufficiency is strangely satisfying, yet of course compared to Scott, Shackleton, Amundsen et al, we're soft.

There's no risk of scurvy and we're constantly swaddled by an electronic safety blanket. Right now, in the corner pocket of our tent, I can see the reassuring LED blink of our always-on satellite tracker, and there are ski-equipped aeroplanes that can reach us if we need help. I can't begin to imagine what it must have felt like to travel here a century ago. Clothed in canvas and wool, sleeping in reindeer skin bags, they may as well have been on the surface of Pluto.


# David, November 25th 2013

Brilliant!  Loving these eloquent reports. Power on!

# John Brain, November 25th 2013

Excellent and informative blog today. We got to hear that a depot had been laid. And your comparisons with Scott were very telling. Glad that at last the western mountains are at last in view. They will of course become a little nearer each day. Hope you stay healthy Ben.

# Janet Stanley, November 25th 2013

Good to see the mountains ...great marker & more interesting! Wonderful stuff! Stay safe :)

# Richard Pierce, November 25th 2013


Your best post yet, in language and content.

It’s absolutely right and appropriate that you place yourselves in the contexts of cold continent and history, and I applaud you for doing so. What tends to get lost in the all too heated debates about Scott and Amundsen et al is that anyone in the Antarctic over a hundred years ago was indubitably brave and heroic. We modern travellers, although still in danger, are really nothing more than tourists, with all the safety blankets you mention. Personaly, I wish argument would cease, with all its bad-temperedness, and the debate continue about brave men (and their equally brave women at home), and the progress they made in the interests of exploration, science and dignity.


# Chris, November 25th 2013

Wonderful to read again, and your progress is very encouraging - keep it up!  In your defence regarding your comparisons with Scott (which are of course very natural), he had ponies up to the Beardmore (and some help from dogs) whereas you are manhauling all the way.  There is nothing to take away from what you are achieving though, it is immense.

# moshe, November 25th 2013

Must be a challenge setting up camp every day. how long does it take you?

# CaninesCashews, November 25th 2013

Hi guys,
Great blog today Ben - don’t beat yourself up over half an hour missed - do what you can when you can :-)
Your lack of underwear changes will only make you a bigger hero to my 7 year old son, who is already following the tracker every day!!

Oh and a joke for you…
What do you get from sitting on the ice too long?

Stay safe.

# Mary, November 25th 2013

Nice post- perfectly written.
Stay Safe.

# Philip, November 25th 2013

I follow you two since the day 1. Thanks to Intel for the pub that they’ve done on your expedition. I envy you a bit. This is a one of a kind mission that you embarked on ! The only point I don’t envy is the 1 month in the same underwear. On the weather point though, I live in Quebec Canada and its right now colder than Antarctica ( -14 with -17 humidex, don’t know the windchill on top of it ). I can’t believe how hot it is, at first as I was expecting to see -40C to -50c all the time down there. Are you just lucky or these normal temperatures ??

# Richard Pierce, November 25th 2013


It’s coming up to summer in the Antarctic, hence the relatively high temperatures. I should add that the less cold it is, the more difficult the going can be, because the snow consistency becomes a touch sticky above a certain level.


# Roy Foreman, November 25th 2013

Fully agree with Mary and all the others a perfect post. last night in north wales (rhos on sea we had a temp of -1 degs. but of on holiday to new zealand on 10th of Dec. but following you pair on your adventure every day. stay safe.

# Anthony Goddard, November 25th 2013

-9C temp and -17C wind chill here in Woods Hole last night! The last thing I was thinking about doing was going outside, let alone changing my underwear out there.
Here’s a pledge - If any day is colder here than there, I’m heading out into it to bath with snow and change my underwear (and then retreating to sit by the fire!). Keep up the awesome work!

# Tron, November 25th 2013

It would be fun if the supportive staff placed the sites of the depots on the tracking map.
Also possible future post name: Ain’t no party like a pony party (Day 32)

Keep up the good work boys!

# Andrea, November 25th 2013

Brilliant, brilliant, mind-blowing (so much warmer than the wind :) thoughtful post. This is what an adventure journal should be.
Thank you for sharing with us, Ben, stay healthy and keep on.
Best wishes to you and Tarka.

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