It may be heavily modified, but still, it’s quite a great feat to accomplish. Carrying a standard 2.2 diesel-powered engine, the ever reliable Hyundai Santa Fe is the first ever vehicle to cross the most inhospitable continent in the world — Antarctica.
But what’s even more special was that it was driven by Patrick Bergel, the great grandson of legendary polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Sir Shackleton once attempted to cross this icy continent 100 years ago, but was unable to finish his mission after his ship was trapped and crushed by ice. Forced to return home from his expedition, he went back and brought his fellow 27 explorers safely back home. Since then, he has been dubbed a leader who achieved “a glorious failure.”
It’s something that means a lot to Bergel, who feels crossing Antarctica will finish what his great grandfather has started. “Finally, I reached the place my great-grandfather dreamed of, a hundred years ago,” said the British technology entrepreneur.
His expedition is also a tribute to his great grandfather’s heroic journey. He retraced every step of his 3,604-mile (5,800 kilometers) trek, starting from the Union Glacier (near the Antartcic Peninsula) to the South Pole, Leverett Glacier across the Ross Ice Shelf, and McMurdo Sound mission.
The expedition was led by Gisli Jonsson from Arctic Trucks, the company who made modifications to the Santa Fe for the entire leg of the journey. This include bigger off-road tires, flared arches, wider tracks, and a more jacked-up suspension.
The car’s overall gearing was changed to accommodate the large tires and rugged trail, adding in newer gears inside the wheel hubs. A larger 230-liter fuel tank was also added, and used Jet A-1 fuel instead of regular diesel because “all operations in Antarctica run on it”.
The vehicle also came with a pre-heater to accommodate the extreme temperature of the environment. Tire pressure was reduced, and used only around one-tenth of the regular tires. According to Jonsson, they needed to make it very soft so it could drive “on top of the snow rather than ploughing through it”. In fact, it was so soft that “you can drive over someone’s hand and it wouldn’t hurt them”.
The Santa Fe averaged at around 30 km/h, and occasionally around 100 km/h when driving on smooth sections of the terrain.
“It was about endurance not speed, and success was about how we and the car handled it. I’m very reluctant to make direct comparisons between what my great grandfather did and what we’ve done recently. But it is quite something to have been the first to do this in a wheeled vehicle.”
All the names of Shackleton’s original crew by family ancestors was added into Hyundai’s paint, and a quote from the late explorer was written on the hood: “I shall keep on going old man, till one day I shall not come back.”
You can watch their journey here:
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