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.

Toiling Upward in the Night (Day 58)

Day 58: S88° 23' 52.73", E158° 53' 51.36"

Duration: 9 Hr 15 Min

Daily distance: 22.7 Mi

Distance to go: 1013.8 Mi

Temperature: -25 °C

Wind chill: -44 °C

Altitude: 10236 Ft

Another big (and record distance) day, but alas a hasty update from me as it's late late late and I'm on snow-melting duty at the kitchen end of the tent. It was chilly when we woke up (-44 degrees C. windchill, it turned out) which never makes either of us want to leap out of our sleeping bags with joy, and we set off into horrible conditions, with a biting wind and complete cloud cover.

We could still see where we were going, so it wasn't a complete whiteout, but more like skiing through the kind of mist you might imagine rolling in off the marshes in a Dickens novel, or hanging around Dartmoor prison on a dismal winter's day. The surface was perhaps the worst we've had so far, certainly on the plateau, with acres and acres of sastrugi (hard, wind-blown ridges in the snow, like frozen waves on a choppy sea) all covered in deep, fresh, sticky snow.

We pushed all day as hard as we could, and went for a fraction over nine hours in the end, though the day was longer as we had to swap bits of clothing as the sun came out and the wind died down, and again when the cloud rolled in again and it got cooler later in the day. We're both tired but well enough, considering we're doing nearly a marathon per day.

Interestingly we're both showing the early signs of snow-blindness, which is a first for me (but perhaps a rite of passage, and a little taste of something Scott's men suffered terribly from). We're wearing goggles all day long up here as it's too windy for sunglasses, though the goggle lenses aren't quite as dark as our full-on glacier glasses, and it appears they're not quite up to dealing with the incredible glare we're getting high up on this giant icecap. Don't panic mum, I won't actually go blind, but my eyes started getting sore in the tent last night, as if I'd been chopping onions, so we treated them with some drops before I went to sleep then partially taped up the lenses of our goggles today, which seems to have worked a treat as I'm pain-free as I type this.

Last up, I remembered a bit of a poem as we skied past 8 o'clock this evening, though I can't remember any more of it, or whose it is. Bonus points to anyone that can find the whole thing and paste it in the comments. My brother may have heard it at Ardmore too... "The heights of great men, reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night."


# Sheila England , December 22nd 2013

Almost there! That is a beautiful poem, and very appropriate. It’s shows in your heart, you realize you’re nearly there!
Keep safe.
Lots of love and good wishes to you.

# Kristoffer, December 22nd 2013

“We did not pass that spot without according our highest tribute of admiration to the man, who — together with his gallant companions — had planted his country’s flag so infinitely nearer to the goal than any of his precursors. Sir Ernest Shackleton’s name will always be written in the annals of Antarctic exploration in letters of fire. Pluck and grit can work wonders, and I know of no better example of this than what that man has accomplished.”
-Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, Vol. II, p. 114

# George Chapman, December 22nd 2013

It’s 2:00PM EST (12-22-13) and the team has only about 85 miles more to go and they will be at the Pole. I’m sure they can smell it from this distance. I sort of wonder if they will drop their sled and jog the final 100 yards, I would like to be there and see that. Wishing you guys the best on your final laps. Take care and stay warm.

# Phil Satoor, December 22nd 2013

Congratulations on the record day.  You say that it’s almost a marathon.  True, but the achievement must be greater as marathon runners aren’t pulling a sledgefull of gear in -25C!!

I have a question.  Was it ever considered in the planning stage to abandon the 24 hour day, as Cherry-Garrard, Wilson and Bowers did in their winter journey, as you have daylight all the time?

# Tony Scullion, December 22nd 2013

Way to go lads!!
What an incredible journey - my kids and I are with you every blog of the way :-D

As it’s approaching Christmas, here’s some Christmas cracker jokes:

Q: What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
A: Claustrophobic.

Q. What did Santa say to the smoker?
A. Please don’t smoke, it’s bad for my elf!

The 4 stages of life:

1. You believe in Santa Claus
2. You don’t believe in Santa Claus
3. You dress up as Santa Claus
4. You look like Santa Claus

Good luck lads, onwards and upwards!!

# Alastair Humphreys, December 22nd 2013

Good to see you’re reaching the ‘poetry phase’ of the trip.
Longfellow is a good stable for rousing stuff, but you can’t beat this Paratrooper’s Prayer (found on the body of a dead Para in WW2). Secular or believer, it’s bloody good for the tough times on journeys:

I bring this prayer to You, Lord,
For you alone can give
What one cannot demand from oneself.

Give me, Lord, what You have left over,
Give me what no one ever asks of You.

I don’t ask You for rest,
Or quiet,
Whether of soul or body;
I don’t ask You for wealth,
Nor for success, nor even health perhaps.

That sort of thing You get asked for so much
That You can’t have any of it left.

Give me, Lord, what You have left over,
Give me what no one wants from You.

I want insecurity, strife,
And I want You to give me these
Once and for all.

So that I can be sure of having them always,
Since I shall not always have the courage
To ask You for them.

Give me, Lord, what You have left over,
Give me what others want nothing to do with.

But give me courage, too,
And strength and faith;
For You alone can give
What one cannot demand from oneself.

# Intrepid, December 23rd 2013

Etymology of sastrugi - German (sastruga), from Russian dialect (Siberia) zastruga.

Dear Ben and Tarka,

Today I went hiking for the first time since my knee surgery. It was a joy to head uphill and be in the woods surrounded by (mostly) nature’s own sounds.  I was thinking of you guys while heading back down the trail. As the sun was setting the last rays of the day were falling into the forest. There was about 3 minutes of the most beautiful deep gold to walk through. It must be weird to not see sunsets.

Hoping the tape continues to keep your eyes okay, your miles are steady on, and the closeness the pole makes your whole body smile.

Onward Ho!

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