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A Monumental Journey Completed

After 105 days, Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere have taken the final steps of their expedition, completing the first-ever, return journey on Shackleton and Scott's route from Ross Island to the South Pole. It's been a monumental effort, one that truly pushed the boundaries of human ability. But just how monumental was it?

First-ever return journey on Shackleton and Scott's Route to the South Pole

Ben and Tarka are the first-ever team to complete a return journey on Scott and Shackleton's route to the South Pole, a challenge that has tantalized explorers and adventurers for more than 100 years. Sir Ernest Shackleton pioneered the route up the Beardmore Glacier during his Nimrod Expedition of 1908, but turned back before reaching the South Pole. Scott's Terra Nova expedition reached the South Pole on January 17, 1911, but the polar party perished on the return journey, just 11 miles (18km) from One Ton depot and roughly 150 miles (241km) from their expedition start point.

Longest Distance Man-hauling Polar Journey (no kites)

Ben and Tarka have completed the longest man-hauling polar journey ever. The two skied an incredible 1795 miles (2889 km), from Cape Evans to the South Pole and back to Scott Base, eclipsing the distance covered by other landmark expeditions.

  • In 2011, two expeditions, Aleks Gamme (solo) and Cas and Jonesy made the return journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, a distance of 1404 miles (2260km).
  • Cecile Skog and Ryan Waters covered 1085 miles (1746km) in their 2009 Antarctic crossing, skiing unsupported, with no kites or ski sails and no re-supply at the South Pole.
  • Felicity Aston's solo Antarctic traverse from the Leverett Glacier to the South Pole and onwards to Hercules Inlet was 987 miles (1589km)
  • In 2008 Alex Hibbert and George Bullard completed the (then) longest fully-unsupported polar journey with their out and back Greenland crossing, 1374 miles (2211km).

Longest Duration Antarctic Ski Expedition

Ben and Tarka skied for an incredible 105 days, starting well before any other expedition arrived on the ice and finishing well after they returned home. In doing so, they completed the longest duration Antarctic ski expedition, without the support of dogs, vehicles, or kites. Only the 1910 British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition spent more days in the field.

  • British Antarctic Expedition, 1910. 149 days to March 29, 2011
  • Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere, The Scott Expedition, 2013. 105 days to February 6, 2014
  • Rolf Bae and Eirik Sønneland, Norwegian Antarctic Expedition, 2000. 105 days
  • Alain Hubert & Dixie Dansercoer, 1998. 99 days
  • Mitsuro Ohba, 1998. 98 days
  • Ann Bancroft & Liv Arnesen, 2000. 97 days
  • Ranulph Fiennes and Mike Stroud, Pentland South Pole Expedition, 1992. 94 days
  • Reinhold Messner and Arved Fuchs, Würth-Antarktis Transversale, 1989. 91 days

A Final Word (or two)

Ben Saunders said, “It is almost impossible to comprehend what we have achieved. Completing Scott’s Terra Nova expedition has been a life-long dream and I’m overcome to be standing here at the finish. The journey has been a mammoth undertaking that has tested the bounds of our bodies and minds each and every day.”

Perhaps that is always the way. Antarctica demands attention: attention to each ski stride, each one-hour march, each detail of setting up and breaking down camp. Only in hindsight and with some distance, does the enormity of the challenge - and the achivement - truly become apparent.

We say, 'Well done!!'

Expedition Blog: scottexpedition.com/blog/ben-and-tarka-make-history