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.


# Helena, January 10th 2014

wow, I am first :-D No, you are :-)
Nice to hear from you today, can’t wait you are back and write a book about this journey :-)

# Richard Pierce, January 10th 2014

Oh, Ben, oh, Tarka,

How I wish I could bring some vivid colour into your colourless slog, some change into your unchanging scenery, to make your relentless efforts easier to bear. But anything I write or describe would be nothing more than words, nothing real for you to fix and rest your eyes on.

Just remember that this phase, too, will pass, that your minds will soon be fully absorbed with navigating through a river of blue ice, but a river leading you down to more air, less intense cold, and the home stretch. Yet even that will seem endless once the mountains have disappeared behind you, until you are almost at the edge of the Barrier, and the islands come into sight, and you only have a few more steps to go.

I’m sorry I can’t offer more solace than virtual encouragement. This is your quest, to become a part of the frozen continent as much as conquer it, to become part of each other as much as fight each other, to delve deeply into your souls as much as letting those souls roam freely through the cold storms while your bodies drag themselves nearer to your ultimate goal.

There are many of us thinking of you, even if not many leave comments when your days are uneventful, though unremittingly harsh. Let our collective consciousness guide you and help you.

God Speed.


# Offroading Home, January 10th 2014

Richard… for the first time the whole expedition I was still awake and up to watch their morning “blog post bubble” appear on the Google Earth map - I hadn’t gotten to bed yet. As I was typing my comment (to be the first) I saw first one then your comment appear!  I thought that I was slower because I like to proofread and spell-check; but, at 1:30 am (GMT-7) I guess my mind doesn’t work too swiftly. You, on the other hand, seem to be wide-awake and bushy tail (being on the other side of the pond and just arising) at GMT.  I gave up then; but, figure now I’d post a reply after their full day of travel - from a Geo-techno-nerd’s viewpoint (and all this time I just thought I was a scientist).

I can see that their forward motion stopped at 1:22 MST, showing 12 hours of forward motion before beginning the usual “station keeping” variability in their transmitted GPS points. Parenthetically, I nearly always show 11 or 12 hours of motion in spite of them only taking credit for 8 or 9 hours.  (I guess they don’t like to count break times and there might be partial hours at beginning and end.)

Today is the first day that they have passed two former campsites in one day (50 and 51) which leaves them but 10 miles to go before they’re below the 86th degree of latitude. The MODIS satellite images shows that today they traveled through an area of “HIGHer relief” than they endured yesterday but tomorrow will be much more smooth.  That can possibly prepare them for two days of the most difficult “relief” as they ‘climb up’ onto the head of the Beardmore and more food and supplies.

However, once they get down the Beardmore, with any luck, the most difficult terrain will all be behind them (according to the satellite.)  I too, anxiously await their morning post to see how THEY have seen their day going.

# Richard Pierce, January 10th 2014

Good to hear from you, offroading. Are you using Google Earth for your tracking or something else? I gave up keeping up with new technology about 10 years ago.

I am going to be on tenterhooks until they get down the Beardore. It’s the most dangerous part of the undertaking (I always think coming down something is infinitely more dangerous than going up).

I only appear bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the mornings to people who don’t have to live with me, but thank you for the compliment.

Fingers crossed for the boys.


# Helena, January 10th 2014

A dog walks into a job centre, goes up to the woman at the desk and says, ‘Good afternoon, miss. I’m looking for work.’
The woman looks up, amazed, and says, ‘Good heavens, a talking dog! Er… well, let’s try the circus in town. I’ll give them a ring.’
The dog says, ‘The circus? What on earth would the circus do with a computer programmer?’

# Sue (and Noodle ), January 10th 2014

Oh to flee and be as free as you to do the things , but we are trapped in a cage no page can tell of a meaningless exsistence.Far away we would stray, to paths never ending.Oh to chose to be as free.

