Bespoke heavy-duty tractors are the workhorse of the traverse fleet, pulling sleds full of people and equipment for thousands of kilometres.

The Australian Antarctic Program's modern traverse fleet has five Caterpillar Challenger MT865E tractors.

Each tractor has been extensively modified to cope with the expected –50°C temperatures. This includes adding double-glazed windows, heaters on the engine and transmission, and enclosing engine cowlings to protect from blizzard conditions. It takes about six months for each tractor to receive the full Antarctic treatment.

Cranes are installed on the back of three of the tractors to do the heavy lifting, and winches on the other two to assist with any bogged vehicles.

The designs of renowned Australian artist Ken Done adorn the bonnets. Donated by the artist, each tractor's design shows different iconic Australian scenes of the beach, reef, gumtrees and outback. The images provide our expeditioners with a colourful reminder of home as they travel through the stark white landscape.

Challenger MT865E

  • 6 cylinders
  • 18.1L capacity
  • Power: 391kW (525hp)
  • Torque: 2530Nm @1400rpm
  • Fuel: Jet A1 system
  • Tank: 1184 litre capacity
  • Speeds: 16 forward/4 reverse
  • Max speed: 40km/hr
  • Length: 6754mm
  • Width: 3600-4164mm
  • Height: 3509mm
  • Weight: 22,000 kg
  • Towing: 80 tonnes capacity
  • Transmission: Caterpillar direct drive Powershift