(28 November 2014, Antarctica) Day 7: In their quest for the South Pole, the Antarctica2 tractor and crew were at last able to get fully into their stride, clocking up 23 hours non-stop travel.
Driving in long and tiring shifts, the team completed just over 167 km yesterday before hitting an area of soft snow which made the last 10-20 km extremely slow-going. Ending the day at an elevation of 3364m (11,036 feet) and, having climbed fairly quickly from sea level, crew members are suffering bad headaches from the altitude. Due to the lack of atmospheric pressure here, the effects of altitude are amplified and, for the team, physically it feels more like 4000m. This simply adds a further layer of difficulty to the very exhausting days.
Much softer ground conditions with areas of deep snow are a stark contrast to the hard-packed sastrugi ice-waves of previous days. In these conditions, focused driving skills are essential. At one point towards the end of a gruelling 15-hour shift for Lead Mechanic, Nicolas Bachelet, the tractor sank up to its belly and had to be dug out. Lead Driver, Manon Ossevoort spent the last section of her shift also negotiating the deep snow. Every 100 metres or so the tractor hit a soft patch and had to be repeatedly switched from forward to reverse to extricate itself.
Such were the demands of the day, the whole team fell into bed leaving only Expedition Lead Guide Matty McNair to file the day’s report back to base. Antarctica2 is testing man and machine to the limits.
Key companies and organisations from the agricultural machinery industry have come together to help turn the Antarctica2 tractor-trek dream into reality.
The expedition will attempt a 5000 km round trip to the South Pole by tractor November 2014-January 2015.
Massey Ferguson, Trelleborg, Castrol, AGCO Parts, Fuse Technologies, AGCO Finance and MechaTrac are each providing specific expertise, equipment and support to the project.
Massey Ferguson is the official tractor supplier to Antarctica2 and is providing a 110hp
MF 5610 specially-prepared by its engineering team in Beauvais, France.
Massey Ferguson is a brand of AGCO, Your Agriculture Company (NYSE:AGCO), a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment. Ready to meet the ever-increasing challenges of farming everywhere, MF’s familiar red-liveried equipment with its famous Triple Triangle logo is recognised and deployed throughout the world. Massey Ferguson’s taskforce of equipment includes tractors, harvesting machinery, materials handling tools, generator sets and groundscare products. Inspired design, high-quality manufacture, practical technology, low costs of ownership and full back-up through a worldwide dealer network make for a strong bond with customers.
The company is no stranger to the polar environment. The 2014 Antarctica2 mission to take a tractor to the South Pole emulates the achievement of explorer Sir Edmund Hillary who led the first mechanised expedition to the South Pole in 1958 using a fleet of Ferguson TE20 tractors. 56 years since Hillary’s journey and 56 years since the birth of the Massey Ferguson brand, the MF 5600 tractor will make a similar trek across the ice.
“This is an epic journey which is all about having a vision, believing in it and making it happen,” says Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson, Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development. “Antarctica2 will demonstrate the straightforward dependability of our 21st century engineering and technology in one of the toughest environments on earth. Furthermore, it will show the world how accessible technologies and innovative services can help the new generation of farmers create sustainable businesses to meet the world’s growing need for food.”
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Antarctica2 – Tuesday 25th November 2014
The Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor being piloted towards the South Pole by ‘Tractor Girl’ Manon Ossevoort and her team is coping well with the challenges posed by the Antarctic climate and terrain, as the Antarctica2 expedition enters a crucial phase.
The MF 5610 is reported to have held up impressively to the arduous conditions, at times reaching speeds of almost 22km/h. The additional investment put into heating systems has paid off, with the tractor running well and the drivers kept insulated from the worst of the cold. Although it is summertime in Antarctica, temperatures have dropped to as low as minus 20 degrees C once the sun dips below the horizon, reaching a bitter minus 38 degrees C at night with wind chill. Despite this, there have been no reported problems with the MF 5610’s fuel, oil or engine cooling systems, which have undergone very little modification, indicating the standard tractor’s capabilities in cold conditions.
In addition, the polycarbonate glazing which replaces the cab glass to insure against the risk of shattering in the extreme temperatures has performed well, giving the drivers a clear view of the impressive landscape. This will become more important than ever in the coming days as the number of crevasses in the ice begins to increase with altitude.
(Antarctica2 – Saturday 22 November-Monday 24 November 2014):
After the first 48 hours on the ice, ‘Tractor Girl’, Manon Ossevoort and the Antarctica2 team have had to battle their way across frozen snow waves and deal with the effects of a massive solar storm which severely hampered communications. The coming few days will see them embark on the most hazardous part of the journey as they enter the crevasse field, where the altitude will also rise dramatically.
The exciting adventure to drive a Massey Ferguson MF 5610 to the South Pole set off on Saturday evening (22 November) and immediately encountered the notorious Sastrugi – waves of solid ice – so hard-packed that the expedition didn’t even leave a footprint. This slowed progress but, having negotiated the way through, the tractor was then able to cruise along on hard snow, travelling through breath-taking scenery at an altitude of 1688m.
In a message from the ice, the Antarctica2 team reported: “The weather has been absolutely beautiful, with no wind. All day mountains grew closer, clouds moved in and out, pulling our spirits up and down. ”
On Sunday 23 November, they covered more than 90km in ten hours in sunny conditions and at temperatures of minus 16 degrees C.
The tractor is coping well with the environment but the harsh terrain makes for demanding driving. Although well protected in the comfortable cab, which is equipped with heater and suspension, it’s still tough going for the operators – Manon Ossevoort and Nicolas Bachelet – who took turns at driving in four-hour shifts.
Monday was a planned layover day and the team busied themselves around the camp. However, (and with typical Antarctic unpredictability) there was a massive solar electrical storm at atmospheric level which badly affected communications. These atmospheric conditions are similar to those which create the incredible Aurora in northern latitudes. Satellite phones and the Iridium satellite communications system, which delivers images and data from ice, both went down.
This didn’t stop the photographic team – Simon Foster and Sarah McNair-Landry – setting up a shoot and making the most of the beautiful scenery. This included sending a camera drone into the air for a birds-eye view of the camp.
The day’s chores complete, some of the team opted for a four-hour hike up through the glacier, taking in the amazing views of the sharp-pointed Nunatak peaks thrusting through the ice sheet. “We all feel so privileged to be here,” was the message back to Antarctica2 HQ in the UK when the communications blackout from the solar storm finally lifted.
Look out for a further news update tomorrow (solar storms permitting) when the team will have set off on one of the most perilous parts of the journey through the tricky crevasse field.
The Massey Ferguson MF 5610 Dyna-4 tractor which is to provide the power for the Antarctica2 expedition to the South Pole is all set for its extraordinary journey.
To be driven primarily by ‘Tractor Girl’, Manon Ossevoort, backed by a team of engineers and other support staff, the MF 5610 has been chosen from the Massey Ferguson range for a number of key reasons, says Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development.
“We wanted to provide the Antarctica2 organisers with a current production tractor, and a machine from the Massey Ferguson 5600 series made sense as it is light, manoeuvrable and compact, yet has the same size of cab as that used on larger MF 6600 and MF 7600 tractors,” he explains.
“At 110hp, the MF 5610 is the most powerful three-cylinder tractor ever offered by Massey Ferguson, and one of the reasons we selected this particular model is to illustrate our confidence in higher-horsepower tractors with such engines. The tractor being used is a standard machine available to farmers around the world, but some special preparations have been necessary for its trip.
“Three key issues created by the harsh climate and conditions of Antarctica have driven our tractor preparation programme – the low temperatures, the terrain and the altitude,” explains Campbell.
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