"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov

Ya ever seen my house?

Ya ever seen my house?
Neither have I Ted! You douchebag.
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, April 17, 2014

You're Going To Drive To The South Pole...

Are you mental?
"Under favourable circumstances Lieutenant Shackleton computes that the machine can travel 150 miles in twenty four hours and .... he thinks there would be a fair chance of sprinting to the pole"

Or not. Pictured above: the very first car in Antarctica.
 A car, "specially built" for the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907 - 09, AKA The Nimrod Expedition, by the Arrol-Johnston company of Paisley, Scotland.
And no, the expedition was named for it's ship - not the nimrod idea that the above-pictured, overweight quadra-cycle could "sprint" the roughly thousand miles between my old place of residence, McMurdo Sound and the spot on the planet farthest from Santa's AO.
Speaking of McMudhole; Hey, there I am/was, about thirty-nine years ago on top of Observation Hill observing either Good Friday or Palm Sunday, one.
Good Baptist boy, I'd just wanted to commemorate the times when my need to go someplace else to drink a beer may been imbued  with some larger significance.
Anyhoo, from this lofty perch, I could have watched the feeble scuttlings of the first auto on the ice and been even more bored. Even the falling into the crevasse would have been seen at a distance and anti-climactic as well.
Fact was: one  of the backers of the expedition had recently acquired the  Arrol-Johnston firm, the first automaker in Britain - which was a big deal - and he wanted to deepen AJ's reputation as Scotland's only car manufacturer in the bargain. One of his 'motors' tooling around down there would make for some nice ad copy he thought.
The 4 cylinder, 15 horsepower air cooled car pictured with its special mods is, as you can see, rather breezy. But I'll bet that fold-down windshield was really nice in the summer.
The end result turned out to be a car that had some hey-look-at-me bells-and-whistles such as: solid wooden tires with steel cleats for the rear and demountable skis for the front and, and... did I mention the skis?
It failed abysmally at its job and eventually, to everyone's relief, fell into a crevasse. 
Bad idea, but for 1907, just driving it down there long enough to know it was worthless was something.
Sir Ernie though, thought it may be able to make it to the pole even though he should have known better. Therefore, I'm only going to talk about vehicles that folks thought maybe-could-be as well as the ones that actually made it regarding that pesky, last thousand miles or so from the coast and the very,very bottom.
having made that assurance, we now take our sole digression: No mention was ever made of this thing attaining the pole, it just had to work.


Said digression: A 1963, VW Beetle known as "The Red Terror".
Not just a production car but a stock, production car, painfully stock.
It was picked out at an Australian dealership for the color.
They winterized it, fabricated a clip-on cover to keep snow out of the fan vents when parked, put a roof rack and some stickers on and it was ready to go.
Twelve months and 1500 Antarctic miles later, it was seen as a raving success even considering the several re-welds necessary for her front end.
After she got home to Oz, VW took her on the 1964, BP Rally Around Australia Rally and  she won outright.
Historic VW geeks, it's still out there...Could be somebody's dream barn-find.
Point is: she hadn't even been considered for the big shot,  she just tooled back and forth between Mawson Base and the airfield but she worked, and well... unlike the biggest, boffo, technological... thing that was ever supposed to make it feasible to drive there, Goddammit!
Everyone knows the old adage; "If a little is good, a lot is better, so too much ought'a be just right."

The handy caption should help you in picking the Cruiser out of the two vehicles pictured.
The Antarctic Snow Cruiser; it existed solely so Earnest Shackleton didn't look stupid for thinking a 1907 auto could drive to the pole. This monstrosity was actually built for it and couldn't get out of its own way. It broke the ramp built for getting it off the ship and, when off the ship, sank to its belly in the snow never to move again (hardly). It's still down there, a perfect, under-the-ice, doomsday shelter that you could just drive away... oh right.
All decked out, it had a machine shop, galley, sleeping quarters and an airplane perched on top just 'cause. 
This colossal  waste began at the Pullman factory in Chicago and when completed it was too big to transport to the coast for shipment to the ice. So, they drove it there, in the process, providing much-needed, depression-era cheering-up to folks along the route. Case in point: Three days spent in Ohio, stuck in a river. Something about nineteen feet being too wide for the bridge.
Of course,by now many, many people have "roaded" some sort of motor vehicle to the bottom of the world but the very first, in fact the very first-est rig to have done so was...
Wait for it... 
A Ferguson TE20 agricultural tractor, three of them actually.
The very big deal of the International Geophysical Year  began, for the British, a year early in 1956. 
The Brits or as their gangsta counterparts referred to them: "The Commonwealth" decided that, for their bit they would finally do what Shackleton and Mawson had failed at, travelling across the continent. Not in one shot of course. they'd learned by then.
The plan was: The main body would leap-frog along, setting up camps and supply depots along the way to the pole from the starting point on the Weddell Sea.
Sir Edmund Hillary (You know... that guy... did that thing...) along with his folks the New Zealand, contingent would do similar along the "backside" of the route, from the pole down the other side to McMurdo Sound.
The frontside set-up was run by the expedition leader, Sir Vivian Fuchs and they used Tucker Snocats (Made in Oregon!).
While the thankless grunt-work of setting up Sir Vivian's supply depots for his trip home was Hillary's job and, said task having been performed, Sir Edmund, having set up his last depot (ie "the one closest to the pole") and feeling antsy the way a fella will, conferred with the lads with him (two of them. one per tractor) and they agreed that they could just... head on down to the pole; they being "almost there."
Permission was asked and it was granted, kinda so Sir Ed said:

