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Old 03-08-2006, 10:57 AM
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Default Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

I am frustrated with the lack of information I can find about the use of Snow Tracs that were used in Antarctica.

I know they were used, I've found numerous references to them, there is even one in a museum in New Zealand that was used in Antarctica. Below is a photo that I pulled from the museum's website. If anyone has any information about Snow Tracs that were used in Antarctica I would really appreciate it if you could forward me a copy or if you could help me obtain a copy or point me to a website.

I did find a reference to an article titled: A Volkswagen Goes to Antarctica
It was apparently published in 1963, but I can't find the magazine VWA Review. So I wonder if it is a scholorly publication or some sort of newsletter that was published for people involved in Antactic research?

The Antarctic Dictionary also lists references to Snow Trac's being used as do some other references. I've not been able to find any photos of them in use down there. Tuckers seem to be the most common vehicle used down there and I've found all sorts of references, photos, & articles of old and new Tucker Sno-Cats in use.


Any help would be greatly appreciated!


From the front hitch shown below in the photo, it is obvious that they were using a MILITARY verison of the Snow Trac.
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Old 03-10-2006, 04:36 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Quote:
Originally Posted by B_Skurka
I did find a reference to an article titled: A Volkswagen Goes to Antarctica
It was apparently published in 1963, but I can't find the magazine VWA Review. So I wonder if it is a scholorly publication or some sort of newsletter that was published for people involved in Antactic research?
OK just stumbled upon some interesting information. Unfortunately it has NOTHING to do with a Snow Trac! When I saw the title of the above article I just made the assumption that it related to a VW powered Snow Trac. That was an error on my part. It actually refers to a VW Beetle.
In 1963 a ruby-red Beetle passed one year in Mawson in Antarctica, in an Australian research station. The Beetle, model 1962, was built in Australia by the Volkswagen Australasia Pty Ltd, with lots of local car components. Bodywork, engine, glass, electrical system, paint and tyres of the Beetle "Down Under" built in sixties, they were in fact produced in Australia without using kit from Germany, as instead other Countries had done. Therefore it was the first production model that circulated in Antarctica: that explains the name "Antarctica 1" assigned by Volkswagen. Instead, scientists nicknamed the Beetle "Red Terror" because of the colour of the body which stood out against the white landscape. During that year in Antarctica, the Beetle was used as means of transport for people and things. The car had to endure heavy snowfalls, violent winds and it travelled on snow and ice for a long distance, sometimes on such inaccessible grounds even to sleighs towed by huskies. At the end the Beetle was repatriated and replaced by a new one: "Antarctica 2". But "Red Terror" did not retired. A few years later, it even came first at the BP Rally, an exhausting three thousand Kilometers race along dirt roads in the South East of Australia.
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Old 03-11-2006, 07:43 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Here are a couple more references that I was able to find, these are from a book called:
The Antarctic Dictionary: A Complete Guide to Antarctic English
by Bernadette Hince

In the book, which is a collection of both regular and slang terms I was able to find 3 references to the Snow Trac. The third refereces is from 1995, and refers to the Snow Trac as a Sno-Trac and I honestly believe that is not the same Snow Trac ST4 vehicles we own. There was a traditional snowmobile that was named "Sno-Trac" and I suspect that the reference it to that vehicle. But as I have not been able to verify my suspiscion, I included it here because it is in the original book.


PG 319:
1964
Aurora. The official journal of the ANARE club (Melbourne) June 9.
A support party driving the Snow-Trac and Weasel .. hauled the dogs and equipmen up the ice slopes and across the slotted ice around the mountain area.



PG 327:
snow-trac Also sno-trac
(The original Snow Trac was developed by Swedish Lars Larsson in the 1950's; the vehicles were manufactred by Vasterds Maskiner, Ostersund, from 1957 until 1981.)

A mechanised, tracked oversnow vehicle developed in Sweden for us on the deep snow of polar regions.
1963 Wilkes Hand Times 1 (9) Oct: 2.
The picture on the front pages shows the expedition train as it was finally assembled on the plateau . . . On the right, and leading the epedition is the Snow-trac, of Danish manufacture, and specially fitted at Wilkes with magnetic and astro navigating equipment.
1995 Spence, F.A. in Robinson, Shelagh, ed. Huskies in harness: a love story in Antarctica Kangaroo Press, Sydney: 41
As we climbed to the moraine in teh Sn0-Trac about 1,000m (3,000 ft) abvoe teh base, the engine began to overheat.
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Old 04-15-2006, 10:10 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

