Boxing Day

Day 50: S89° 37' 53", W050° 57' 11" Altitude: 2776m Daily distance: 17.5MI Distance to go: 409MI

Blue skies again today, and the best conditions I’ve had on the entire expedition so far. The surface is still a bit soft, and a bit lumpy – Tarka and I would definitely have had cause for complaint if we’d come across this on the east side of the Plateau in January 2014 – but after the giant sastrugi I was bludgeoning my way through a couple of weeks ago, it’s been heavenly.

I’m not sure what else to report really. I’m sure many of you will have had your calculators out and be wondering about the remaining distance to the Ross Ice Shelf (622km) versus my remaining food (16 days). The equation – and the dialogue with my support team – has been troubling me too, which has had the knock-on effect of lost sleep and added stress in the last fortnight or so. Theoretically finishing the crossing is just about possible, as Tarka and I managed similar daily distances for long stretches on our return to Ross Island from the South Pole in early 2014, yet it came at a huge cost (we had to halve our rations for several days as we’d been over-optimistic about the mileage we thought we could cover with the food we had in our sledges, we both became hypothermic and ultimately had to call for a resupply flight that we hadn’t budgeted for) and as a result I find that my tolerance for risk now – especially solo – is slimmer than ever. It feels like I’ve spent most of the last 20 years convinced my goals are possible, despite the doubts and objections of almost everyone around me, so I find myself in an alien position to have the tables turned like this, and to have so many people urging me on when there is doubt and concern in my mind.

I should reach the Pole on Thursday, so that’ll be decision time…

OK enough grumbling – I’ve just been sent some questions to answer:

1) Have you experienced any mysterious anomalies while exploring the polar regions, as have been reported by past explorers? Have you had to authorise your journey with the military? And have you seen any strange military operations at the poles?

I’m sorry for a disappointing answer, but not really! I have to have a permit for the expedition, but this is more for environmental reasons than anything military. My North Pole expedition from Russia in 2004 had a bit more mystery and excitement – we stopped off at some military installations (Cape Chelyuskin, Sredniy) to refuel the helicopters and there are still lots of Cold War throwbacks in Arctic Russia – very long runways for bombers, posters for identifying Allied aircraft, etc… Definitely no vegetation or animals down here!

2) Just saw you on BBC news and curious to know what ‘solo’ means – are you completely on your own there or is there a support staff with you eg taking the videos ?

I’m completely on my own, and haven’t seen another person for 50 days now. Some of the footage the BBC used was from my 2013-14 expedition in Antarctica, when there were two of us, so it was easier to film!

3) What footwear are you using? And what weight are they approx? Do you take them off every night?

The boots are unusual and I actually bought them several years ago to use on a North Pole expedition that didn’t happen. I bought them from a Belgian explorer called Alain Hubert, who I belive designed them and has them custom-made somewhere in Italy. They’re branded ‘Extreme Planet’ but they’re pretty rare! They’re a double-layered boot with a NNN sole for a Rottefella backcountry touring binding, and I use Intuition ‘mukluk’ bindings (heat-moulded and fitted by Profeet in Fulham!) which have been brilliant so far.

4) Are you enjoying it? love grace xx

Hi Grace. Despite all my complaining, I am loving it here, yes. The wind died down for half an hour or so this afternoon, and when I stopped to rest it was so completely silent that it felt like I was in the quietest place on earth.

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
27/12/17
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Comments

Mike Admin Hammond

28/12/2017

Hey Ben,

Did you bump into the guys doing the speed record driving to the pole in their modified offroader? Just watching it on TV and they stopped briefly to say hello to a solo skier on their attempt and I can’t think there’d be anyone else down there?

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michael hammond

28/12/2017

Ignore me, it’s an old program and it’s been a long day!

Dani

28/12/2017

Hi Ben,

I just wanted to say that the tables havent turned- because what you have achieved so far is NOT a failure or lack of a success. You are truly amazing and inspirational. I know it is different to what you had initially decided to – but you can learn from this – and you’re still a winner, do what’s right. Be safe.

