With cold temperatures back again, most prairie farmers are resigning themselves to the task of operating farm equipment through another Canadian winter—forecast again to be a nasty one. At the same time, one group has taken their tractor to the coldest continent on the planet—on purpose!
The Antarctica2 expedition intends to retrace the path of explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, who used Ferguson tractors in his 1953 expedition to the South Pole, marking the first time anyone had used motorized vehicles to get there.
Setting off on November 22nd, lead driver Manon Ossevoort, a woman from the Netherlands, and her support team, driving a modern Massey Ferguson 5610 tractor, began recreating that adventure. But they haven’t just picked up a tractor off a dealer’s lot and headed south. Their 5610 has undergone a lot of extreme weather testing to prepare it for the trip. I would think just taking a tractor from Saskatchewan would have saved engineers some time.
The Trelleborg tires on the 5610 were redesigned especially for Antarctic conditions. Tread bar depth was reduced and the shoulders were rounded off to create traction better suited to the snow and ice they’ll face. The tire carcasses were designed to work with extremely low pressure.
Cold weather oil was provided by Castrol, and glycol tubes were run around the engine and transaxle to help keep fluid temperatures up. Additional insulation was added to the cab to help protect the ECM and wiring from faults caused by extreme weather.
In case the tractor gets stuck in an ice cravasse, a 1.6 metre tow bar was built into the chassis to help get it out quickly and safely.
Only 48 hours into their trip, the team found themselves cut off from the outside world when satellite communications were disrupted by a solar storm. But things are apparently back on track and the team is making progress.
If you want to follow them on their trek, log into www.antarcticatwo.com or check out the AGCO blog at blog.agcocorp.com.