Cat Finning, supplier to The Coldest Journey, sent two driver/engineers on the expedition, one with long experience working in the Ekati Gold Mine above the Arctic Circle. Spencer Smirl is accustomed to keeping Cat equipment working at -70 degrees Celsius, and doesn't expect it'll be much harder at -90 C.
Special "casteled" grouser shoes get help penetrating the ice from tungsten bits like those used on milling-machine drums.
The D6Ns are pulling special cabooses used for shelter, scientific work and storage. They will also be used to fill or bridge crevasses.
The Coldest Journey has begun. After a one-day, weather-related delay, the five-man Ice Team and two Cat D6Ns headed off into the polar winter on March 21st. It was the beginning of the first attempt to cross Antarctica's 2,000 miles in the winter.
Specially modified Cat D6Ns play a key role in the expedition, pulling cabooses for shelter, scientific work and storage, including jet fuel designed not to freeze. The dozers will also fill, bridge or circumnavigate cevasses.
The machines will be exposed to the coldest conditions on earth during the six-month journey. Cat Finning mechanics Spencer Smirl and Richmond Dykes are part of the Ice Team. They have the tasks of operating and maintaining the D6Ns during The Coldest Journey.
A winter traverse of the Antarctic is widely regarded as the last true remaining polar challenge and the expedition is considered no less than an attempt to reassert Britain’s status as the world’s greatest nation of explorers.
The journey has for many years been considered too perilous to try and the expedition’s five-man* “Ice Team” will have to overcome one of earth’s most hostile environments, exposing themselves to temperatures dropping close to -90 degrees Celsius and operating in near permanent darkness.
Having never been attempted, the expedition will provide unique and invaluable scientific research that will help climatologists, and form the basis for an education program that will reach up to 100,000 schools across Britain.
The six-month expedition aims to raise $10 million for Seeing is Believing, an international initiative tackling preventable blindness. Seeing is Believing is a collaboration between the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness and Standard Chartered, the lead sponsor of our expedition.
* The Ice Team was originally a six-man team led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Unfortunately, Fiennes had to pull out of the expedition in late February after getting a serious case of frostbite in his left hand.