by Kraig Becker
On January 17, 1912 famed British explorer Robert Falcon Scott arrived at the South Pole only to find the Norwegian flag of his rival Roald Amundsen already in place there. For months Scott and his men had been locked in a heated race with Amundsen to be the first to reach 90° South and upon their arrival they were stunned to find that they had been beaten by five weeks. Utterly defeated and with their spirits broken, the party began the long, cold journey back to their ship, which was waiting at the coast. They would never complete their dreadful march and over the ensuing weeks, each of the five men would perish crossing the Antarctic waste. Last to go was Scott himself, who died in a tent, stranded there by a week-long blizzard. He was just 11 miles away from a supply depot that would have saved his life. Now, a hundred years later, two modern explorers are looking to complete the expedition that Scott never could.
Earlier this week veteran adventurers Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere announced that they intend to follow Scott’s exact route to the South Pole and back again. In October of this year they’ll set out from the very same Antarctic cabin that Scott and his companions did when they began their own fateful journey a century ago. Saunders and L’Herpiniere will then proceed on skis to the Pole by crossing the Ross Ice Shelf, passing through the Beardmore Glacier and up to the Antarctic Plateau. And once they reach the bottom of the world, they’ll turn around and head back to where they started.
Scott gave a herculean effort in his attempt to reach the South Pole and by losing his life in the service of Queen and country, he is still revered in the U.K. to this day. But even he would be astounded by what these two modern day explorers hope to accomplish. Saunders and L’Herpiniere will cover 1800 miles on this round-trip journey that is expected to take 110 days to complete. They also plan to go completely unsupported, which means they will receive no supply drops along the way. Instead, they’ll carry all of the gear, equipment and supplies that they’ll need in sleds that they will drag behind them as they ski. If they are successful, they will complete the longest unsupported polar journey in history.
I’m sure we’ll here a lot more about this expedition as the Antarctic season gets underway this fall. For now, Ben and Tarka are busy training and preparing for the challenges they’ll face in the Antarctic. They’ll not only be undertaking an arduous expedition, they’ll also be chasing the ghosts of the explorers who went before them.