Heavy tractors provide pulling power for ice core traverse

One of Australia’s new Caterpillar Challenger tractors at the William Adams workshop in Hobart, ready for its Antarctic modification.
One of Australia’s new Caterpillar Challenger tractors at the William Adams workshop in Hobart, ready for its Antarctic modification. (Photo: David Reilly)

Five new heavy tractors will provide the pulling power for the Australian Antarctic Program’s new deep-field traverse capability, and the search for a million year ice core.

With a combined 2600 horsepower, the tractors will be capable of towing an entire mobile research station deep inland, with food supplies, accommodation, scientific facilities, power generation and up to 160,000 litres of fuel.

The $5.1 million investment is part of a broader $45 million Australian Government commitment to re-establish an overland traverse capability in Antarctica.

Hobart-based business, William Adams, will supply the Caterpillar Challenger traverse tractors, following an open tender process.

Australian Antarctic Division Traverse Manager, Matt Filipowski, said the first machine had arrived at William Adams for modifications to withstand Antarctica’s extreme conditions.

“This is a truly exciting capability upgrade for the Australian Antarctic Program, which opens up the Antarctic interior to big, ambitious science projects like the search for a million year ice core,” Mr Filipowski said.

“The traverse and mobile inland station will allow us to deploy scientists and support teams to some of the most remote and extreme parts of Antarctica, in all weather conditions, and for long periods of time.”

The traverse will be managed by a team of eight expeditioners and will reach up to 1500 kilometres inland.

The first traverse from Australia’s Casey research station is planned for the 2020–21 summer, with jobs on the traverse team expected to be advertised from December this year.

Major items remaining for procurement include sleds, living and accommodation units and fuel storage.

The traverse project team previously spent time on British and French Antarctic traverses to inform the development of Australia’s new traverse capability (see Australian Antarctic Magazine 33: 4-6, 2017).

David Reilly
Australian Antarctic Division