(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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(19.55 CET, 22 November 2014, Novo Runway, Antarctica): After three years’ meticulous planning and preparation, the exciting Antarctica2 tractor expedition departed into the vast icescape today for its 5000 km journey to the South Pole and back.
In buoyant mood and excited about the challenges ahead, the multi-national team left for this modern-day polar adventure with their red Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor forging a path across the snow. Following a period of storms and a wind chill factor down to minus 50 degrees C, the weather conditions for departure were good, and clear skies made for the perfect start to the expedition.
For ‘Tractor Girl’, Manon Ossevoort, it is the beginning of a dream come true as she realises her long-held ambition to take a tractor to ‘the end of the world.’
“It seemed like such an impossibly big dream but it’s all falling into place – now it’s mission possible!” said 38-year-old Manon, Expedition Ambassador and Lead Driver. “I’m like a child on Christmas morning – full of excitement and anticipation.”
“As tractor supplier to the expedition, we are thrilled to see the team finally depart on this once-in-a-lifetime challenge,” remarks Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development. “It’s a bold mission and promises to be a fascinating story of strength, endurance and team work. Our MF 5610 is ready to face the extreme elements and repeat the achievement of our TE20 tractors which took explorer Sir Edmund Hillary to the South Pole in 1958.”
In a message to the Antarctica2 team congratulating them on their departure, Campbell said: “The hopes and aspirations of the entire worldwide family of our famous red brand, together with the pride, skill, legacy and vision inherited from our founders ride with you as you travel. We wish you a safe journey.”
The expedition team will be up against temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees C, altitude up to 3400m, with both soft snow and hard-packed ice underfoot. Along the way, they can expect to face strong winds, raging blizzards and whiteouts. Depending on conditions, the expedition is scheduled to reach the Geographical South Pole sometime in early December.
As the world waits in anticipation for the imminent departure of the Antarctica2 expedition to drive a Massey Ferguson tractor to the South Pole, Lead Driver Manon Ossevoort is looking forward to the trip.
“Driving the tractor through the endless white vastness of Antarctica is going to be so surreal,” she says.
“When I first learnt to drive a tractor, I was immediately taken with the symbols of the tortoise and the hare which are used as icons on the dashboard to denote low and high gear ranges. That fitted perfectly with my story concept of fulfilling a dream slowly but surely.”
“The MF 5610 is a great machine – small, compact, manoeuvrable and lightweight. It’s been really well prepared by the Massey Ferguson engineers and the other partners supporting Antarctica2. I hope it’s going to keep me nice and warm!”
“We’ve done lots of tests both in the lab and in the field– all with the very best people. It’s been amazing to see the tractor perform, especially during our expedition trial in Iceland.”
“When I found out about the first mechanised trek to the South Pole achieved by Sir Edmund Hillary and his Ferguson TE20 in 1958, the story really inspired me to keep believing in the possibilities of my endeavour. So with all that heritage, I always knew it would be really appropriate for me to be driving a modern-day Massey Ferguson tractor. I feel privileged to be doing so.”
“The whole project is about trust and is a big leap of faith for all parties. But we all took that leap, and now we are about to set off. I will give my all to continue this celebration and share our tales of adventure as we cross the ice.”
Depending on weather conditions, Antarctica2 is scheduled to leave some time this weekend (22/23 November).
With the arrival of Expedition Ambassador and Lead Driver, Manon Ossevoort, the whole Antarctica2 team is now at Novo Runway, making final preparations before embarking on their ambitious quest to drive a Massey Ferguson MF 5610 on a 5,000km journey to the South Pole and back.
Despite temperatures falling to minus 40°C during a recent storm, in which 50mph winds produced a wind chill down to minus 50°C, the team is confident the expedition will set out for the Pole this weekend as planned. Currently, they are acclimatising to the harsh conditions, packing their supplies and making the final equipment checks.
Along with Manon, the team includes polar explorers Matty McNair (Expedition Lead Guide) and her daughter Sarah McNair-Landry (Expedition Guide and Audio-Visual Support), Nicolas Bachelet (Lead Mechanic) and Simon Foster (Creative Director and Audio-Visual Lead). Expedition specialists, Arctic Trucks will provide guidance and safety support.