(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.
(07 December 2014, Antarctica) Day 16: The most difficult terrain yet encountered on the Antarctica2 expedition has made the final stages of the mission to reach the South Pole using a Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor some of the most challenging yet.
With 300km left to the Pole, seasoned members of Tractor Girl Manon Ossevoort’s support team say they have never experienced such bad travelling conditions. Although the weather has been good, with hazy yet sunny blue skies, the snow underfoot has been extremely soft, resulting in speeds as little as 4km/hr (2.5mph).
In one recent eight-hour shift the tractor faced soft, sinking conditions every few hundred metres, but the MF 5610 and its drivers proved their ability to cope with the tough going.
“By downshifting into the lowest gear, A1, and engaging the diff lock, the tractor would climb out slowly and we could make progress again,” explains Expedition Lead Guide, Matty McNair.
The fact the MF 5610’s transmission can stand up to such extreme duress is testament to its design and construction, believes Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development.
“These are conditions few farmers are ever likely to face, but the resilience of the tractor transmission shows just how well it is made, just as the resilience of the team shows what they are made of too.”
(3 December 2014, Antarctica) Day 12: It’s tough going for the team at the centre of the Antarctica2 expedition as they get closer to their goal of reaching the South Pole. The harsh terrain is taking its toll on the Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor and its drivers, but with the halfway point now behind them, both are bearing up well.
While the weather has continued to be favourable (temperature is now just minus 24 degrees C!), the hard-packed ice underneath the snow has little ‘give’ in it, meaning that traversing the terrain can be tiring for the drivers. There have been some fuel issues with the support trucks, caused by the bitterly cold conditions, but so far this hasn’t proved a problem for the MF 5610.
The team has now reached the Russian 83 refuel camp, where the hosts welcomed their visitors with hot soups and shots of vodka. The stop provided a chance to refuel and begin fuel pump repairs on one of the support trucks before continuing south.
As lead driver Manon Ossevoort carries with her to the South Pole the dreams of all the people she has met on her journey, those whose job it is to chart the team’s progress are busy trying to capture every key moment. This ranges from the highs of good progress to the lows of trying to make technology work in a harsh climate. Videos and photos are being taken throughout each day, before being edited and put on the relevant expedition websites . With no high-speed wifi in Antarctica, material must be transferred using the Iridium Satellite system, and a single short video clip, for example, can sometimes take half a day to upload.
(2 December 2014, Antarctica. Latitude: 80 degrees South) Day 11: The Antarctica2 expedition to take an MF 5610 tractor 5000 km from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back has reached the first major milestone and is now halfway to the Pole.
It has been an exceptionally tough trip. In the 11 days it took to reach this 1250 km milestone, the Massey Ferguson tractor and team have had to tackle dangerous crevasse fields, steep climbs, sastrugi (solid ice-waves as much as metre high), soft snow and temperatures as low as minus 56 degrees C with wind chill. The tractor and crew have taken a real pounding in the hostile conditions. However, both are proving highly resilient and rising to the extreme challenges of life on the ice.
On reaching the 1250 km mark, Lead Driver, ‘Tractor Girl’, Manon Ossevoort, said: “The journey to the halfway point has been hard, much harder than I expected so I am very relieved to reach this stage. Driving conditions have been really difficult but the MF 5610 tractor and the whole team have coped magnificently. The tractor has been strong, steady and sure, and it’s incredible to know that every hour we drive, we are closer to the Geographical South Pole.”
To mark the halfway milestone, team members rewarded themselves with a chicken curry dinner and a celebratory drink! They are now heading towards the Pole at full speed.
Antarctica2 seeks to emulate the achievement of Sir Edmund Hillary who led the first mechanised expedition to the South Pole in 1958 using Ferguson TE20 tractors.
Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development commented: “As tractor supplier to the expedition, we have been enthralled by the daily updates from the ice. We always knew it was going to be a big challenge for both the MF 5610 tractor and the team. Hearing the reports coming back, we now fully understand why this is ‘the toughest journey on Earth’. We applaud their strength and determination. At the same time, we can imagine the brave souls of Sir Edmund Hillary and his party battling the elements in their trusty Ferguson TE20 tractors all those years ago. The hearts of the whole Massey Ferguson team back at base are with the intrepid 2014 Antarctica2 travellers as they make their way steadily towards their goal.”