"I continued as though the exchange of messages had never occurred ... It was becoming clear to me that a supporting role was not my particular strength. Once we had done all that was asked of us - and a good bit more - I could see no reason why we shouldn't be organising a few interesting challenges for ourselves."

Like... driving to the South Pole. I mean... it's just over there!!
Anyway, it wasn't because Sir Ed thought Vivian was a woman and someone he could bully with his manly, Kiwi charm. Hillary and his lads, Derek Wright and Murray Ellis just went for it and... apparently that was cool with Viv.
They arrived just two days before my fourth birthday, Jan. 20 1958 the first land vehicles to reach the South Pole. 
I'd wanted a theme birthday party to celebrate the occasion but mom said no. That still burns.
Anyway, these rigs were unchanged from what could have been purchased from any implement dealer in En-Zed in '56 - but for a windshield (!!) and an idler axle amidships that supported the removable tracks.
And they painted them red. Usually these tractors are called "Little Grey Furgies".
Those spacious, canvas cabs can only have made that trip between Scott Base and the pole a cozy dawdle.
Of course, Sir Viv and the Sno Cats also made it, just got there a bit later.
Not surprising they'd showed up as the Sno Cat has been the last word in getting around in the snow since the thirties.
Speaking of the SC's, everyone and his dog has seen this photo of the precariously perched Sno Cat and wondered whatever happened to it. You can all rest assured. it got out. in fact, that very rig, door code: "B", nicknamed "Rock 'N Roll" lives at the yet-to-be-realized Tucker museum in Medford. There are other pics around showing other Sno Cats of the expedition in a similar predicament. Must have been a nerve-wracking trip.
Okay, saving the best for second-to-last which shouldn't matter anyway because it's just my pick in any case.
This is one that is cool on all kinds of hit-with-a-bigger-hammer front and last one of their kind left the ice this season.
America got into the Geophysical Year thing in 1957 with the setting up of several stations, including that at the pole and my old hometown of McMurdo.
All the overland transport of anything bigger than some guy's ass, onto the icecap and on the pole was made facilitated by the... drumroll please.... Caterpillar SD-8 LGP.
Observation Hill in the background but.
Isn't she a beauty? By the way, that designation would be: Stretch D-8, Low Ground Pressure.
They were a specialty item from Cat, bought mostly by the military for use in Greenland and Antarctica.
A D-8 with (I think) a beefier engine, a longer frame and tracks that were 54" wide. I can't recall the figures but its footprint was something like a quarter that of a human walking on the snow.
When they were rigged for going the distance they could carry 1200 gallons of fuel in a saddle tank and a belly tank that reduced ground clearance to three inches and aided mightily in the ground-pressure issue as well.

"A train of the tractors transported construction cargo from Little America V in Kainan Bay to Byrd Station during the 1956-57 summer for the International Geophysical Year. The D-8 was also used during the 1960-61 summer to pull the first U.S. surface traverse to reach the South Pole."
Hardly the glamor girls but they got shit done.
Speaking of glamor, although the famously indestructible Toyota Hilux has its stylish elements and is the favorite of insurgency groups everywhere, it has made the trip in stupid-fast time.
Did ya know... there's a Victorian gazing ball at the very spot that the earth's ass-end spins around on?
Looks like the one pictured.
Anyway, follow the links. I'm tired, lazy and have spent too much time on this already.

2 comments:

Andy said...

You're on a roll Dan. Good stuff.

ankit kumar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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