(29-30 November 2014, Antarctica) Days 8 & 9: Over the weekend, deep soft snow continued to challenge the Antarctica2 MF 5610 tractor expedition to the South Pole.
After clocking up another 152 km, Day 8 saw the team make camp at 3249m (10,659ft) as the descent to the ice plateau begins. With ice crystals dancing in the air, temperatures were still hovering around a bitter minus 40 C.degrees but thankfully the wind chill had reduced. On Day 9, the expedition drove a further 219 km, dropping down another 300 m (984ft) in altitude from the day before.
The daily report from the ice described how the crew were “ruling the clock and doing 30-hour days.” 24-hour daylight means the body has very little way of sensing what time it is which can be disorientating.
In a bid to combat the MF 5610 becoming stuck in the very soft snow, the team decided to reballast the fuel trailer attached to the tractor’s rear hitch in order to achieve better weight distribution. Because the trailer is running on smaller wheels, in these extreme conditions it is acting like a drag. As the trailer sinks, the tractor has to dig in deeper into the snow to pull it out. To further improve the lightness of touch, pressure in the Trelleborg tyres has been reduced 5 psi.
The team is now getting into a routine - not that driving a MF tractor on an amazing journey to the South Pole comes anywhere near what normal mortals would call routine! The ‘night’ driver heads out while the rest of the group gets 6-8 hours sleep, then has breakfast, takes down the tents and packs up. After 5-6 hours, the supporting trucks catch up to the MF 5610, change tractor drivers and push on to the next camp.
What does the lone tractor-driver think about during those long hours out there on the ice? What music gets played on the MF 5610’s sound system? Is it the same as a day’s ploughing? We hope to bring you more news of life on-board the ultimate polar tractor in our future reports.