When one wants to make history with ... a car !
Published on 15.12.2011 - Thompson Reuters Eikon South Pole Expedition
The drivers who wanted to set a speed record between Hercules Inlet and the South Pole were poorly prepared. Their car had two major breakdowns already.
Breakdown number 1
The first breakdown of this magical car that should break a world record soon and "make history" (!) occurred on 6 December (or perhaps was it on 7 December ?) when they were on their way to make the fuel depot (see our previous coverage) needed to refuel on the way to the Pole : they got stuck in a trough of snow with the result of a flat tire and a cracked rim.
Back to Union Glacier for the three of them, reparing the rim, getting the necessary spare parts (new tire), going back to the place where the first breakdown occurred, reparing the car and going back with the car to Union Glacier ALE base camp to start officially and with a worldwide attention of course the record attempt. By the way, this car has a name : "Polar" !
They prepared the Polar meticulously (after the reparing of the tire -in situ- and the rim -at base camp-) in order to be fine tuned on the big day for the big start.
And on 12 December, in front of a dumbfounded world : " ... We have officially started our attempt at the world record for overland speed from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole at 1030 Chilean time (1330 GMT) on 12 December 2011. The weather is less than desirable due to low contrast (it's windy and overcast), but the vehicle is in great shape, the team is excited and energized. Here goes nothin'… To the Pole! "
New setback for the team : they had probably forgotten that in Antarctica, the weather is quite unpredictable : and shortly after the start, a solid white out came out to greet them. The same day, Thomas writes : "... The visibility is so bad that Jason has literally been driving with his head out the window in order to see a useable track for us to drive on. Obviously, you can't do that forever. ..." Of course you can't...
Breakdown number 2
What to do ? Go back to Patriot Hills and try again the day after.
But perhaps Antarctica does not like too much the auto mechanics who want to write history with fuel, engines, gaz consumption and so on... And they had a new breakdown. This time a more serious one.
Excerpts of 13 December : "... On our way back to Patriot Hills after turning around due to zero visibility weather, the skies started to clear up a little. We found the track that we had made going out, which made for a better return. We were chugging along at a comfortable pace (now that we were only headed back to make camp before we could start our attempt again, there was no reason to hurry.) After crossing a snow drift about the size of a speed bump, the lower wishbone on the right front of the vehicle apparently broke. Jason and Kieron investigated it and determined that it had likely snapped due to continued stress from extreme cold. It was not a bump that would normally cause this kind of damage. In fact, of all the things that could be anticipated that might fail on this well-built truck, this one wasn't even on the list. It was a freak component failure that just happened. A replacement part can be sourced, but it will have to be beefed up once we get it, and that might cause timing issues. ..."
They they put the Polar on an ALE Logistics tractor train that was miraculously coming back from the Thiel Mountains and passing by them ; they had nothing else to do but taking the car back to Union Glacier base camp. Because a wishbone is not so easy to find in Antartica. And without wishbone no record attempt.
The only solution for the team is to get a replacement part shipped in from Punta Arenas. How long will it take ?