Sunday, December 04, 2005
posted 12/04/2005 01:33:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Things that go VROOM!

Q:just ran across your blog doing the random search thing. very cool
stuff. i'd read somewhere one of the first expeditions there in the
1920s or 1930s left behind a big 4 wheel vehicle. too big to bring
back so they buried it. heard about that story?

how come no comments on the site d00d?
-factory peasant

A:Thanks! I don't use the usual blogger comment system basically because I want this site to be kid friendly so that teachers can use it in middle schools and similar places. Since I've been down here, blogger has added comment moderation, but I haven't had a chance to look at how that works and whether it would be a good system for me to use on this site. Our net connection is very very slow (it takes me at least 10 minutes to upload each of the pictures you see here, usually longer,) and I stay pretty busy so the site will probably stay as it is at least until I get back to the states.

I think I do have an idea of what that big 4 wheel vehicle you're mentioning was. In Scott's last expedition on the Terra Nova (1910-1912), they took some modified farm tractors that were going to be used for hauling sledges. Those tractors didn't do too well - they had lots of mechanical failures, one fell through the ice, and they didn't handle the cold and snow very well in general. As far as I know, those tractors were some of the first vehicles used on the continent.

But, Scott's farm tractors probably aren't what you're referring to, but rather "Byrd's Big Bertha", which was a giant vehicle something like an overland aircraft carrier built in the late 30s. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of information floating around on the 'net about it, but if you do a search for "Antarctic Snow Cruiser" or "Byrd big bertha," you'll run across some info on it. The vehicle was huge - over 55 feet long, nearly 20 feet wide, weighed 30 tons, drove 2 miles per gallon (diesel,) 10 foot diameter tires, etc. It carried a special Beechcraft Staggerwing airplane on top, and had living quarters on the inside. The snow cruiser was a bit of a failure - one of the main factors was that the giant goodyear tires were too slick and pushed up little ridges of snow in front of the front wheels, which eventually would get the vehicle stuck until they dug out the wheels. The cruiser was eventually abandoned in Little America around the beginning of world war two. Nobody is sure where the cruiser is now, it was last seen in 1962 when a group went out to explore Little America and excavated the snow cruiser's garage there. Later in that decade, a big chunk of the ice shelf split off and drifted north, but nobody is sure which chunk of the split the cruiser was on.

Byrd's Big Bertha:
Byrd's Big Bertha

And, some more modern vehicles in use down here:

A Challenger bulldozer. Challengers aren't as strong as our custom stretched D8 Dozers (I'll get some pictures of one of those later - super cool bulldozers,) but with their rubber treads they can drive smooth and fast, and still pull pretty hard.An older Nodwell converted for use as a runway fire truck.
A Caterpillar Challenger bulldozerNodwell use by the fire department

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