The first cars from Arctic Trucks have arrived at the South Pole over the weekend with an Indian science team. Manager of Arctic Trucks Experience, Aron Reynisson, continues his interview with ExplorersWeb with telling about the new 6x6 vehicle, the modifications on the cars, how Arctic Trucks manage the fuel situation, how they leave the cars to over-winter on Antarctica, and the required skills and qualifications to become a driver in the extreme conditions on snow and ice.
ExplorersWeb: How big are the fuel tanks?
Aron: The 6x6 Hilux can carry 650 liters of fuel in the tanks and then we carry up to eight 200L fuel barrels on the bed of the truck as well. So a total of 2,250 liters.
ExplorersWeb: How many times do you refuel and where are the refuel depots? How do you get fuel at the depots?
Aron: The 6x6 can actually drive unsupported to the South Pole and back [to Novolazarevskaya 70Â° 4637S, 011Â° 4926E]. What we do is to drop fuel barrels on the way in that we pick up on the way back. We just mark the location in the GPS. TAC has also made fuel drops at two locations from where we can get extra fuel so we dont have to carry such a heavy load.
ExplorersWeb: You have a new 6x6 vehicle. Who designed and built it? Tell us more about it please.
Aron: We believe that the new 6x6 will be a great success. Our engineer teams build the 6x6 originally for the Norwegian army. We have know adapted it for use in Antarctica and the first two vehicles are being flown in is as we speak. They where build by Arctic Trucks staff in the premises of Toyota in South Africa together with four other traditional 4x4 trucks.
ExplorersWeb: What other modifications did you make to the cars to be able to drive on Antarctica?
Aron: There is a long list of modifications that have been made to adapt it to the harsh conditions in the cold. We literarily tear the vehicles apart in our shop and rebuild them with components proven to tolerate the cold climate. Even the steel we use to rebuild the frame has a special spec for the cold climate.
ExplorersWeb: You also use cars in the Arctic and drove to the Magnetic North Pole. Is there a difference to the cars that you use there or are they basically the same?
Aron: The vehicles used to drive to the Magnetic North Pole were basically the same but we used only 38 inch tires for that expedition. The conditions out on the frozen ocean are not as demanding as in Antarctica. It is more the risk of the ice breaking and the car going into the sea.
ExplorersWeb: Do you drive in white-outs with very poor or hardly any visibility - where sastrugi are invisible?
Aron: Yes, we drive in white-outs and occasionally we bump into the sastrugi. We have a special bar in the front of the car that will lift us up on top of it if this happens and make the impact softer. It is uncomfortable but it does not stop us.
ExplorersWeb: What do you typically load on a car?
Aron: We load everything we need in order to maintain the car if something breaks plus all the supplies needed for the expedition. Good preparation is the main thing and we have to be prepared for every situation.
ExplorersWeb: You leave some cars on Antarctica during the winter. How do the cars handle the cold? In the beginning of the summer season do you have to do a lot of maintenance because of the cold?
Aron: We leave all the vehicles behind. We prepare them for the cold and they are stored in containers during the winter. Our mechanics have a lot of work at the season start to maintain the cars but that is usually old war wounds from last season.
ExplorersWeb: Tell us about your drivers and mechanics please? How does someone qualify to be one of your divers/mechanics?
Aron: All of our drivers are of Icelandic origin. I guess we are all petrol heads with a passion for overland travel and the great outdoors. Most of us have had some rescue team training with ICE-SAR and we have been working on cars for most of our lives.
So to qualify you have to be a good mountain truck driver that respect nature, understand the mechanics of the car, being able to repair it if anything breaks, have first aid skills, master ice climbing and crevasse rescue, be a true adventurer and mentally strong.
ExplorersWeb: What was the worst experience that you had with your cars on Antarctica and in the Arctic?
Aron: We have not had any bad experiences with our vehicles on Antarctica or in the Arctic. We have had occasional mechanical break downs but that is nothing we canÂ´t solve. Safety is our number one priority.
Aron Reynisson is a trained mountain guide and the manager for Arctic Trucks Experience http://www.arctictrucks-experience.com. He is 46 years old, father of three children and lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. His work is to take people into the highlands in Iceland and teach them to drive on top of the glaciers, through the strong currents of the glacial rivers and basically to do anything that can be done with a car off-road. Aron says his interests aside from travelling are hiking, mountain biking, windsurfing, kiting, backcountry skiing, paragliding, riding snowmobiles and dirt bikes.
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