On the Antarctica2 expedition to the South Pole, it’s not just the Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor that has to handle the toughest conditions on earth.
The people in the team also have to cope with the extreme cold that makes it a huge challenge to carry out even the most mundane tasks.
The teamestablished set routines to accomplish regular tasks and these make it easier for them to cope with life on ice, where everything is much harder to do than at more normal temperatures.
With the tractor travelling more slowly than the escort trucks it provides time for one of these to get ahead and set up camp, putting up the sleeping tents, ‘Arctic Oven’ kitchen tent and start heating water. Obviously there’s no running water on Antarctica – it simply freezes. So before the team can make a drink, have water for cooking or washing they first have to melt pots of snow.
Depending on the conditions on each particular day and how far they are travelling, the tractor team usually arrives two to four hours later. By this time the camp is established and team’s dinner is being prepared.
The extreme cold means the team needs a special diet that is high in carbohydrates for energy and rich in protein to maintain muscle mass. They mainly eat freeze-dried meals, along with rice, pasta, cheese and Spam supplemented with nuts, dried fruit and flapjacks. Breakfast is usually granola, which with dried milk and hot water makes a warming porridge.
All the team members sleep in their own special tents capable of withstanding Antarctica’s high winds. While these provide protection from the wind, the thin sheet of material offers no insulation from the bone-chilling temperatures. This is why they sleep in thick polar sleeping bags, which they place on inflated mats that insulate them from the snow.
Despite hours of strenuous activity and concentration, the cold, combined with the constant sunlight, can make it difficult to get to sleep.
And lastly, in response to a young reader’s question – yes going to the toilet in sub-zero temperatures also presents its own problems! This a subject Creative Director, Simon Foster, says he tries to ‘avoid thinking of, let alone talking about!’