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.

Wax On, Wax Off (Day 26)

Day 26: S80° 26' 53.04", E168° 44' 47.34"

Duration: 8 Hr

Daily distance: 13.8 Mi

Distance to go: 1588.3 Mi

Temperature: -17 °C

Wind chill: -24 °C

Altitude: 172 Ft

A short update this evening as I'm busy patching and sewing up a hole I managed to make in my down jacket. Our mileage is creeping up and we made 13.7 miles today, which is roughly our third half-marathon three days in a row.  

Conditions were kind to us today, the surface was relatively good, the sun stayed out all day, it wasn't too cold (or too hot) and the docile wind stayed either behind us or on our right. I was marvelling this afternoon at the human body's capacity for endurance and recovery, and at how little use most of us get from the incredible organisms we all inhabit; how few locomotive miles we clock up with our enormously capable metabolisms and musculature.

Having said that, Tarka pointed out over dinner this evening (freeze-dried Kung Po chicken, and extraordinarily good it was too) that I now have a substantial number of grey beard hairs, so perhaps this trip is taking more of a toll than I'd thought!

You'll be glad to hear that Tarka is drafting his first special guest star blog post and it'll be up in the next few days. The photo is of the man himself applying fluoride wax to the base of our 'fat' skis. We have two pairs each. Fat - which have full-length, full-width skins for traction with heavy sleds; and skinny - with shorter, narrower skins for lighter sleds and faster travel. We'll switch to the skinnies in the next week or so, and once we're happy with them, we'll cut down our fat skins to match.


# Richard Pierce, November 20th 2013

Cool. Excellent progress and really motoring now. Keep going. Bet when you swap to the skinnies you’ll progress even more quickly. R

# Joe, November 20th 2013

Great to hear we will hear from Tarka today, I noticed on a reply yesterday you have said you won’t be updating sledge weights throughout the Exped - its a shame as this was such a big part of your pre exped blogging ? Its interesting to us following to understand the conditions and the exact detail - and I understood we would be ‘involved ’ in that part of the trip it being live? The other reply confused me even more. In the first blog ( Antarctic Arrival) we were told the guys were dropped 32km from their start point at the airfield (inland) - and that they had to walk back to the start. Ben later confirmed they left their kit at the airfield and went back to Scotts Hut ( start point) with very little kit - and then collected the bulk - which was on route - once they had started - he indicated this was why they did such good distance on day 1 and the progress dropped after they collected the full sledges ?

# Alastair Humphreys, November 20th 2013

Hi Joe,
It’s great to see people so fascinated by this expedition.
I’d just urge a modicum of appreciation of the trip:
it’s two blokes pulling a big sledge full of freeze-dried food and a tent. Every so often they dump a bag of food to eat on the way back. They mark where the spot is so they can find it. The weight of the sledge goes down each time they dump stuff. But I don’t think it really matters any more than that.
Their daily distances will vary, their energy will vary, their enthusiasm for detailed blogs will vary. It’s not NASA - microscopically detailed by very clever people - where every detail is mission critical. This is two smelly blokes who get excited if they find a morsel of yesterday’s dinner in their beard.
It is a journey about physical and mental challenge, historical comparison, beautiful landscapes, and adventure. The spreadsheets and the weighing scales are just a small part of making that happen.  Let’s try to remember that, and keep this “commenting community” positive, encouraging and upbeat.
Best Wishes,

# CaninesCashews, November 20th 2013

“This is two smelly blokes who get excited if they find a morsel of yesterday’s dinner in their beard.”

Love that.

# George Chapman, November 20th 2013

Alastair ,My thoughts exactly. I’m so grateful they are posting every day their adventure. I don’t need to know every little detail.

Following you on FB and Google Earth from sunny Central Florida U.S.A. Todays temperature 64ºF at 6:15 AM EST.

To see a live cam from McMurdo Station
Click here:

# Christian C, November 21st 2013

Here! Here! Al!

# CaninesCashews, November 20th 2013

Wow guys great stuff – fab mileage (again), and you busted through the 200 mile mark.
Kung Po chicken eh – you have managed to make me feel hungry at nine in the morning!
Thanks for the info about the skis.

Stay safe.

P.S. Have done another Etch to celebrate the 200 miles -

# CaninesCashews, November 20th 2013

Forgot to say love the Karate Kid reference - a true child of the eighties!

