Treading a Path Taken by Only Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton (Scott Expedition, Antarctica -- Day 81)

01/14/2014 11:10 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017


Today had a bit of magic in it, and we haven't had a day like that for a while down here. The weather was grim when we set out; nearly a complete whiteout and at best a flat, grey light and thick cloud that would have given Scott and his men real trouble (he writes in his diary of one man -- usually Birdie Bowers -- scouting ahead in poor visibility, searching for signs of their old tracks, or for the snow cairns they left at regular intervals).

For us, it meant getting a magnetic bearing from our GPS, setting the compass and skiing blindly into the gloom, confident in the knowledge that the tiny gadget, along with the help of a few billion dollars' worth of satellites, knew exactly where we were, exactly where our buried depot was, and exactly where the waypoints were that would allow us to safely steer a dog-leg around the western edge of the Shackleton Ice Falls, avoiding getting tangled up in its giant crevasses and pressure ridges.

Our navigation was bang-on, and although the surface was ridged with sastrugi for most of the day and therefore tough on ankles, knees, elbows and shoulders as we struggled to keep our balance, we covered 22.9 miles (39.8km) in all.

The cloud finally lifted at 7pm as we were approaching our depot, and the view was glorious. We spotted the spare ski we'd left as a marker, defiantly standing upright in the wind with its fabric streamer flapping madly. I saw it first, and my excitement reminded me of going to the coast at Lyme Regis or Weymouth with my brother as a child, wondering who would spot the sea first. I can't tell you what a joy it is having scenery again after so many days on the featureless plateau, and I thought the Dominion Range looked stunning this evening as the last of the cloud rolled off it.

Taking bearings on Mount Darwin and Buckley Island (Rob, we'll send a photo back tomorrow when we're next to it!) was a very special feeling indeed, and I couldn't help reflecting that the only other teams to have skied towards these landmarks were led by Sir Ernest Shackleton and Captain Scott. Not for the first time I felt like a bit of an impostor as I led us towards the depot; little old me who learnt to read a compass as a Scout. It's a special feeling being here, and tomorrow the Beardmore awaits...

For Ben's daily blog from Antarctica and more about the expedition visit the Scott Expedition website.