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Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Indian Traverse

One of the perks of coming to South Pole for me was that for 12 months I would not see a single car ... not so!
A couple of days ago three Toyotas showed up, having driven more than 1,250 miles from the edge of the continent in a mere week and a half.  They came with the Indian Traverse, a scientific expedition organized by the Indian Station in Antarctica to take meteorological data from the continent.
The cars are modified Toyotas, built by ArcticTrucks, a company in Iceland.  They run on jet fuel, and they each cost about $150k.  They can drive at speeds of up to 25 mph on the ice.  Fuel efficiency?  Just 4 mpg!  They are equipped with a Ground Probing Radar (GPR), a system that senses the presence of crevasses.

The Indian Traverse on final approach to the South Pole in their Toyotas - Foto courtesy AB

Initially I was not impressed by people driving cars to the South Pole, when less than 100 years ago the true heroes of Antarctica risked their lives skiing and pulling sleds here, and I had no interest in going out to see the cars.  But then yesterday I bumped into one of the members of the expedition and had lunch with him: a very nice mechanic from India who has spent the last 13 months in Antarctica at the Indian station.  He told me about the cars, about the axle that broke during the traverse and that he had to repair in the field.  I then met one of the Icelandic Engineers who designed the car, and I started considering that, after all, I had it a lot easier, making the trip from the coast in a much more comfortable airplane and in just 3 hours.  I gained respect for the pioneering efforts of this traverse, and I went out to take some photos of the cars before they left on their 1250- mile trip back to the coast.  Here they are.  Good luck, Indian Traverse!

The ArcticTruck modified Toyota at the South Pole.

At the main entrance of the South Pole Station, ready to leave on the journey back to the coast.

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