Hot new wheels headed to the icy desert

Bus in a workshop with a man walking past
The Antarctic bus will transport scientists and expeditioners across the ice desert from Australia’s Wilkins Aerodrome to Casey research station, about 70 km away on the coast. (Photo: Daniel Porter)

12th September 2017

Australian expeditioners will have new wheels when they travel across Antarctica this summer, with an upgraded bus destined for Australia’s Casey research station.

The Antarctic bus will transport scientists and expeditioners across the ice desert from Australia’s Wilkins Aerodrome to Casey research station, about 70 km away on the coast.

Australian Antarctic Division Mechanical Supervisor, Cameron Frost, said the bus has been specially designed to withstand the extreme conditions of the windiest, coldest and driest continent on earth.

“Electric and diesel heaters will keep both the engine and passengers warm in the sub-zero temperatures,” Mr Frost said.

“There are six all terrain balloon tyres weighing half a tonne each and measuring 1.5 m high which are designed to help the bus drive over soft snowy surfaces and make the trip across the ice cap a little smoother.”

The $1.2 million vehicle will carry 36 expeditioners, 17 more than the current bus can transport.

“The Division’s Airbus 319 can fly up to 38 passengers to Antarctica so we’ve had to send extra vehicles to the runway to transport everyone back to Casey station,” Mr Frost said.

“Being able to take the majority of passengers in a single vehicle with one driver will be a game changer for the station, freeing up people and vehicles for other jobs.”

The 22 tonne bus will be transported to Antarctica in November.

The bus was manufactured in Calgary and is a smaller version of the buses used for glacier tours in Canada and by the United States Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station.

Mr Frost said a proven design, high quality vehicle and also serviceability of the bus were important considerations.

“The engine is the same as the cranes used at Casey station, which means the diesel mechanics are able to easily service the machines and interchange parts when required.”

The bus replaces the current bus, known as ‘Priscilla’, which has been in service since Wilkins Aerodrome first opened in 2008.

[Video]

New bus bound for icy desert

Video transcript

Cameron Frost:
I'm here in Calgary, Canada, carrying out the final inspection on our new bus. The new bus replaces our existing one, which we have in Antarctica, which is known as Priscilla. Priscilla's been there for a little over 10 years now and is due for replacement. The bus transports passengers from Wilkins – our intercontinental blue ice  runway to Casey station, which is a journey of a little over 70 kilometers. The bus that we've purchased is a Terra Bus. It's a specific cold weather machine and with a number of modifications to allow it operate in the cold climate. It has 36 seat capacity which is 17 more than our current bus. It also has large balloon tyres, which allows it to traverse through challenging conditions. We plan to ship the bus to Australia and transport it to Antarctica in the middle of November.

[end transcript]