I have and will forward to you(Bob S) a picture from the factory collection, of an old style Snow Trac in Antartica. On the reverse side is a signed certificate of authenticity by the antarctic research group. Several ST4's were shipped to Antarctica, noteably one with Porsche Decals along the roofline where some models had the Snow Trac decals. A semi famous VW, the 3 millionth car produced, was donated to the south pole research station. A large number of articles in VW magazines were run for this special ocassion. What's most interesting is that in almost every article the Snow Trac's managed to get in on the photo shoot. In some of the articles it is clear that there were at least 2 Old Style ST4's and the Porsche machine which was also an Old Style. Eventually after some years of service the VW went thru the ice and was lost. VW replaced it some years later, I believe with the 8millionth VW. This again got a lot of press in both european and american VW Magazines. People from all over the world have sent me xerox's of the articles with the pictures. I don't believe that any VW publications of the time did not run articles concerning these 2 famous beetles. With a little research one should be able to dig up many of these articles. Need one be reminded that there are more VW enthusiasts than the population of many small countries. The 2 biggest VW Mags in the US, Hot VW's which had 2 million subscribers, and sold an additional 12 million copies at the stands, and VW Trends, with about half those numbers. Then there's the European VW Mags. All in all there are probably at least a minimum of 20 articles on these 2 famous VW's where the ST4's managed to get in the pictures. According to Bob Persons, the owner of AKTIV, when he went to his daughter's graduation in Australia, he stopped by the South Pole Museum and he was pleasantly suprised to see that they have a Snow Track on display there. Factory pics should be coming tonight! I'l include both sides of this one as it is my favorite picture out of my entire collection. Also for ST4 Fans, on the front of the Operators Manual, the driver of the snow trac IS Bob Persons, the owner of the company and the little girl is his daughter. I'll try to get this original picture posted soon. The owner of the original Westeraskmaskiner company, MR. Bolinder is also on one of the flyers which I have in English and in Swedish or German.
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Old 04-18-2006, 11:58 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Lyndon's photos:
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Old 04-23-2006, 01:41 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Hey Bob, You got it! Nice job of posting the picture!! In my 14 years of snow cat collecting, this is without question one of my most prized finds. The other would be the SERIAL NUMBER ONE ID plate off the very first Thiokol, which is framed and hangs in Bill Guthrie's office at Sales Unlimited in Weiser Idaho. For the old "ST4 Vintage VW Snow Cat Owners Club" our letter head on news letters read: Vintage ST4 owners Club, Dedicated to the Preservation of the Rare " SWEDISH SNOW PORSCHE " and the Logo was: Where there's snow, we will go! Thanks for posting the picture. Next we need to find that shot of the one that was at the antarctic that had the Porsce Decals in the place of the Snow Track Decal along the roof line. I'll see if Bill can't send you a photo of the 1st Thiokol ID plate.
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Old 04-23-2006, 01:46 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Lyndon,
Did that Snow Trac wit the Porsche decals have a Porsche engine? If so what engine was it? I want to build an ST4 with a Porsche engine.
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Old 04-23-2006, 01:47 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Lyndon,
Did that Snow Trac with the Porsche decals have a Porsche engine? If so what engine was it? I want to build an ST4 with a Porsche engine.
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Old 04-30-2006, 05:25 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

I did manage to find an article on the Australian Government's Enviornmental website that mentions using a Snow Trac. Not much specific, but interesting anyway. http://www.aad.gov.au/default.asp?casid=14696
Issue 6 - Autumn 2004 >



AMISOR trilogy: the diesel and the dog


The first step in the transition to regular fixed wing aircraft deep field support was accomplished this season, with the AMISOR hot water drilling project trying to extend its range of operations to the far western reaches of the Amery Ice Shelf. A third borehole was planned to be drilled through ice some 400 m thick, nearly half of which was again expected to be marine (or jade) ice refrozen to the base of the shelf. If successful, production of this borehole would have completed a trio of instrumented holes spaced 50 km apart, in a line coincident with earlier surveys across the northern front of the shelf within 100 km of the calving front. Despite some weather delays, early season deployment allowed two Twin Otter aircraft to fly direct from a sea ice ski-way in front of Davis station, obviating the need for a ship visit to Sansom Island as an intermediate platform for operations.


The drill site this year was to be within viewing distance of Landon and Foley promontories, which flank Doggers Bay to the south and north respectively, where the early 1960s dog sled teams from Mawson dropped from the plateau onto the Amery. Their mechanical counterparts – snow-trac vehicles – were driven onto the ice shelf further north via Mechanics Bay. It was to be our privilege to have this opportunity for another brush with the justifiably proud history of ANARE exploration in the region. A wistful eye could even imagine a puff of vapour to the west as the collective breath of a faithful husky team mushing their way across the surface toward us. It was fated not to be the case.


