Antarctica2 expedition to repeat historic feat with Massey Ferguson

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After three years of meticulous planning, a group of explorers has begun their 5000km expedition to the South Pole and back driving a Massey Ferguson tractor in an attempt to emulate Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic journey 56 years ago.

Antarctica2 expedition to repeat historic feat with Massey Ferguson
The Antarctica2 expedition team. Image: AGCO

The troupe is driving a 110hp MF5610 tractor specially prepared by the Massey Ferguson engineering team at AGCO’s Beauvais Tractor Plant in France. The original mechanised expedition in 1958, led by New Zealand explorer Sir Edmund Hillary utilised a fleet of Ferguson TE20 tractors.

For lead driver and expedition ambassador Manon Ossevoort, also known as ‘Tractor Girl’, the journey is a dream come true.

"It was my dream to drive a tractor to the end of the world, and I was inspired by Sir Edmund Hillary’s mission," she says.

"It seemed like such an impossibly big dream but it’s all falling into place, now it’s mission possible. I’m like a child on Christmas morning – full of excitement and anticipation."

This is not the first lengthy journey Ossevoort is making with a tractor as she has driven one 38,000km from her childhood home in the Netherlands to South Africa in the past.

For the expedition, Ossevoort is joined by seasoned polar explorers Matty McNair (Expedition Lead Guide) and his daughter Sarah McNair-Landry (Expedition Guide and Audio-Visual Support); Nicolas Bachelet (Lead Mechanic) and Simon Foster (Creative Director and Audio Visual Lead).

The team is expected to be up against temperatures of as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius and altitudes of up to 3400m, with both soft snow and hard-packed ice underfoot. Along the way, they could face strong winds, raging blizzards and whiteouts.

Massey Ferguson says the expedition, dubbed Antarctica2, is organised to highlight the need for the provision of accessible technologies and innovative services to allow future farmers to meet the world’s growing requirement for food.

The company adds the MF5610 used for the expedition is expected to clock up as many hours’ operation as an average year’s work on most farms.

To prepare the MF5610 for the journey, Massey Ferguson has made a number of modifications to the tractor to enable it to cope with the extremes of temperature, terrain and altitude. The machine’s three cylinder engine remains unaltered but specific adaptations have been made to the cab, eletcrics, air intake and filtration to withstand freezing conditions.

Massey Ferguson has enlisted the help of global industrial solutions company Trelleborg to develop a multi-purpose set of tyres for maximum traction and safety in the severe environment.

The tractor will run on Jet A1 fuel that has a much lower freezing point than regular tractor diesel.

A stock pf parts is carried along on the mission and the tractor’s AgCommand telematics system will relay performance information back to a 24 hour support team at the tractor factory in Beauvais.

Massey Ferguson director of sales engineering and brand development Campbell Scott says the company is thrilled to be involved in the historic mission.

"It’s a bold mission and promises to be a fascinating story of strength, endurance and team work," he says.

"Our MF5610 is ready to face the extreme elements and repeat the achievement of our TE20 tractors which took explorer Sir Edmund Hillary to the South Pole in 1958."

Depending on conditions, the expedition is scheduled to reach the Geographical South Pole sometime in early December.

Their journey can be tracked on the Antarctica2 dedicated website.  

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