We all support you – and will support the decision you make. You can take this forward another way. So excited for you and sending you lots of love + positivity

Dani

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Kevin Wright

27/12/2017

Hi Ben, like many others I want you to finish the journey but only if it’s safe. Shackleton had to make a similar decision which made him the great leader most of us respect today. I guess you and your support team will do what’s best.

However I have an idea if it’s allowed. If you picked up an extra few days supply at the South Pole for emergency use only but were still able to complete the journey without using it then wouldn’t that count as no assistance and just playing it safe?

It’s a bit like your satellite phone. You have it with you in case of a problem but never use it to call in emergency help. At least this way you can still make it and if the extra food is required you would have still completed the journey and collected information for another attempt. What ever you and the team decide Ben your supporters are with you. Look forward to your blog at the Pole tomorrow. Take care and Godspeed, Kev

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Earle Gregory

27/12/2017

Fiona and I have been following you on your magnificent journey with anticipation. This must be the most difficult part of your journey, the torment of miles over food and loved one at home? You inspired one of our sons to shine in the face of adversity and I’m sure many other sons, daughters and other individuals as well. What would Ben be saying to Ben now?
We wish you a safe onward journey no matter how far. Earle Gregory

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Wendy

27/12/2017

Hi Ben
The elephant on the room has now been unleashed. I admit to having been doing the calculations myself and thinking what would be possible. I do not envy you your decision but if I have come to learn anything about you from this (and previous) adventures, you will make the correct decision about the expedition whichever way it turns out. As others have already commented, you have already achieved an enormous amount and the mark of a true professional is knowing when to stop.
I send you all my very best wishes and huge admiration for what you have done so far. It has been a real privilege to read your posts and “experience” a small part of the journey.

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ML

27/12/2017

For my family this has not been about whether you are able to complete this journey unassisted but the fact that we can talk to a guy who is alone in the middle of Antartica who is gracious enough to communicate his experiences to the world everyday and also answer any and all questions that come his way. Short of blockchain technology, this has got to be the best use of the internet to date! Best wishes to you from our family.

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ANDREA HATTON

27/12/2017

Greetings from Ankara, Turkey. I am so amazed by your stamina and strength, physically and mentally. I have a question. When you get home, what is the dish you are hoping to have on the table? and what will be in the glass? Good Luck!

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Mark

27/12/2017

On your way to Ross, are there any places that an ALE flight can’t land to pick you up or drop a resupply? I.e. too many crevasses to land safely, too far from Union Glacier, etc.

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Jill

27/12/2017

I was outraged by what seemed like doubters and people who give up too easily but once I read your blog I realise this is a huge decision. I would love you to go on but there is zero shame in knowing when to stop because we all want you back in one piece…..to try again 😉. I like to finish what I started but you are not here in London are you. I trust in your gut and your head but it must be so hard to decide, being right there. Is there a chance of a food package drop before you go on? 🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🍀🍀🍀🍀🍀❤️❤️🧖‍♀️

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Mike Hammond

27/12/2017

Never a good position to be in Ben, stuck between a rock and a hard place! Could you survive (and keep up the pace) by cutting back your daily ration by a third? Worst case you have to be picked up and the challenge stops there but you’d still have the knowledge that you gave it your best shot and wouldn’t be haunted by the thoughts of “could I have made it?” Plus the experience could give you valuable data for another attempt at a later date. End of the day though it’s your neck and your call but there’d be nothing wrong with trying to push on, as long as you have a get out plan if you really need it further down the line! Whatever you decide though, I’m sure everyone will continue to have nothing by massive respect for what you acheive!

