Mechanical Success

Published on 21.12.2010 - Moon Regan TransAntarctic Expedition

The Moon/Regan Transantarctic Expedition has just successfully completed its project, the return crossing of the 6th Continent in motor vehicles. From the ALE Union Glacier base camp to the start of the Ross Iceshelf via the South Pole and back.

The conditions are of course different from those that are usually experienced by those who choose to measure the vastness of the 6th Continent on foot, with only muscle power and will power at their disposal. Here is what one of the expedition members wrote on 19 December when they had just got back to the ALE base camp that they had left 20 days and 12 hours earlier. "...We quickly made our way back to the mess tent to enjoy scrambled eggs and bacon. For the first time in weeks we could sit at a table, eat off a plate and use real cutlery, and not a spork (spook, fork and knife creation). Hot coffee did not require us to melt snow and we we did not have to crouch in our tents and eat with our bowls around our knees...." Here you have the new language of adventure when it is motorised. While the first are in seventh heaven for simply being able to eat a little better than they usually did when they were making progress and cooking in their tents, the new explorers, for their part, are delighted to be able to sit down at a table and use some real kitchen utensils!

The atmosphere of the report of the difficulties encountered on the journey is also of course somewhat different. Here are some of the troubles encountered on 17 December when the convoy was approaching the Union Glacier camp: "... Like travelling down the Leverett it was not so, as we realised the rear tyre on SSV2 was losing air more quickly than the others. Valdi attempted a repair, filling the hole with a puncture kit, Gunni pointing out that he was probably the only man in Antarctica to ever have got a stone puncture on the snow. We had driven lopsided in SSV2 for over 600km, the air suspension not auto-levelling. Gunni finally decided a fix was in order and had the dashboard and front seat out of the vehicle within 30 minutes. Locating the problem, he had everyone out of the car and the problem fixed within the hour. The change was amazing, finally sitting level in the car and not on our side! Unfortunately, the tyre fix was not a permanent solution so we pulled over two hours later to change the tyre. The trailer, which was probably the single most hated item of the Expedition on account of its weight and inconvenience, providing the spare. Within a short time the tyre was changed, whilst Pete removed the half-shafts from SSV1, it having developed a clanking noise somewhere along the route. Hoping the problem was fixed, we loaded all the tools up, only to stop 100 yards later to confirm it wasn’t. As Pete had originally suspected, it was the drive shaft, so we set to work digging a mechanic pit in front of the SSV2 at Gunni’s request. With the job complete he then informed us the vehicle could only reverse so we filled it in and started again. The drive shaft to the rear axle was soon replaced and we were finally on our way, the mechanics’ ability to perform on-the-spot repairs amazing us all once again. ..."

As for the assessment of the expedition, we will rely on the official press release: "The 10-man team left Union Glacier on 25 November and arrived, via the Geographic South Pole, on the Ross Ice Shelf on 9 December. They then retraced their tracks and completed the return journey on 17 December. In all they covered nearly 4,000 km and travelled for 20 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes."

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