# Richard Pierce, January 10th 2014


You’re obviously much younger than me. The version I heard when I was on the dole in 1982 went something like this:

This pig walks into the job centre, and there;s a massive queue. So the pig waits and waits until he gets to the front of the queue. When he finally gets to the window, he says to the guy behind the counter “Have you got any jobs?”

The guy says “I’ve got just the thing for you. There’s a circus in town and they’re looking for a talking pig.”

“That’s no good,” says the pig. “I’m a plumber.”


# Helena, January 10th 2014

To Richard:  oh, a Pig_Plumber, sounds great, it reminds me I would need one, hmm (a plumber).
But isn’t it terrible how the talking animals are handled? Can’t believe it! !


# Richard Pierce, January 10th 2014



# dj, January 10th 2014

Richard, I agree with you.  Helena’s version is just too unbelievable.  A talking dog or pig I can believe - but a computer programmer at a job center? Completely fanciful!  Lawyers and doctors yes - but not a computer programmer these days!

# Bryce, January 10th 2014

I have no idea what it is like to be in your shoes but the thought came to me .... You could be looking at the barren landscape of a desk and computer screen day after day, like so many people across the world.  To Tarka - I have reflected on your analogy of video compression many times since I read your post. It is one of the best explanations I have encountered. Thank you!

# Lydia , January 10th 2014

Weather Conditions
Morning B&T I just got off the phone with a friend who lives in Regina ,​ Saskatchewan.
She said that since early this morning the snow has been nearly waist high and is still falling. The temperature is 32 below zero and the north wind is increasing to near gale force. Wind chill is -59. Her husband has done nothing but look through the kitchen window and just stare.
She says that if it gets much worse, she may have to let him back in.
Well it made me chuckle!!
I hope Tarka was warmer today, that the calories are sticking to your ribs and my silly joke brought a smile to your faces.
Lydia x

# Mal Owen, January 10th 2014

Well it brought more than a smile to mine so I’m sure it’s got a chance with B & T :-)

# dj, January 10th 2014

Watching your track’s and comparing them with the MODIS satellite overlay. It’s interesting to here you actually give a correlation to all the bumps and troughs we see.  Not easy to avoid some of them as they extend for 2 or three miles to each side.  Just keep telling yourself that after this stretch it’ll just get easier every day.

# Triin, January 10th 2014

Really great to read you blog from here, Estonia. Just wish we would have part of this cold and snow you are having :)
Waiting for you next blog post!

# wonderwoman, January 10th 2014

You can do it. We all know it. Behind every step you take, there is a thousand people whispering: you can do it. We send you love from Finland - under a snow storm today - and pray for you.

# Damian, January 10th 2014

Keep it up chaps!

# Alison Lowndes, January 10th 2014

How sweet that you honestly think we’ll be bored of seeing these photos. Monotonous to you, Ben, but packed with inspiration for us. Thank YOU. X

# Jon G, January 10th 2014

Just walked past the Scott museum in Cambridge on a crisp sunny morning. Hang in there: for them, for yourselves and for those who will come after you.

# Andrea, January 10th 2014

The endeavour intrinsic to this Scott’s expedition, is intrinsic to the South Pole calotte; is of the nature of the calotte’s plateau, as the inherent flatness of plane surface comes from it being the single bottom pole of an of less density matter’s cloud colapsing physical interactions witch exceeded the necessities for a star.

# Intrepid, January 10th 2014

A child at a Christian school was studying the early days of Mormonism in
his class. He wrote on his paper,“The early Mormons believed in having more than one wife. This is called polygamy. But we believe in having only one wife. This is called monotony.”

Dear Brave Ones,

There’s only one way to get off the plateau, and to that end, you are doing it.

I have a question about Day 76. It looks like you popped the fly up to fix the runners. In the photo are a pair of boots, yet the ground is not covered (it’s snow). What are you wearing on your feet?

Here’s to hoping your music, mileage, and monotony go well today.


# Helena, January 10th 2014


# Intrepid, January 10th 2014

I don’t know… spare mittens?

# 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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