Vehicles - getting around

Expeditioner standing in front of Hagglunds with a full moon in the background
Expeditioner and the wonderful Hagglunds (Photo: Paul Barnes)
Man in yellow suit with a fuel line the tank of a quad bike.Helicopter hovering close to the ground with a sling lowering quads onto the ground

Different types of vehicles are used in Antarctica, with special features needed in the extreme conditions.

See information about getting around at Casey, Davis, Macquarie Island and Mawson.

  • Research the type of vehicles that are used for travel in Antarctica. What special features do they need, and why?

The following are some examples of these special features:

  • As they need to travel over snow and across glaciers and sea ice, some vehicles run on tracks to reduce the ground pressure. (Older students could calculate and compare the ground pressure of for example a person walking, a person skiing, a wheeled vehicle and a tracked vehicle.)
  • Hagglunds float, so if they fall through the ice, driver and passengers can escape and the vehicle can be retrieved.
  • Hagglunds and tractors use very high grade diesel as some of the additives in the normal diesel used in Australia solidify in the low temperatures. Smaller vehicles such as quads and utes use petrol, which has a very low freezing point.
  • Most of the vehicles are brightly coloured so they can be seen in conditions of poor visibility.
  • They have to be parked carefully to allow for blizzards and strong winds. Otherwise doors can be blown off or the vehicles can be buried in drift.
  • Engines have to be wrapped up to keep out the snow and to help keep them warm. Some vehicles have heating elements inside the engine to warm the oil so they'll start.
  • Expeditioners may have to dig snow out of the engine before start up.

Helicopters are used to deliver expeditioners and supplies from ships to stations when the sea ice prevents the vessels from getting close to the land. They are also used to deploy scientists and their equipment and camping gear into the field and to collect them again at the completion of their programs or when the ship arrives to take them back to Australia.

Sometimes the helicopters must travel distances that are beyond their range. Extra depots of fuel must be placed beforehand to allow them to extend their range. The 200 litre drums are slung underneath. Sling loading is used to carry items that will not fit inside the helicopter.

The Antarctic Division provides detailed information on helicopter use in the Antarctic.

This page was last modified on July 2, 2014.