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Antarctic environment will test expedition tractor and crew to the limits

The 2014 Antarctica2 expedition to drive a tractor to the South Pole will have to deal with one of the most hostile environments on the planet, battling against temperatures down to minus 40 degrees C, strong winds, high altitude, raging blizzards and soft snow. Sastrugi (frozen waves) are another potential hazard.

Formed by wind erosion they are sharp-edged, wave-like ridges of hard-packed snow – often unstable and difficult to cross.

It is going to be a tough ride for the Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor and the multi-national team set to make the 5000 km return trip from Antarctica’s Novo Base to the Geographical South Pole. Both have undergone thorough preparation to tackle the challenges ahead. A key aspect of life on the ice is its unpredictability - the environment is no respecter of rigid plans or schedules. Hence, all timings relating to the journey have to be extremely fluid and subject to revision in accordance with weather conditions.

“The journey will demonstrate tenacity, engineering skills, reliability, teamwork and achievement,” says Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development. “The MF 5610 is a straightforward, dependable machine and the members of expedition team bring an ideal range of skills and experience to the project.”

The route starts at Novo Base on Antarctica’s East coast. In the first section – a steep climb from the coast to the mountains, the expedition can expect ever–changing conditions. The second section will trace a path through the mountains and crevasse area. In the third section, altitude will reach 3400m and there will be deep soft snow. Here the air will also be thin which will reduce the tractor’s engine power. At around 2800m altitude, the fourth section to the South Pole is more straightforward but here the whole expedition could be severely slowed down by sastrugi, blizzards and whiteouts. On reaching the Pole, the expedition will turn around and follow the same route back.

“Our Massey Ferguson engineering team has created the ultimate polar tractor to help the expedition tackle the elements,” adds Campbell Scott.

The 110hp MF 5610 tractor has been through extensive cold chamber testing in France and expedition trials in Iceland. Adaptations to the tractor have focused on insulating the machine and the driver from both the sub-zero temperatures and the bumpy terrain. Alterations have been made to the tractor cab, electrics, air intake and filtration. Trelleborg has developed a bespoke multi-purpose set of tyres, while Castrol is providing appropriate oils to cope with the freezing temperatures and meet the functional demands of the MF 5610 as it makes its way along the route. The tractor will run on Jet A1 fuel.

A stock of parts from AGCO Parts will be carried on the mission and a twice-daily maintenance regime carried out. The advanced GPS-based AgCommandTM telematics system will relay machine performance information back to a 24-hour support team at the AGCO tractor factory in Beauvais, France where the MF 5600 is designed and built,

On the human preparation side, team members have undergone comprehensive training in Northern Canada and Iceland. As well as all the technical knowledge required for cold weather existence – from nutrition to navigation and learning how to sleep - training included skiing with pulks (sleds) over long distances in temperatures down to minus 36 degrees C.

Antarctica2’s team members will live on a diet which is high in carbohydrates for energy and rich in protein to maintain muscle mass. On the menu will be nuts, dried fruit, flapjacks, Spam, cheese, rice and pasta plus freeze-dried foods. The team will wear state-of-the-art clothing from Helly Hansen designed for maximum comfort, warmth and breathability, and based on the age-old principle of layering.

Leading industry partners supporting Antarctica2 include Massey Ferguson, Trelleborg, Castrol, AGCO Finance, AGCO Parts, Fuse Technologies and MechaTrac.

www.AntarcticaTwo.com
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“Our Massey Ferguson engineering team has created the ultimate polar tractor to help the expedition tackle the elements”