small maintenance break

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Halfway home! Record distance covered despite broken fan belt

Antarctica2 Lead Mechanic, Nicolas Bachelet had the task of changing the tractor’s broken fan belt.

(Antarctica – 16th December 2014): We are back on our return journey from the South Pole to Novo Runway, after having a new fan belt fitted.

Despite the hold-up, we are also celebrating our best day’s travel to date, covering 308.9km (192 miles) in 28 hours, thanks in part to following the tracks it created on our outward journey. At 80 degrees South, we are now halfway back to the Antarctic coast.

While it may usually be a simple half-hour task when carried out on-farm, the fan belt replacement was made much more difficult in the harsh Antarctic environment by the extremely low temperatures of minus 20C and lower, exacerbated by the wind chill factor. In itself, fitting the fan belt is still a simple job, but the main difficulty faced by lead mechanic Nicolas Bachelet was maintaining the engine’s warmth once the tractor had been stopped to enable the job to be carried out.

We erected over the tractor a special tent – designed specifically for the purpose – to create a warmer environment and help keep out the bitterly cold wind. There was also room inside for one of the team support vehicles, providing heat to warm the space in addition to supplying power to a special heating and insulating jacket to warm the engine block. Without all these measures, the engine would be simply too cold to work on without serious risk of frostbite to the mechanic’s ungloved hands.

With sufficient insulation from the cold, Nicolas was able to fit a new belt, check over the tractor and send the team on its way. Having checked all the related components and finding no other problems, the cause of the breakage was deemed to be simple wear and tear, perhaps unsurprising given the hours it has worked. The engine has rarely being stopped during the expedition. Like virtually every other component used on the South Pole MF 5610 tractor, it is a standard item, but has been working for many more hours and in much harsher conditions than would be encountered by the average farm tractor over such a period.

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bad weather, no sight

“The weather was sunny and then the ice fog rolled over us. It’s hard to see the tracks and bumps. If you can imagine being in a dark room and you can see nothing. That’s what it’s like except it’s in white!” Matty McNair, Expedition Lead Guide.

Matty mcNair

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Extreme cold means even simple tasks take longer

(Antarctica – 14th December 2014): Adverse weather and the need for time to catch up on maintenance has slowed the Antarctica2 expedition’s advance to Novo Runway.

At an altitude of 2572m and temperatures of -28°C even carrying out the simplest tasks take longer and is much more tiring than in ‘normal’ conditions. And this work is on top of the challenge of travelling for hours in the most extreme of environments.

While the team is, of course, eager to get home with their families and loved ones, it’s always safety first in Antarctica. So it’s essential to stop and carry out preventive maintenance to the machines on which they rely, as well as provide time for the team members to recharge their own batteries.

The team has also had to take a 10km detour, and back, to collect some equipment left from another expedition. Rules stipulate nothing can be left in Antarctica – everything has to be taken out.

The short break in the constant travelling has, however, given the media team time to upload some more amazing videos, as well as film what’s going on and some interviews with the team members. These are coming through from the ice and, along with previous footage, can be viewed at:

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Daily update Simon Foster day 22

Simon Foster, Creative Director and Audio-Visual Lead, tells how the communications office works and how they upload all film and photo material. This is day 22 of the Antarctica2 expedition.

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Update day 20 Matty

Matty tells it is sunny and they are on their way back. They are halting for a break after a 15 hours drive. The landscape is wide and white, and in the trucks they are cramped with stuff at their feet and lap.

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Simon and Matty at arrival on the South Pole

On Tuesday 9th December 2014, the Antarctica2 crew reached the South Pole after 17 days of driving in the MF 5610 tractor.

Shortly after arrival at the Pole, Simon, Creative Director & Audio Visual Lead, and Matty, Expedition Lead Guide, gave their thoughts to camera.


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