Sir Edmond Hillary drove his Ferguson TE20 to the South Pole and back during the summer of 1958 wearing flannelette and with no FTO (Field Training Officer) in sight. Ever since, tractors have played a vital role in all areas of operations in Antarctica.
The humble tractor, in its normal habitat on the farm, tackles pretty much every task there is. This indirectly provides food (the life blood) for all the Australian stations in Antarctica. In Antarctica, tractors tow vital equipment thousands of kilometres around the vast icy continent and also double as a mode of transport.
The tractor in Antarctica has come a long way from the Massey Ferguson 35 with its 40 hp, 3 cylinder engine, and canvas cab. The new generation of Challenger tractor MT865E ‘Saturday Sailing’ has just made its first track marks on the icy continent after a ride down in the C-17 Globe master. With its 500 hp engine, heated seat and just about everything else you could wish for, this is the first of 5 new tractors that are being delivered to Casey this season for the new traverse program. http://www.antarctica.gov.au/news/2019/australias-artistic-antarctic-tractors-head-south
The station also has a range of case quad track tractors that are used to keep the air link to Australia open through Wilkins Aerodrome as well as intra-continental flights through Casey ski landing area. These tractors are used to transfer fuel, tow land planes (a grader for tractors), push snow and proof roll the runway, which is a vital part of the process to make sure the runway is as safe as possible for a plane to land on.
With that said the tractor has changed the way we do things for the better. It has expanded our scientific capability on all our stations, with greater distances achievable in a safer, more comfortable manner. If only these new machines could come with a coffee machine and the ability to fix themselves.
PS Don’t call us, we’ll call you.