There has been a definitive shift in conditions in the Antarctic, and it is clear that the expedition season is nearly at an end. The daylight hours are getting shorter and temperatures have started to drop, as the austral summer begins to wane at long last. Most of the teams have come and gone of course, but the Scott Expedition remains and presses on towards its inevitable conclusion. The end is now clearly in sight for Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere, who are overdue for a much deserved rest.
Over the weekend, the duo reached yet another milestone on their epic journey through the Antarctic in the footsteps of Robert Falcon Scott. They have now been on the ice for more than 100 days, first setting out from the Scott Hut on the Ross Ice Shelf back in November and skiing for hundreds of miles to and from the South Pole. With just a few days left before they reach the finish line, they have now dropped the distance remaining to just 87.5 miles (140.8 km). At their current pace, that should put them back at the coast on Thursday of this week.
In their most recent update, they indicate that they have noticed the shift in weather, with the average daily temperatures clearly getting colder. On top of that, they’ve been dealing with a constant freezing mist at ground level, which has made it feel like they are traveling through a cloud. That has prevented them from seeing some of the milestone that they’ve been working towards, which would give them an indication of how close they are to the end. Those milestones include Mount Erebus and Mount Terror. It has been disheartening for Ben and Tarka to not be able to gauge the progress against those landmarks.
Last week, the boys picked up their final supply depot on the return trip, and while it has added weight to their sleds, it has also allowed them to eat more rations each day as well. Those extra calories are helping them to feel much better and have improved their mood dramatically. Being so close to the end can’t hurt their demeanor either.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on the expedition over the next few days as the inch closer to the end. It has been a fantastic adventure to follow and I’m in awe of what Ben and Tarka have already accomplished are about to complete. It has been a demanding journey for sure and they deserve much respect and accolades. Back home in the U.K., where they still respect their nation’s legacy of exploration, I’m sure they’ll be welcomed like heroes.