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.

Wishing the Days Away (Day 77)

Day 77: S86° 30' 8.4", E159° 37' 7.8"

Duration: 9 Hr

Daily distance: 21.6 Mi

Distance to go: 656.6 Mi

Temperature: -22 °C

Wind chill: -34 °C

Altitude: 9295 Ft

"Never in my life have I wished days away like this", Tarka shouted over to me as we sat on our sleds at our second break today. We generally shout to each other at break times as, although we sit barely a metre apart, we're usually being blasted by the wind and we're also wearing little in-the-ear headphones which, with our music turned off, seem to amplify chewing, crunching and swallowing noises to an extraordinary level. I know what he means, and I'm happy that today seemed to fly by for me as I strung together daydreams; snippets of happy memories mixed with plans for the future, seen as short, imaginary film clips that I tend to revisit and embellish, or occasionally as actual to-do lists that I'll try to remember to write down in my little Field Notes diary in the tent in the evening. 

I meant to say yesterday that we'd lost our old tracks, erased by wind and snowfall, so we're back to navigating on a bearing now. The person in the lead (we swap every 45 minutes and now travel for six 90-minute sessions per day with five breaks of 10-15 minutes) takes compass bearings on memorable-looking bits of snow and skis towards them, and the person behind follows in their tracks. We've both found that we prefer to navigate in silence and to follow with music on.

It was warmer today and we suffered less as a result, though I think it would be a rare day indeed on this giant, deep-frozen plateau that anyone would describe as pleasant. We worked hard for nine hours, and were both mildly disappointed to see we hadn't racked up more miles for our slog, though we had a couple of uphill stretches that slowed us down enormously, and we're back to the region that Andy described as "moguls" when we came through it in the other direction; countless troughs and valleys, though at least we're generally descending now we're heading north, and we dropped about 80 metres today.

One unfortunate side-effect of the lack of scenery and visual stimulus is that we once again forgot to take any photographs today, so Tarka poked his camera out of the door and snapped the attached, which won't win any composition awards, but is representative of our view for 12 hours per day, minus the dug-up patch where he mined our drinking water for this evening.


# Barbara in Clinton, CT, USA, January 10th 2014

Dear Ben and Tarka,
#Wonderwoman speaks the truth as does Alison.  For every comment you read there are thousands of us, silent ones, waiting for those reassuring photos, hanging on your every word, walking the steps with you, spreading the word of the history you are making, praying in a loud voice and whispering together.  May our collective whispers be the warm breath of wind at your back to speed and ease your journey home.

# Rebecca, January 10th 2014

I don’t know how often you get to actually read the comments here, but I hope you know (as others have said) that there are a lot of us here, mentally walking the steps with you, willing you along, wishing you the best, grateful that you have energy at the end of the day to write your words. I wish we could all take turns to tug those sleds for you, even for just a few miles. I couldn’t wait for you to get up on the plateau a month ago; now we’re all anxious for you to get down safely and to find easier (we hope) going. Take care, you two. We’re with you all the way…

# Anthea Henton, January 10th 2014

What do we write to you?
You guys are pushing to limits of your minds and physical abilities. I often feel anything I write to you will fall short or sound trite.
I have no physical or spiritual advice to give you, I have no psychological mentoring words of wisdom. As an individual my words will never spark eureka moments in your heads as you travel onwards.
Yet as watchers we seem to have formed as #Richard Pierce says “a collective consciousness willing you on.” People who will never meet, united by you, what an extraordinary achievement, did you expect this? We all tune in to read how you are, no longer voyeurs passively examining your progress but humans emotionally involved and inspired. Taking stock of our own existence and goals, wondering what we are made of.
Last year I lost the use of my legs, it was hard work getting back up again, but I made it to my dear friends wedding, to walk tall with her into her fairy-tale wedding. Again I must face surgery,
at first I felt like giving up, slobbing out.. but in all seriousness - reading your blog has made me start thinking. I wonder if I can challenge myself to be more.. to not only recover but to do more: complete an assault course; walk a mountain route. For this I thank-you (well maybe not during the throws of it.. I’ll probably curse you then lol :)

# Richard Pierce, January 10th 2014

Dear Anthea,

You sound like an extraordinarily strong person already, and I wish you much luck with your surgery, your recovery, and the multitude of assault courses you will decimate.



