Extreme Test of Endurance for MF 5610 Tractor and Crew
(Antarctica2 – 02 December 2014 – Day 11. Latitude: 80 degrees South)
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.
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, Expedition Ambassador and 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 tractor and hte 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. Our hopes are high for making it all the way. I am in awe of Antarctica, and this experience is every bit as exhilarating as I dreamed."
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.
Having successfully negotiated the most perilous part of the route through the crevasse area and mountains, the next part of the journey will take the Antarctica2 expedition across the ice plateau. The plateau brings its own challenges, exposing the team to a vast expanse of ´white´ as the tractor rig moves every-southward. This monotonous frozen desert can be very wearing and difficult tocope wiht mentally. Along with the bone-numbing, zub-zero temperature, here, the team can expect slippery, uneven surfaces and snow drifts. They are also likely to face poor visibility due to whiteouts and spindrift - tiny particles of snow and ice whipped up by the wind.
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. Manon Ossevoort took inspiration from this feat and set about realising her own seemingly-impossible dream to drive a tractor to ‘the end of the world’. Along the way, she is inviting others to share their hopes and dreams.
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 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.”
The 110hp MF 5610 is a standard production model specially-prepared by the Massey Ferguson engineering team at AGCO’s Beauvais Tractor Plant in France. Adaptations to the tractor have focused on insulating the machine and the driver from both the ultra-cold and the difficult terrain. Alterations have been made to the tractor cab, electrics, air intake and filtration. The tyres and wheel rims have been developed for the journey by expedition partner, Trelleborg.
En route to the South Pole halfway point, the biggest challenge has been the driving surface especially across the sastrugi. These hard-packed ice ridges have been worse than expected and reached a metre high on the journey through the crevasse field, slowing the tractor to just 7 km/hr. With its cab suspension, the MF 5610 helped to shield the driver from the worst of the uneven terrain. However, the constant rocking and shaking resulted in the loosening of the cab bolts and fixings which had to be re-secured by Lead Mechanic, Nicolas Bachelet.
All machines on the expedition are taking a battering, and running repairs have also had to be made to a trailer axle and one of the support trucks. Refuelling with the A1 jet fuel is another major challenge in the biting cold and the strong winds.
In his reports back to Beauvais, Nicolas Bachelet, who is also sharing some of the driving with Manon Ossevoort, described how the tractor had to be driven with utmost concentration often while staring into blinding sunlight and a totally white landscape for hours on end. He noted that the MF 5610’s sloping bonnet proved invaluable in enhancing visibility as the team picked its way carefully across the crevasse field.
The Trelleborg tyres are integral to the tractor’s performance. Tyre pressure is being varied depending on conditions, but in the deep soft snow, it has been running as low as 5 psi (0.3 Bar).
Together with Massey Ferguson, Antarctica2 has enlisted the help of leading industry partners including Trelleborg, Castrol, AGCO Finance, AGCO Parts, Fuse Technologies and MechaTrac.