(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.
In a recent story in FarmLife, the exclusive magazine for Massey Ferguson customers, Murray State University alumni panelist Kelly Brannon broached the topic of the hotly contested 2012 Yahoo! article that listed agriculture as the most useless college major. She and her fellow panelists had all seen the report when it came out. And they all shrugged it off as subjective, maybe even wrong.
The article was based on a study released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which surveyed some 1,000 employers on future hiring plans. The result? An agriculture major ranked No. 1 in terms of “most useless.” To add further insult, rounding out the top five were animal science and horticulture as No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
The article cited university programs being cut and fewer farm jobs due to consolidation. The article also quoted a U.S. Department of Labor projection that there will be “64,000 fewer jobs in this field over the next seven years.”
However, several other media outlets and ag-related organizations, such as Huffington Post and FFA, chose to challenge the article, pointing out why the report was inaccurate. Interestingly, later that same year, Yahoo! posted a “Best and Worst Degrees for Employment,” and agriculture was voted as the No. 3 lowest unemployment area of study. Clumsy wording notwithstanding, that meant ag was suddenly near the top for most USEFUL of those degrees studied.
Read the rest of the article to see what others had to say about the original Yahoo! Article at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/ag-school-degrees-useless-think-again/. You can also see the entire special report on the recent boom in ag school enrollment and its implications at http://www.myfarmlife.com/advantage/major-changes-the-new-boom-in-ag-education/.
(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.”
For the full article, please click here
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.