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.


# Roly Oliver, November 25th 2013

Why is the latitude not advancing much. Will it eventually reach up to 0 degrees??

# John Brain, November 25th 2013

Roly. The latitude is advancing as expected. Remember 1 degree = approximately 60 mls. So at the current rate it will take 4 days to progress 1 degree until the Pole is reached at 90 degrees. As the journey progresses, expect longitude to vary much more, as all lines of longitude converge at the pole, the distance between them progressively reducing.

# Kristoffer, November 25th 2013

John Brain, 1 degree = approximately 60 geographical miles, the expedition is using statute miles.

# offroading home, November 25th 2013

Geographical Mile: a former British unit of length equivalent to 6,080 feet (1,853.184 meters); 800 feet longer than a statute mile; see Nautical Mile.

Approximate lengths for one degree: 69.59 statute miles, 60.47 nautical miles, 111.99 kilometers, 65,805.75 Smoots.

# John Brain, November 25th 2013

Thank you Kristoffer. I realised my error almost as soon as I clicked ‘submit’. I think that makes it that at the current rate of progress, one degree of latitude is covered in about 5 days, rather than 4.

# Nora Wolfe, November 25th 2013

Polaroids!!!!  LOLOLOL

# Willie, November 25th 2013

Ben and Tarka, awesome guys, great mileage, and a great distance in rubbish conditions.  Noticed you had a wall around the windward side of the tent and that you mentioned you had changed your underwear.  That reminds me of an old Royal Marines joke when on “hard” routines, you throw your underwear at a wall, if they stick, you change; if they drop, you put them back on!!!!!! The final option is Commando !!!!!!!!  Hoofing.  Willie

# Nick, November 25th 2013

Thanks for sharing your journey with us all, I am in awe of those like you who can even contemplate a journey of this magnitude ,

# dj, November 25th 2013

On the diarrhea front - it is very rare to contract the kind of gastroenteritis that responds to antibiotics because: A) it is quite unusual to be caused by a bacteria (especially one that can survive sub-zero); and, 2) some antibiotics actually prolong it and make it worse. In your situation the causes which would respond to antibiotics would be Salmonella, Shigella and E Coli - which, being bad enough to last this long, would have caused fever, significant weakness and most certainly would NOT have responded overnight! In your specific case its cause is almost positively either viral or dietary in which case: it was already improving (it nearly always takes 3 -5 days unless antibiotics are used where it can take up to 1 - 2 months), antibiotics wont help and your “improvement” was entirely coincidental.  If, as you seem to assume, there was improvement due to antibiotics you need to contact your food suppliers for there could be another contamination in your stores (where else could you have got it from?)

Here’s hoping that your affliction was dietary, you over-reacted with antibiotics AND the antibiotics don’t prolong your course. [You know the thought occurs to me, have you considered using your sat-phone to call the doctors over at Everest Base Camp - I’m sure they’d be most willing to help out an expedition like this. And isn’t there a doc over at McMurdo or Pole stations? You’re not alone in this you know.]

# Scott Expedition Team, November 25th 2013

Thank you DJ. Ben sought professional medical advice from our expedition doctor who advised him on the best steps to take.

# dj, November 25th 2013

Thanks “team” - if that is true, very surprised by the advice. I guess Ben was mistaken when he wrote “I prescribed myself” in the blog.

# Christian, November 25th 2013

Hi Tarka, Hi Ben,
It is unbelievable how you are fascinating people all over the world. Young and old people are waiting for your updates daily. Part of them before going to bed others right after getting up in the morning. I decided to close my working days with your report - good motivation I can tell.
But beside this I want to thank you Ben for describing your experiences in a way that everybody can follow and could close his/her eyes and could see the scenery you see.
And now it is time to give something back to you. Yesterday, I had the luck to see a complete rainbow in all its colors. In that moment I knew that I have to send you this narrative picture. Just to give you a good memory for your day dreams in the whiteout. Stay save and motivated. Winterly regards from Berlin in good old Germany, Christian

# ale, November 25th 2013

to Ben and Tarka,
I’m an ordinary person, spending 8h/day in a office… reading your blog I can follow an adventure over the dreamable!!!
I know I would never be able to do such an incredible journey so my respect for you gets even bigger even considering you take time to send words telling what’s going on. I am so sorry I don’t know english in such a way to be able to send you nice jokes that might amuse you while getting the sledges a bunch of miles further each day in such a “nice” weather.
keep going keep writing and i will keep on reading! :-)

# George Chapman, November 25th 2013

Good to see the weather is getting warmer for you. -11C sounds a lot better then -52. here in Florida people think it’s cold when it gets below 60ºF. Hoping your feeling better soon it’s never nice being sick.
I have a question. What exactly is a depot? You mentioned changing clothes and taking a wash. Is a depot some sort of inside facility. Are there people stationed at a depot? Is this above or below ground?
Take care of yourselves and stay warm. Thanks for all the updates, photos and videos.

Following you on FB and Google Earth from sunny Central Florida U.S.A. Todays temperature 74ºF at 3:40 PM EST.

To see a live cam from McMurdo Station
Click here:

# Sheila England , November 25th 2013

I cannot begin to imagine what that wind chill was like, esp. while going to the bathroom. My god!
But when you gotta go…..
It is comforting knowing you have those safety nets, but still, you two are incredibly crazy and wonderfully brave. With all the complaining, you’d do it all again. I do envy you, but it’s so great we can follow you along.
Take care,

# Rebecca, November 25th 2013

I agree with everyone else, a beautiful post and we’re all so grateful that you’re able to share your experience with us. We may not be there in body, but we’re there in spirit, following every mile, every depot, every storm, and rooting for you all the way!

# Ann, November 25th 2013

Love the blog!  Ben, I am sorry about your tummy troubles, and glad that you are feeling better.  Those sorts of things are bad enough in normal circumstances, but dealing with it when you are literally freezing your butt off must be truly awful.  Just think, when you are back and someone starts complaining that they are freezing their butt off because it is so cold, you can interject, “Well, let me tell you about that…” Anyway, your stoicism, strength, resiliency and sense of humor are really showing through.  Keep it up.  We are all pulling with you.

# Dave Collinson, November 26th 2013

I can only think that in quiet moments with their thoughts, Scott ,Shackleton, Mawson and Co on their various trecks must have been terrified and no suprise really , no back up etc . It was a glorified suicide mission.

On happier note , keep at it , I am green with envy I always wanted to do it, never had the bottle or opportunity at 60 it’s a bit late now. Wish I was there, mind not with (I ‘ll be polite, a dodgy tummy) at -21 degrees.

I have read a lot about the wind chill , it obviously makes a huge difference , good luck keep plugging on! At least you don’t have to relay, that must have been soul destroying.

Commenting is not available for this entry.