(15:20 hrs CET, 20 December 2014, Novo Runway, Antarctica): The Antarctica2 bid to drive an MF 5610 agricultural tractor on an ambitious 5000km round trip to the South Pole arrived safely back at Novo Runway on the Antarctic coast today.
In accomplishing the mission, the MF 5610 has become the first standard farm tractor equipped with tyres to reach the Geographic South Pole overland.
For ‘Tractor Girl’ and Lead Driver, 38-year-old Manon Ossevoort, her journey proved that, given belief and determination, dreams really do come true. Relying on the dependable power of the Massey Ferguson tractor and the expert support of her polar team, Manon’s 12-year dream to drive a tractor ‘to end of the world’ is now complete.
“I can’t even begin to describe the emotions I’m feeling now,” she said. “Elation at such a wonderful expedition, relief in getting back to Novo Runway successfully. I can’t wait to start telling the story and hopefully encouraging others to follow their dreams.”
The adventure in the hostile Antarctic environment made huge demands on the team and equipment. A belief in the reliability of the tractor and the crew members to do their jobs was a touchstone of the expedition and enshrined in Antarctica2’s message #BelieveInIt. The difficult conditions – bitter cold, high altitude, solid ice, snowdrifts, thick freezing fog and exceptionally rough terrain – all took their toll. However, both humans and machine showed remarkable resilience in the face of adversity and rose to the challenge of this once-in-a lifetime opportunity.
With its relentless physical and mental pressures, the polar trek drew on all the team’s experience, willpower and endurance to win through. In very short periods of time, emotions could roller-coaster from exhilaration, elation and excitement to frustration and disappointment.
For the Massey Ferguson tractor, the expedition was the ultimate test of strength and durability, exerting massive strain on the components and really challenging the integrity of its design. Such an environment, where even the simplest repair is made difficult by the freezing temperatures, called for a straightforward, dependable tractor. During the 28-day 5000 km journey, the MF 5610 required only a few running repairs and the engine clocked up an impressive 760 hours of operation, which is more than many farms would do in two years of normal work.
Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development said: “We send our warmest congratulations to Manon Ossevoort and the Antarctica2 crew on their magnificent achievement. They have shown extraordinary teamwork and fortitude on this epic trip.”
“In one of the most barren places on earth, we hope that the Antarctica2 expedition has served to highlight to a non-agricultural audience the way farmers are rising to the challenge of feeding the world. Modern farm equipment and appropriate technology can help make the most of the world’s cultivable land and create sustainable farm business for our long-term food security.”
The Antarctica2 MF 5610 expedition tractor will be a highlight of Massey Ferguson’s stand at the upcoming SIMA Show in Paris 22-26 February 2015.
(Antarctica – 18th December 2014): The drive back from the South Pole is proving every bit as exciting and emotional for the Antarctica2 tractor expedition team as, hour by hour, they tick off the distance home. The latest news is that they have less than 400 km to go to Novo Runway on the Antarctic coast. The MF 5610 put in yet another fantastic record-breaking run of 384 km and is as strong as ever despite the incredibly punishing schedule.
Now high up in the mountains at an elevation of 3314 metres (10,872 ft), the team members found themselves once again “gasping for breath” in the thin air. Thankfully, the weather has been clear with light blue skies but the temperature has dipped to minus 30 degrees C – dropping to around minus 37 with wind chill. As Expedition Lead Guide , Matty McNair said in her daily report: “It’s nippy out there.” Emotions are running high with the team as they all eager to get back home to their loved-ones in time for Christmas.
Everyone on the crew is pitching in with tractor driving shifts to ensure the MF 5610 is kept constantly on-the-move. There is no rest for the tractor. The drivers report that the cab is extremely warm and the seat very comfortable. The five-point seat belt helps them strap themselves down when driving over rough terrain. For in-cab entertainment, team members are passing the time in various different ways listening to music, podcasts and audio books. Manon Ossevoort, Lead Driver is listening to French lessons. Favourite sounds in the cab range from U2, Louise Attaque, Faithless, Trio, Muse, Endochine, Black Keys and Icelandic Music.
Ending her report from the ice, Matty McNair said: “Emotions are high. Will we make it back to Novo Runway to catch the (last) flight out? Will we be home at Christmas? We have just under 400 km to do in about 36 hours.” Nail-biting stuff!
Richard Albutt and his family run a 500-acre mixed stock unit at Postlip Hall Farm, Winchcombe, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK. In addition to 300 store cattle, there are 1500 breeding ewes, 400 ewe lambs and 1000 store lambs. Maize, fodder beet and barley are grown for the farm’s own use.
Clearly, a telehandler is a ‘must have’ piece of machinery for such an enterprise. Two years ago Richard decided to invest in a new MF 9306, trading in his older MF model.
“We quickly found substantial improvements in almost every department, most noticeably in the amount of power available,” Richard reports. “Also, we’ve got some pretty tight working areas here, and, being the smallest model in the current Massey Ferguson range, the MF 9306 gives us very good manoeuvrability, together with brilliant capacity and good reliability. In short, it handles everything.”
When all the cattle are in, and with the ewes to follow, the crucial task of delivering feed means the MF 9306 is a very busy machine over the winter, when loading the Keenan feeder and clearing muck out of the sheds represent the main tasks.
Richard is also very pleased with the quality of service he receives from his local Massey Ferguson dealership, JJ Farms, at nearby Gretton, which he describes as “excellent.” Reliable back-up Is high on his list of requirements and he believes he gets this.