# Allison, January 10th 2014

Anthea, well put. I often wonder what to write by means of encouragement. I wait eagerly every morning to read the latest blog. (I was away this morning so missed until now 1950). We do all read in awe of this fantastic journey and we are all part of this history in the making. I have met Ben and know his Mum, she is so proud of him. Both he and Tarka are stretching themselves to limits we will never know. If this journey can inspire you to stretch yourself to your own private limits that is wonderful. Perhaps you should write about your own journey and inspire others.
Kind regards

# Helena, January 10th 2014

To Anthea and Alison: thank you both for nice words, ladies. Human being is an unbelievable depository of the will, strength and compassion. When it comes to the difficult it can literally move mountains, which can be seen here.

# Kat, January 10th 2014

I think I just got a window on what you’re dealing with out there. 

I looked at the posted photo today and stared hard.  There, on a the horizon, a speck…a tent?  A dropped glove?  I looked closer. No.  Just a speck of dust on my screen.  It’s gone now.  ;-)

# dj, January 10th 2014


# bee, January 10th 2014

Each day still starts for me with coffee and a check to see your progress.
On days when I have difficulty moving forward, the thought of you two
pushing yourselves to the limit inspires me to carry on.
You have touched more people than you can possibly imagine I’m sure.
Stay well and safe, may the wind continue to be at your back.
Here’s to a safe descent down the Beardmore.

# CaninesCashews, January 10th 2014

Hi Guys,

Another day another lump of the mileage gone, cracking on!

It’s funny you say that about your in ear headphones, I don’t know what causes that phenomena but I experience it myself every day when I wear mine. More than a little disconcerting on a back road in S.E. London, so I can’t imagine what it’s like in your icy ‘home from home’. 

You say about your lack of old tracks, I wonder if that somehow makes it better – occupying your minds with navigating instead of the monotony of watching your tracks disappear ahead of you into the horizon.

One question, occurring to me after your comment about today’s pic – do you know roughly how many photos you have taken so far? I seem to be able to take 300 at a day out in Greenwich Park, but I’m not skiing 1800 miles in sub-zero temps with the threat of frostbite! Apart from that probably only about 40 of those are any good 

Bring on the Beardmore.

Stay safe.

# tg, January 10th 2014

How you feeling tarka and ben I’m feel sorry for you

# Intrepid, January 10th 2014

Ben - How did the glue work? Are the runners ready for Beardmore?

# Christian , January 10th 2014

Ben, Tarka, reading your last posts I was thinking about what to send you to bring you some other thoughts. Unfortunately, I am not good in English jokes and German jokes you won’t understand but one thought should find its way into your tent :-)
Simply try to imagine how crowded your tent would be if everybody of us (your followers) would come along for a visit ;-) If you have this picture in mind then go one step further and just think about the moment and your feelings, after the last guest has left your temporary home. You would be so happy to have your “home” back just for you both.
Stay safe, keep warm and stay focussed and concentrated. We are with you! Best regards from Berlin, Germany

# Jan, January 11th 2014

Dear Ben, dear Tarka,

I am not sure if this is obvious to you out there in the cold, in the wind, with heavy limbs and breath that is freezing to your beards: you are providing a great service to all of us out here in our heated homes, surrounded by the unnoticed luxuries of civilized life.

As the sole humans in this incredible vastness, you become ambassadors for our species. Your strength is representing our strength, you resourcefulness is our creativity, and your willpower is our willpower—as a species. You represent all of us.

As two of the few humans to have ever pushed so far and so hard, you advance the very definition of what it means to be human. You expand the horizons of what we can hope to achieve, to endure, and to master.

So when you put your weight against the sleds, when you bite off a piece of the whiteness one step at a time, you turn a piece challenge into a piece of achievement. Your achievement as explorers, your achievement as a team, your achievement as ambassadors, and our achievement as a species.

This is why it has to be so hard: humans have been pushing this limit for a very long time and in order to open new horizons, the deeds have to be ever bolder, harder, and more unbelievable. Everest. Moon landing. South pole on foot.

You inspire us by showing us possibilities we did not think we had, by giving us dreams that few of us dared dream.

And the best: through your writing and communications, you are beaming us live into the heart of the chhallenge, you make us know what it means to propel the very edge of what it means to be human step by step, day by day, ration by ration, pee bottle by pee bottle. You make all of us proud.

Best of luck!

# Kiwawa, January 11th 2014

OOh Tarka. Just think of how appreiciative you will feel when all the wonderful things that are part of your normal life come back in to your brain processes. Your wonderful life, wonderful wife, wonderful dog, wonderful world. It will be so good, this long journey will seem like a lifetime away. Be strong, keep your toes warm, and keep dreaming. On such a blank canvas surrounding you I would imagine the brain capable of creating some type of colourful visual hallucinations just for brain stimulation sake? Have you seen anything out of the ordinary and kept it to yourself? A camel perhaps? Love you xxxx

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