ExWeb interview with Jason De Carteret: record drive to the South Pole

ExWeb interview with Jason De Carteret: record drive to the South Pole

Posted: Jul 05, 2012 10:57 pm EDT

(Correne Coetzer) December 2011, after three years of preparation, expedition leader Jason De Carteret, mechanic Kieron Bradley and cameraman Jason “JT” Thomas arrived on Antarctica in ALE’s Ilyushin with Polar, a purpose-made, green vehicle, to break the world record by car from the Hercules Inlet side to the South Pole.

Easier said than done as Antarctica’s harsh climate took its toll on the machine. Kieron Bradley had to perform miracles with the repairs. Eventually he and De Carteret set off and covered a distance of 1,114 km in 39 hours 54 minutes, taking off 29 hours 27 minutes from the previous record time.

As a Discovery documentary about the expedition has started screening this month, ExplorersWeb caught up with Jason De Carteret.

ExplorersWeb: Were you driving alone all the time? How many stops did you make?

Jason: On the record attempt Jason Thomas decided to leave the expedition which left Kieron and I to drive. We swapped driving but as Kieron had worked through the night before on the Vehicle it worked out that I drove for 34 hours and Kieron for 6 hours.

Stopping wise, we stopped every hour to check for leaks, heat of wheel bearings, differentials and levels of all fluids.

ExplorersWeb: What did you load in the car?

Jason: We knew that weight was our enemy and we took nothing that we could do without. I was ruthless on this and it paid off in the end. We took the basics, tent, sleeping bags, stove and food for a week, minimal tools and spares and that was it, nothing else, no books, no iPods, no extra clothing…

ExplorersWeb: How was the fuel consumption during the trip? Where did you get fuel for refuel?

Jason: The fuel consumption was amazingly good, we only burnt 440 liters to get to the Pole and we had capacity for 1,200 in Polar and we had created another fuel cache of 600 liters at the halfway point.

ExplorersWeb: How important was tire pressure? Did you use the same tire pressure all the way? How big were the tires?

Jason: We were running 44” tires which take a lot of looking after. The tire pressure is the most important part of a vehicle expedition, we really tried to keep the pressures as hard as possible but when the snow got really soft sometimes we were down to only a few pounds per square inch….. We were constantly changing the pressures and checking the tires.

ExplorersWeb: How did you find the snow? Was it similar to driving in sand? Did you get dense sastrugi fields? If yes, how did you negotiate them? They are rock hard and can damage a vehicle…

Jason: The snow is very varied between the coast and the Pole, hard, soft, flat, rugged, crevasses and white-outs!!

Much of the terrain is very similar to driving on sand, until of course when you get to the sastrugi fields that stretch on for over 100kms and they are brutal for the vehicle twisting and breaking the vehicle even with her ground clearance.

ExplorersWeb: Did you navigate the route or did you take the ALE car track?

Jason: This was mixed, tracks can get covered very quickly in Antarctica and ALE only have a GPS route to Thiels, which can be great, but also can be non-existent, passed here, it is the GPS route that we took in 2005. Once passed Thiel Mountains the terrain gets a lot harder with steep slopes and soft snow, we were lucky that in the last 80km we picked up on some fresh tracks of a vehicle from the South Pole and that really helped us.

ExplorersWeb: What was the biggest challenge driving a car to the SP and racing against time?

Jason: Being so tired, we had 9 hours sleep in 6 days, we worked through the night, we had breakdowns, disappointments and we were doing our own thing, we were not guided with other people as “clients”, and we were taking the responsibility of all logistics and making things work rather than just being a tourist.

ExplorersWeb: You had breakdowns. What happened and how easy was it to repair the car in such a remote location?

Jason: We had two major breakdowns and ALE was fantastic in assisting us in getting out of trouble when we were remote. It is amazing how people who really work in this environment team together and help each other, it’s the wannabes that discredit others and try and belittle others achievements, the true adventurers want success for all who risk to achieve.

ExplorersWeb: If you would do it again, is there something that you would do different?

Jason: Every time you do an expedition like this, you think of new ways, you think of new ideas, you think of what you could have done differently to be faster, safer, greener or just plain better…. The next one will be even quicker!!!

Vehicle specifications courtesy of Jason De Carteret:
Original : Toyota Tacoma
Design: Styled by Ian Nisbet in the UK
Engine: V6 Supercharged by Sparks Toyota in USA
Bi-Fuel: Total remapping for Bi-Fuel done by Kieron Bradley in UK
Wheels: 44” Conversion and suspension modification done by Artic Trucks Iceland
Body Parts: Created by Kieron Bradley in UK
Fuel Tanks: Co-constructed by Arctic Trucks 400 liters and Kieron Bradley 800 liters
Crush proof cell: Kieron Bradley UK
Crevasse Bar: Kieron Bradley
Roof Rack: Kieron Bradley
Slave Battery: Kieron Bradley
Satellite Coms: Kieron Bradley

"HumanEdgeTech worked with Jason de Cateret and his Thomson Reuters Eikon team, preparing for communication and power," ExplorersWeb CEO Tom Sjogren explained. "They wanted the possibility to do near live video to the Internet from the truck while traveling over the ice. The solution was an OpenPort connected with solid state netbooks and uploading over CONTACT software. Handheld Iridium 9555 was used for backup. The OpenPort gives a 128kb/s connection which allows for upload of video and Skype video conferencing."

Jason De Carteret’s favorite…
Hobby: kite surfing.
Food: Sushi
Music: Everything, depends on mood :-)
Movies: Action
Latest books: Use the internet more than books these days
Resume: MBA, Commercial Rotary Pilot, Polar guide, dive instructor, Public Speaker
Best expedition: Alaska 1992
Dream destination: Japan
What do you do when not on expedition? Plan for new expeditions…

A documentary about the time on Antarctica has started screening on Discovery Chanel. Two versions will screen in 211 countries and in 40 languages.

Video: Part 1

Video: Part 2


ExWeb interview with Aron Reynisson (part 1), “It is by no means easy to drive to the South Pole”

ExWeb interview with Aron Reynisson (final): “We literarily tear the vehicles apart and rebuild them with components proven to tolerate the cold climate.”

Arctic Trucks' Icelandic South Pole drivers called in for crevasse rescue near Novolazarevskaya

Record car at the South Pole

Ultimate mechanics

#Polar #Stats #topstory #interview

Polar, Jason de Carteret and Kieron Bradley reflecting in the silver ball at the Ceremonial South Pole.
courtesy Thomson Reuters Eikon South Pole expedition
"The fuel consumption was amazingly good, we only burnt 440 liters to get to the Pole and we had capacity for 1,200 in [the car]."
courtesy Thomson Reuters Eikon South Pole expedition
"We were constantly changing the pressures and checking the tires."
courtesy Thomson Reuters Eikon South Pole expedition
Kieron Bradley performing miracles in ALE/ANI’s mechanics tent. "We had two major breakdowns and ALE was fantastic in assisting us in getting out of trouble when we were remote."
courtesy Thomson Reuters Eikon South Pole expedition
Jason De Carteret
Image by DCL courtesy Discovery UK