Antarctica tractor expedition halfway to South Pole

12/3/2014 10:29:33 AM by

Three Massey Ferguson tractors are on their way to the South Pole as part of an expedition that echoes the historic one made by famous explorer and adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary in 1958. Three Ferguson TE20s accompanied Hillary on his journey, which marked the first time mechanized vehicles traveled across the entire continent via the South Pole.

Hillary gave the agricultural tractors much of the credit for his expedition's success, speaking fondly of his Fergusons.

"I took a last glance at our tractor train ... our Fergusons had brought us over 1,250 miles of snow and ice, crevasse … soft snow and blizzard to be the first vehicles to drive to the South Pole," he wrote. He later further expressed his appreciation via telegram to the Massey-Harris-Ferguson Farming Company. "Despite unsuitable conditions of soft snow and high altitudes our Fergusons performed magnificently and it was their extreme reliability that made our trip to the pole possible."

Today, a caravan of three red MF 5600 tractors, modified to be "the ultimate polar expedition tractor[s]," is following in Hillary's footsteps and paying tribute to the historical 1958 achievement. Massey Ferguson and Trelleborg Wheel Systems are sponsoring the trip, which began with the vision of Dutch artist Manon Ossevoort. Ossevoort has traveled via tractor to numerous countries around the world. She and the expedition team spent three years planning the endeavor.

The expedition team expects to encounter temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 Fahrenheit), as well as blizzards, white-out conditions and high winds.

Piero Mancinelli, Trelleborg's research and development director of agricultural and forestry tires, tells Farm Equipment that the company was excited to sponsor the trip because of Antarctica's challenging weather and terrain conditions. They knew they would need to provide agricultural tires and rims capable of exceptional performance, with flotation at very low pressure, grip and traction. Reducing fuel consumption was also a concern.

"To cope with diverse ice and snow conditions varying from low to extremely low temperatures, tires need to boost grip through ultra-deflection of the carcass and widening the footprint as much as possible, at very low pressures," Mancinelli tells the source. "This, coupled with being well fixed with zero-slippage on the rim, reduces fuel consumption as well as securing reliability and comfort over the long run. In other words, a 'super agricultural' tire and rim was required. As such, we want the performance of our tires on the expedition to prove the great potential of our ultimate technology in even the most severe environments on earth. This will enable us to learn and leverage this know-how for the new generations of farming tires."

The group traveled from Iceland to Cape Town, South Africa, on Sept. 15, and from Cape Town to Novo Runway, Antarctica, on Nov. 18. The Antarctica2 expedition officially began on Nov. 21, and the team is tentatively scheduled to arrive at the South Pole on December 7.

While your tractors may not be exposed to the same harsh conditions on your farm as the MF 5600s are currently seeing at the bottom of the globe, wear and tear is inevitable. When it's time to find tractor replacement parts, don't waste time and gasoline driving from dealer to dealer, only to pay top dollar. Instead, turn to our online hub where you can instantly connect with sellers who have the item you need. 


Three agriculture tractors are on their way to the South Pole.