Ben Saunders (above) and his fellow adventurer, Tarka L’Herpiniere (left), are only days away from departing on the longest unsupported polar journey in history. The Scott Expedition will attempt to re-trace and complete Captain Robert Falcon Scott's 1,800 mile (2,900 km) Terra Nova Expedition route from Ross Island to the South Pole and back. The Scott Expedition will undertake the journey on foot, without resupply and without the use of snow-kites or other wind assistance. Captain Robert Scott and his four companions died on their way back from the South Pole in 1912 and since then no expedition has completed the return journey on his route.
Since 1912 only a handful of ski expeditions have travelled Scott's route to the South Pole. The first was the Footsteps of Scott Expedition with Robert Swan, Roger Mear and Gareth Wood. They set off from Cape Evans and reached the South Pole on 13 January 1986. This was the first expedition supported by ANI and arguably the first of the modern era of Antarctic adventure expeditions.
In 1998 a three-man team, Peter Hillary, Eric Philips and Jon Muir, set off from McMurdo on their Iridium-IceTrek expedition. They ascended the Shackleton Glacier and reached the South Pole on 26 January 1999, too late, unfortunatley, to attempt the return journey to the coast.
In recent years, two one-way expeditions have skied Scott's route. The Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition, lead by Henry Worsley with descendants of Shackleton's original team, celebrated the centenary of Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition of 1907-9 by reaching the South Pole on 19 January 2009. And in 2011, the Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race, led by Mark Langridge, reached the South Pole via the Beardmore Glacier on 17 January 2012.
An unsupported, return journey along Scott's route to the Pole is a prize yet to be claimed. One of the reasons is the huge logistic challenge of even getting to the start point. ANI has pioneered this field by working with expeditions that have worked hard to attract deep-pocketed sponsors. Scott's route is also significantly longer than many of the more common overland routes to the South Pole. Ben and Tarka will ski with sled loads of up to 200kg for more than 5 extra degrees of Latitude than expeditions on the ANI Ski South Pole-Hercules route. They plan to lay depots along the outward journey containing food and fuel for their return. This is similar to Captain Scott's expedition plan but, sadly, he and his companions died in a terrible storm on or close to 29 March 1912, 150 days after they set out for the South Pole on 01 November 1911. Ben and Tarka have about 110 days to complete their return journey - a true race against time.
Ben and Tarka are pushing the boundaries of human endeavor in Antarctica, an unforgiving environment. That is the nature of this and other ground breaking expeditions supported by ANI. They will have to be twice as fast as Scott on their return from the Pole but, hopefully, they will not be suffering from the severe malnourishment, scurvy and frostbite that the 1911 expedition had to cope with. To succeed, everything will have to go right and there is little margin for error. We look forward to welcoming them onto the ice and wish them the best of success!
For more information, please see the expedition website www.scottexpedition.com