“Unlike some other machinery manufacturers, that appear to be moving towards dealing direct with the customer nowadays, Massey Ferguson’s network of dealers is becoming even more highly-valued,” Richard observes. “I like to know that in the event of a problem arising, I can go to ours 24/7.
The MF 9306 is the most-used machine at Postlip Hall, running up an average of 1300 hours a year. “Out of all the machines here, it would be the last to go!” Richard comments.
(Antarctica – 12-14th December 2014): The Antarctica2 tractor expedition team is already making good progress on its long and punishing 2500 km journey back from the South Pole to base camp at Novo Runway. But the latest big challenge is a dense ice-fog which has dramatically reduced visibility.
With 840 km under their belts, the team and MF 5610 tractor have now completed seven of the 20 degrees of Latitude which they need to cover before reaching Novo on the Antarctic coast. In a determined push, they reached Fuel Depot 83 where work was carried out on the tractor and support vehicles to rebalance the loads.
Until now, the expedition has been blessed with clear blue skies for the majority of the trip but freezing fog descended in a thick blanket to change the outlook completely. In her daily update from the ice, Matty McNair, Expedition Lead Guide reported: “The weather was sunny and then the ice fog rolled over us. It’s hard to see the tracks and bumps. If you can imagine being in a dark room and you can see nothing. That’s what it’s like except it’s in white!” To cope with this new situation, they had to follow GPS transit points which is extremely challenging.
The expedition is still travelling across the polar plateau at an elevation of 2603 metres (8,540 ft). Winds are up and it is cold – around minus 25 to minus 30 degrees C. Team members have to keep their vigilance at top level as they climb higher and higher towards the mountain range in their path – and where temperatures dropped to as low minus 56 C on their outward journey. After that come the dangers of the crevasse area.
It is a constant test of tenacity and endurance as the team, tractor and trucks continue their journey in one of the harshest environments on the planet. The MF 5610 has already proven its outstanding capabilities on the trek to the South Pole – and now it has to do it all over again. With interest in the trip reverberating around the world, the team spent a great deal of time fulfilling global radio, television and internet interview requests but now they have to concentrate on the serious business of getting home safely.
Sending a message to the whole team on Sunday morning, Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development said: “We and many others all over the world are following your progress around the clock and continue to be amazed by your teamwork and fortitude. It’s a hard slog back but we hope you can find a way to enjoy this last great surge despite the conditions. From a distance, every chapter of this remarkable story fills us with awe. We wish you a safe and secure traverse on these final stages of this historic expedition. Take care and bon voyage.”
(Antarctica2 – 04.30 hrs CET, 09 December 2014: Geographical South Pole) After a gruelling 2500 km ice-journey, the Antarctica2 expedition team arrived with its MF 5610 tractor at the South Pole today. All are safe, well and in high spirits.
Immediately relaying the exciting news from the ice, the crew announced: “04.30 hours CET. This is December 9th, Camp 17. After 17 days and 2500 kilometres, we are at a red and white striped pole with a reflective ball on top, surrounded by flags. This is South 90 – as far South as anybody can go. It’s unbelievable – at the South Pole there is a red Massey Ferguson tractor! We’re all ecstatic to be here and so proud to be taking our hero shots with the tractor that never gave us cause to doubt that it would be up for the challenge. Thank you all for your support.”
The adventurous 2014 Antarctica2 mission aims to drive a Massey Ferguson MF 5610 agricultural tractor on a 5000 km round trip from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. The quest echoes the achievement of explorer Sir Edmund Hillary who led the first mechanised expedition to the South Pole in 1958 using Ferguson TE20 tractors.
In taking Antarctica2’s Expedition Lead Driver, Manon Ossevoort safely to her destination, the MF 5610 has helped her fulfil a lifelong dream to drive a tractor to the ‘end of the world’. Celebrating this amazing feat with her fellow team members on arrival at the South Pole, Manon hugged the tractor and exclaimed: ”Wow! I’ve made it! It’s such a beautiful feeling and I’m so grateful to Massey Ferguson to have made this possible. It’s such a huge dream come true. To have dreams is beautiful but to see them realised is the most extraordinary feeling. I’m inspired.”
As one of her first jobs on reaching the Pole, ‘Tractor Girl’ Manon will build a snowman and symbolically entrust it with the dreams of all the people who have been caught up in her story. “I want people to believe in the power of their dreams – to know that with grit and determination, you can achieve your aspirations. I had the seemingly impossible dream to drive a tractor to the South Pole. You just have to believe in it.”
It was an incredibly challenging trip across the ice, taking 17 days of tough driving. With the Antarctic’s constant daylight at this time of year, the team created their own 30-hour days, driving the MF 5610 hard for 23 hours or more at a stretch, pausing only briefly for routine maintenance and driver changeover before pushing on. The tractor engine has been running virtually non-stop since the expedition departed on 22 November.
Commenting, Richard Markwell Vice-President and Managing Director, Massey Ferguson, Europe/Africa/Middle East said: ”We were gripped by Antarctica2’s adventure across the ice and over some of the roughest terrain on the planet. Congratulations to the whole team! It’s an immensely proud moment for Massey Ferguson and everyone associated with our farm machinery.”
After a day’s rest at the South Pole, the Antarctica2 team will pack up, turn round and embark on the same route back to Novo Runway on the Antarctic coast. They will follow in the exact tracks of their outbound trip which, now having iced over, should speed up their return journey. With luck, they could be back before Christmas.