Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cool Sled - The Concept Ice Vehicle

In November 2010, Andrew Moon and Andrew Regan, long-time fellow explorers from the Cayman Islands and Geneva respectively, will lead the Moon-Regan TransAntarctic Expedition, a 3,000-mile motorized expedition using two Science Support Vehicles and a bizarre-looking Concept Ice Vehicle (CIV), sort of a cross between a snowmobile and an ultralight airplane.

Once in Antarctica they will depart from Patriot Hills, ascending nearly 10,000 feet to the Polar plateau en route to the South Pole. From there the team travels north to McMurdo Station on the coast. This final leg of the journey is expected to be the most dangerous – the risk of unstable and unpredictable crevasses becomes even more real as they cross the ice shelf, necessitating the use of Ice Penetrating Radar (IPR) to avoid crevasses.

Polar researchers often rely on planes and big road trains pulled by tracked vehicles. Moon and Regan hope to demonstrate that wheeled utility vehicles powered by biofuels can provide an effective means of transport for research teams working on the ice.

Moon and Regan will be using two six-wheel-drive Science Support Vehicles (SSVs) to transport team members and their equipment, one of which has been tried and tested on their Ice Challenger Expedition in 2005. The original SSV was adapted by a team of engineers in Iceland, who dedicated 2,000 manhours to creating the perfect ice-busting expedition vehicle.

The Ice Vehicle, developed by Lotus, is capable of coping with the extreme conditions of the Antarctic. In order to traverse the variable sub-zero terrain at speeds up to 84 mph, the futuristic-looking Ice Vehicle travels atop three independently suspended skids (skis) and is powered by a modified, rear mounted, bio-fueled engine that reduces emissions by 70 percent. It is capable of operating in temperatures as low as –72 C (–98 F).

Designed and engineered by Formula 1 chassis designer Kieron Bradley and Polar guide Jason de Carteret, it is light enough to be man-hauled across rough terrain. The Ice Vehicle will travel ahead of the two heavier support vehicles to ensure that the ice surface is safe.

During the trip, the team hopes to draw attention to the plight of the Antarctic climate by conducting science experiments that demonstrate just how important the Polar regions are to the world’s environmental stability.

They will also visit Scott's hut at Cape Evans to draw attention to the work of the Antarctic Heritage Trust preserving the history of Antarctica and to raise
awareness about Antarctica in the centenary year of the Race to the Pole by Admunsen and Scott. They have established an educational Web site, www.juniorpolartraveller.com, to educate and inspire children about the Polar regions.

Andrew Moon, 50, and Andrew Regan, 45, previously journeyed to the North and South Poles. They met skiing to the South Pole in 2004, and in 2005 teamed up to successfully lead the mechanized Ice Challenger Expedition, a journey from the coast of Antarctica to the geographic South Pole. The trip was completed in 69 hours. For the TransAntarctic Expedition, the co-leaders will be accompanied by a support team including an expedition logistics expert, two mechanics, a cameraman, a Polar photographer and a communications expert. (For more information: www.transantarcticexpedition.com)