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South Dakota Fan

27/12/2017

You have done more than any other person on the entire planet.
You have to know that climbers on Everest have a pre-set turnaround time regardless of how close they are to the summit. Similarly, you probably have an end of expedition date. I trust you’ll heed it.
BTW: Yesterday, in an attempt at solidarity, I tried to fatbike 1h in -2F, calm sunny conditions. Despite all ski gear I didn’t make it, hands and feet got cold after 38 minutes. Just a tiny indication of what it takes for you to do what you’ve done.

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Lynn Campbell

27/12/2017

Good effort though😊

Sharyle Doherty

27/12/2017

Dear Ben, What you are doing is amazing. You don’t need my advice but think of Shackleton’s example. Make the best decision to ensure you return safely. We support you in whatever you decide.

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Lynn Campbell

27/12/2017

Couldn’t agree more Sharon. Much more important to do what’s right for you and Pip. Everyone should have total respect and support for your decision.

Pete Vass

27/12/2017

Winning isn’t always about finishing. It’s more so about making the right decisions. The right decision supersedes the notion of failure. What you have accomplished so far is an amazing feat and beyond what the majority of us are mentally and physically able to do.
Whatever you decide to do, we will all be there cheering for you. Your life is more important than mileage. Best wishes Ben.

Pete.

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M Moss

27/12/2017

Goals are personal so it’s not for me to dictate reason other than to apply ‘measurable’ and ‘achievable’. When Thursday arrives you can be assured of a measurable success with which to look back on with pride and potentially develop for future success.
As when on the range factors beyond the firers control have come into play so is it better to close the range for today and build on this success.
Nobody especially Henry Worsley (was my boss) would wish to see tragedy befall this outstanding success.
God speed.

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Nathan Lumb

27/12/2017

Ben,

The photos look amazing; keep going. Looking forward to more updates and photos.

Nathan (Simon’s mate)

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Wendy Gediman

27/12/2017

You have been amazing on this journey. Just listen to your own thoughts to make your decision and choose what you know in your heart is the right one. Most importantly is that we want you home safe, whatever you decide to do! XX

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The CHILDS family

27/12/2017

Hi Ben,
It must be hard knowing so many following and urging you on. But we all cannot wait to hear your talks or read your journals on the return no matter what. You have achieved what billions of humans will never get to do or see

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Richard

27/12/2017

Hi Ben
Hang in there you are doing great, and very inspirational to, yesterday I thought I would cycle around Rutland Water but the forecast was not good with very high wind… having watched your TV interview I thought to myself get real and just do it! compared to your achievement it is a mere drop in the ocean lol
Stay safe and good luck
Richard

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Pete Lowe

27/12/2017

Ben
I watched Pip on the tv and listened to you on Christmas Day. You made the kids stop opening their stockings – quite an achievement I can tell you!
I can only try to imagine how hard this is for you.
What you have achieved so far is immense. No one can take that away from you.
Obviously questions are running through your head.
We all want you home safely but equally we all want you to achieve this mammoth journey.
Question: how about stocking up with extra days food when you reach the South Pole?
Not quite the same, but I was disqualified from an ocean race attempt once 1500 mile and 30 days in, for outside assistance (water drop). I carried on and completed the journey. I live to tell the tale.
Could you do the same?
No one will judge you, we all admire you and will still admire all your courage.
We are all behind you!
You are amazing, hang in ther my friend. But be safe.
Pete

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Hannah

27/12/2017

Hey Ben! I’ve been reading your updates, and sharing the highlights with my husband. Thanks so much for using Facebook to post photos and your experiences; I always come here after to read your blog, but seeing the updates in my news feed is always exciting.
Cheers from Leipzig!
-Hannah

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Scott Bancroft

27/12/2017

Good luck with the rest of your expedition Ben. If anyone can make it, you can. I was wondering about the next section of your expedition, from the South Pole to the base of the Leverett Glacier. As there is a flagged route along that route, the McMurdo South Pole Highway, would skiing on the grooved route or following the flags constitute ‘assistance’? I expect the flags would be very useful to your speed as you could put away your compass and put your head down and just go for it.

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