Tractor transformation time

Two of the tractors ready to undergo a transformation
Two of the Challenger MT865E tractors ready to undergo a transformation (Photo: Mark Wiggins)
A tractor in workshop in bits, ready to be modified for Anarctic service

Hold still, this won’t hurt a bit! A fleet of tractor transformers are being Antarcti-fied in Hobart.

The five tractors are being modified to survive the harsh Antarctic conditions they will soon face on their first mission on the icy continent.

The tractors are part of the Traverse project, which will support the Australian Antarctic Program plan to drill an Antarctic ice-core dating back over a million years, providing a snapshot of climate history.

Project Manager, Matt Filipowski, says the tractors will be in the workshop for five months undergoing a range of modifications.

“We are putting in double-glazed cabin windows, and heaters on the engine and transmission to cope with the minus fifty degree temperatures,” Mr Filipowski said.

“The bonnets of the tractors will also be altered, to close them up and stop snow getting into the engines.”

The machines will pull a huge train of accommodation buildings, scientific equipment and fuel across the Antarctic icecap, to set up a mobile station 1200 kilometres inland, at more than 3000 metres above sea-level.

“We are going to put cranes on the back of three of the tractors to do the heavy-lifting, and winches on the other two, in case we get bogged on the way.”

The first of the tractors are scheduled to fly south in the back of the C-17A Globemaster in December. The initial traverse will head out of Australia’s Casey research station in 2021.