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Home for Christmas! Triumphant Return to Base Camp for Antarctica2 Tractor Expedition

(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.

There were emotional celebrations for the Antarctica2 expedition team members when they arrived at the South Pole with their MF 5610 tractor on 9 December 2014.

There were emotional celebrations for the Antarctica2 expedition team members when they arrived at the South Pole with their MF 5610 tractor on 9 December 2014.

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.

www.AntarcticaTwo.com

#BELIEVEINIT

 

400 km to go! Can the Antarctica2 team be home in time for Christmas?

(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.

Antarctica2: Still time to take more pictures for cameraman Simon Foster as the Antarctica2 tractor expedition gets closer to home.

Antarctica2: Still time to take more pictures for cameraman Simon Foster as the Antarctica2 tractor expedition gets closer to home.

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!

www.AntarcticaTwo.com

#BELIEVEINIT

Pole within reach as team battles arduous conditions

(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.

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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.”

Antarctica2 Tractor Expedition Now Halfway to South Pole!

(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.

The Antarctica2 team arrived at the halfway point to the South Pole on 2nd December 2014

The Antarctica2 team arrived at the halfway point to the South Pole on 2nd December 2014

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.”

www.AntarcticaTwo.com

#BELIEVEINIT

30 Hour Days – 880 km Now Completed

(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.

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‘Tractor Girl’, Manon Ossevoort at the wheel of the MF 5610 – by Day 9 of the expedition, the team were ‘ruling the clock’ and doing 30-hour days.

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.

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