# kev, November 20th 2013

Kung Po chicken and references to the Karate Kid… cant wait to see a pic of “Ben san” doing the crane-kick at the pole :-)      Good luck fellas

# Deacon Patrick, November 20th 2013

Awesome, lads! All my grey came after I married. Of course, that was at 19, so my wife claims it’s correlational rather than causal. Grin. You’ve only gotten yours since knowing Tarka, right? Grin.

Beautiful to see you both enjoying the wondrous adventure. I imagine you both as wide-eyed kids on a vast snow day. You’ve got the Calvin and Hobbes sleds. Grin.

May God startle you with joy!

With abandon,

# JB, November 20th 2013

Great progress guys, lets hope you get faster and faster. I appreciate you don’t want to talk sledge weights for many reasons, but if I may hazard a guess based on my weights on a HI to SP trip in 2008. These are all assumptions - 125g of fuel per person per day and 1.1kg of food per person per day - based on 120 days and with my bad maths thats about 147kgs of food and fuel in total. The rest of the weight is your gear which you will take with you most of the way, I assume glacier equipment can be left near Shackleton Falls along with your last depot and spare skis and your ‘many’ fleeces and spare clothes. So your dash to the Pole and back should be very light, maybe even sharing a sledge ? Can you see yourselves pitching tent near the pole and making a real dash with super light bare essentials, risky but an option I’m sure.

So you’ve consumed about 33kgs of food and fuel and probably depot’ed about the same give or take. So based on 196kg starting sledge weight, you’ve got 130kgs left. You’ll probably never let us know.

I looked at the Shackleton Centenary expedition last night at their daily distances, and I appreciate they had different sledge weights as they were on a one-way ticket. But they made very good progress up the Beardmore considering they had bad crampons, were inexperienced and not as fit (only in comparison to yourselves) - from the granite pillars to the Ice falls looks like 9 days, with some amazing uphill distances across crevasses and blue ice.

So I think you look in great shape, and looking forward to your blogs when you have to put in 15 hour days, I think you’ll be as grumpy as hell but thats what its all about - if were easy we’d all be having a go.

Appreciate I have opened myself up for a multitude of heckling from the uber polar geeks who contribute to these comments, but hey hoy.

Loving your work guys.

# JB, November 20th 2013

What brand of packet food do you have or is it “custom’ like most things on your trip. I don’t believe you have any Drytech with you, as if you did I’m sure you didn’t select that really nasty one “Royal Thai’ made from the Wolf Fish OMG its truly foul, and would have you on double poo sessions to rid your system of it on a daily basis.

Have your body clocks aligned to allow vestibule no. 2s or are you still out on the ice baring it all?

# John M, November 20th 2013

do you guys take a spare ski? I know youve had trouble with them in the past?

looks like theres another youtube video up :)

# Joycey the main man Joyce, November 20th 2013

Now then boys. All looking great and following your progress with real interest. Do you have much time for entertainment? If so what does it consist of? Whatever you do Ben, don’t let Big T talk you through his collection of pressed flowers. I have heard it twice before and it is dull! Stay low, move fast. Peace.

# Mal Owen, November 20th 2013

Going great guns I see… :)
I too love the comment….“This is two smelly blokes who get excited if they find a morsel of yesterday’s dinner in their beard”

Less excited if they find beardmore grey tho !

# Tom, November 20th 2013

Well said Al

The point of the blogs is to give us the readers some tiny inclination as to what it might be like to be the dude hauling their ass for months through one of the most hostile environments on earth whilst not changing their pants much and eating food that looks like reheated poo every day. If we wanted to know what it was like to be the expedition manager, those of us in offices (which I guess is most of us) can fairly easily ALT-TAB back to our very own spreadsheets !

Meanwhile Ben and Tarka if we’re talking inspirational quotes, here’s one from a friend:
The hardest thing for me to do has always been to reconcile the profound significance and simultaneous futility of human existence, whilst still remaining sane. To this day I have found no better way to do this than to undertake expeditions. - Anon

# John Brain, November 20th 2013

Interesting to note that you are at 80 degrees 27 south. You will know that on 21 November 1911, Scott was at 80 degrees 35 south. But he started his journey several days later in the year than you two and was at his 17th camp, compared to your 26th. He was not yet man-hauling, of course. Scott arrived at the Pole on 17th January 1912, though was held up for 4 days by blizzards (Dec. 5-8). So when do you plan to arrive?

As ever, fascinating pictures and blogs. All power to your elbows!

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