How far is the Scott Expedition?
1800 miles (2900 kilometres) – equivalent to just over 69 back-to-back marathons.
How long will it take?
The Scott Expedition is expected to take approximately 110 days. Ben and Tarka will return to the UK mid-late February 2014.
What are you wearing?
Ben and Tarka are wearing thermal underwear, a selection of inner base layers, wind-proof fleece-lined salopettes, and a custom-made windproof outer jacket made by Mountain Equipment. The number of inner layers they wear at any one time is determined by the weather (more if it’s colder, less when warmer) and they have a down jacket to wear over the top of everything when it’s particularly chilly in the morning, evening and during rest stops in between skiing sessions. For more info visit the Scott Expedition YouTube channel for a selection of videos on Ben and Tarka’s kit and clothing.
How do you change when your clothes when it’s so cold?
Not very often. Ben and Tarka have three changes of thermal underwear for the entire journey although they change their socks every night, rotating and drying them so their feet stay relatively healthy. When they do treat themselves with a change they do so in the warmth and comfort of their sleeping bags.
How do you prevent frostbite? Does it concern you?
Frostbite can be prevented through good clothing and equipment and by being diligent. It is important to respect and be aware of it. Ben and Tarka keep their faces covered a lot of the time using a mask called a Gorilla and avoid having bare hands outside. They use fleece gloves for fiddly tasks (for example, tying a knot or using a leatherman to tighten a screw) and big mittens over the top when skiing. To protect their feet they have big polar boots (Alfa North Pole Extreme Gix) with Intuition liners.
What do you eat?
Ben and Tarka consume almost 6000 calories a day. Their diet is a mixture of freeze-dried food, hot energy drinks, energy bars and a few treats including salami, nuts and Green & Blacks 85% dark chocolate. Watch this video for more: What's on the menu in Antarctica
What are your favourite dinners?
In Antarctica, either lamb stew, beef stew or chicken jalfrezi. In the ‘real’ world, ribeye steak.
What do you do with the empty packaging?
The used packaging is bagged and kept in the sled. Ben and Tarka will depot it when they lay their depots and collect it on the return journey. It will be flown out of Antarctica with Ben and Tarka at the end of the expedition.
Have you seen any animals?
Almost none. Ben and Tarka saw four seals in their first two days before they climbed away from the sea on to the Ross Ice Shelf. Once inland they’re unlikely to see any animals.
What does an average day look like for you in Antarctica?
Day lengths will vary but as a general rule Ben and Tarka are up early. On average they ski 9.5 hours a day. In the evening they melt snow for their freeze-dried food and hot energy drinks, eat, blog, send back pictures and/or video and catch up on much-needed rest.
How often do you stop to rest during the day?
As a general rule Ben and Tarka ski in 60 minute sessions with a 10 minute break in between each. The sessions break up the monotony of skiing by providing short-term goals and allow Ben and Tarka to take on regular food. Sessions and break lengths may vary depending on conditions.
Do you listen to any music or audiobooks to break up the monotony?
Ben listens to primarily electronic music when skiing. Tarka tends to listen to audiobooks.
Will you be using kites?
No. Ben and Tarka are walking unsupported on foot from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. Modern day traction kites can cover hundreds of miles in a day and using them would make this a very different expedition – more about speed than endurance.
How far do you need to travel each day to complete the expedition in 110 days?
Ben and Tarka’s plan is to start slow and speed-up as their sleds get progressively lighter. The first few weeks of the Scott Expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf and traversing the challenging Beardmore Glacier are likely to be the slowest parts of the journey. Average daily distance will change throughout.
Tell us a bit about your depots.
As Ben and Tarka are walking to the South Pole and back along exactly the same route it makes sense for them to depot food and fuel along the outward journey so they can ski from cache to cache with lighter sleds on the return. Each depot will be sealed in a drybag, buried and marked with a 1.5m carbon fibre pole (which is also tied in a drybag) with a black flag in the top. It’s then marked as a GPS waypoint, written in Ben’s diary as back up and relayed to the UK based expedition manager. Ben and Tarka are anticipating laying seven depots between the start point and the South Pole.
What happens if for any reason you can’t pick up your depots?
If, for whatever reason, Ben and Tarka are unable to pick up the depots on the return journey our expedition logistics provider have the coordinates and will pick them up using a Twin Otter ski plane. As a private expedition we need a permit to operate in Antarctica and part of the approval process is proving that we are leaving no waste, and that our journey will have no lasting environmental impact.
How do you wash?
Infrequently! Ben and Tarka have a small bottle of alcohol hand wash gel that they use occasionally. They can wash outside in the snow on warmer days.
How do you go to the loo? Is there a risk of frostbite?
As quickly as possible! There’s no risk of frostbite if you’re quick about going about your business.
Will you see anyone else on your journey – for example researchers or scientists?
Ben and Tarka saw a lot of people when they landed at McMurdo – mainly researchers and scientists working at the bases in the area. It is unlikely that they’ll see anyone else on their journey though other than at the South Pole where there’s a base.
What do you do if there’s an incident on the ice?
Ben and Tarka have a comprehensive first aid kit which they can use to solve most issues and injuries. If for whatever reason they require an evacuation it would be carried out by our logistics provider, ALE.
What’s the temperature in the tent?
The temperature in the tent varies enormously. It reached +12C in the first week of the expedition but goes down to at least -20C while Ben and Tarka are asleep.
What’s it like at night?
It’s currently 24-hour daylight (during Antarctica’s summer) so it’s very bright at night. Ben and Tarka have eye masks to counteract the light. Depending on the weather it can also be extremely windy (and noisy – rumbling, flapping and hissing) during a storm. They both have ear-plugs if needed.
Do you build a wall around your tent to protect it from the wind?
The Hilleberg Keron tent is always pitched facing the wind but a wall is only occasionally built around it in extreme conditions.
How do Ben and Tarka keep in touch from Antarctica?
Ben and Tarka use an ultrabook using Intel’s latest 4th Generation technology connected to a modified Iridium pilot to send daily blogs, photos and video back from their tent in Antarctica. The technology is powered using Antarctica’s 24 hour daylight to charge two solar panels connected to three lithium polymer batteries, and in turn the technology in their tent. They also have an always-on tracking beacon that transmits hourly position reports back to the team in London and an Iridium satellite phone for operational use.
Why are the miles logged in statute miles on the blog but nautical miles on the tracker?
All distances are measured in statute miles on the website. We’ve always used statute miles as a measure of the distance for the journey.
What will be the Beardmore Glacier be like and how do you prepare for crevasses?
What boots are you wearing?
Ben and Tarka are both wearing Alfa Extreme North Pole boots with Intuition liners.
What type of skis are using?
Ben and Tarka are using Ski Trab Race Areo World Cup 164cm skis. They’re slightly shorter, wider and almost 300g each lighter than traditional skis. There’s a bit more on skis and skins in this video: How long is your Toothbrush?
How do you deal with a whiteout?
For a great insight into navigating in a whiteout watch this video: Ben Saunders tackles navigating in a whiteout
Do you reduce your food intake if you are tent-bound for a day?
Yes, Ben and Tarka will go to half rations if they unable to move because of the conditions. Half rations will still provide ample calories for a day of rest.
How are you planning to celebrate Christmas day?
Most likely a similar routine to every other day but come and visit the blog on 25 December and all will be revealed.
What item can’t you live without?
It’s impossible to choose one! Every item in Ben and Tarka’s sled counts.