During our passage south (Voyage 2, Aurora Australis) the aircrews at Davis had managed to deposit a cache of some 30 fuel drums at the proposed site, leading us to believe we had a great head start for the season. A further eight tonnes of cargo were delivered, and field personnel positioned who commenced basic camp construction, until a rude shock shook our season to its very foundations. On the final cargo flights for the day, with golden rays of sunlight slanting low across the flat expanse of the shelf, it became apparent that the entire area was riddled with crevasses. The campsite was in fact as near as possible to exact centre in the middle of a 50 m wide snow bridge covering a relic crevasse. Visible only from the air, in favourable lighting conditions, it was clear the site had to be abandoned, and furthermore, it was no longer valid to operate fixed wing aircraft in the area as sastrugi formation in the snow-pack dictated landing across the predominant crevasse direction.


As with all things ANARE, a dilemma remains as such only long enough to be photographed. Soon we had the eager Squirrel AS350B helicopter aircrews sling-loading our cargo back to the safety of the north-central shelf site drilled two years previously. To give an indication of relative carrying capacity, what had taken the Twin Otters 13 flights to deliver over a distance of some 350 km, now took the helicopters 26 flights to relocate over 50 km. Mere statistics. As usual the spirit of co-operation and willingness to tackle any task shone through, and we soon found ourselves in a position to salvage what we could from the remnants of the season.


Prior to relocation we had tried an aerial reconnaissance of the area for a safe site to proceed with the original plans. None was found in close enough vicinity to the proposed site to enable us to predict with any confidence that we would be drilling through the much sought after marine ice layer on the underside of the shelf. The western band of marine ice is believed to be a narrow one, extending longitudinally in the direction of the ice flow, and despite circling for two hours over the region, as each crevasse field petered out a new one came into view with entirely new and/or random orientation. It is recognised that several over-snow traverse trips (dog-sled, skidoo, snowtrac) have been conducted through the area in the past without major incident, although not surprisingly occasional slotting of vehicles had occurred. Many of the crevasses could be deemed safe, and luck has played its part. But in the era of fixed wing aircraft operations it would be negligent if not folly to ignore their presence and we must choose carefully any future drill sites in this region. Also with a hot water drilling operation relying on the establishment of a sub-surface well to store water for recirculation we could not guarantee that the drill would not strike a cavity at some depth below the surface and drain away the precious water supply. You have to have shovelled the 24 cubic metres of snow required for melting to fully appreciate the impact of this. There was no option but to move.


In brief, we finally managed a borehole alongside our old central site, supplementing previous scientific sampling there with a sediment core from the seabed, and a video record of the entire ice sequence through the shelf, plus footage of the sea floor. We retrieved another year’s data from previous mooring sites, established a depot on the shelf at a future proposed drilling site 130 km to the south, where snow accumulation hopefully will not completely bury it, and managed to release several of the team on time for transfer to the ITASE ice core project inland of Casey. Not exactly flushed with success, but grateful once more for the hard working cooperative ethic of the many people we have the good fortune to be associated with in our endeavours.


Mike Craven, Glaciology Program, AAD & ACE CRC
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Old 07-03-2006, 10:20 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Here is a photo of a Snow Trac that was used at the Scott base camp in Antarctica. It appears to be very nicely restored! This is at the Tarlton Museum in New Zealand.
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Old 10-01-2006, 08:30 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

I stumbled upon a little more information about Snow Tracs in Antarctica

The information came from a very unlikely source, it was posted, along with 2 photos, on a tourism website were people post photos and travel stories. The guy who posted the photos/information obviously didn't know much about the Snow Trac he was able to ride in, but it never the less, provides us a bit more information about the use of Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica. You can see that the cabin configuration in the photo below is very unusual.

Here is a link to his page: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/a922b/9/1/

Here is what he wrote:
Fondest Memory: The mountain in the background to this photo is Mount Henderson, one of the more prominent mountains behind Mawson station. It rises to 970 metres, is about 15 km inland, and can be seen from well offshore.

The vehicle is called a SnowTrac. I think they were made in Australia, certainly I have never heard of them outside Australia and its Antarctic stations. They were powered by a Porsche industrial engine, but had some recurring problems with tracks. It is parked on what is called "blue ice" - hard glassy ice which fractures and tinkles like glass if broken: this is found only in the "ablation zone" near the coasts and we were out testing some experimental ice depth sounding equipment. The 'trendy skier'... ahem, a little embarrassing to say it's me.

One of the most popular books at Mawson in 1966 (and the other Australian stations) was called "Rumdoodle". Written by WE Bowman, it was about a mythical expedition to a mythical mountain called "Rumdoodle". While it may not resonate in quite the same way to anyone who has not been in an expedition environment, we (and previous expeditions) found the book absolutely hilarious, as a satire on expeditions in general. Between the pages were a recognisable crew of misfits, drunks, incompetents and fakers, forever asking their idiot leader to send more 'medicinal champagne'. Not only was it popular, in 1959 it provided the official name for this mountain in the North Masson Ranges, about 15 km to the south of Mawson.

In 1966, a field caravan was permanently stationed there for short breaks from the station. Here we see a SnowTrac and a dogteam out for a day's run.

The book has been republished several times and there even is a webpage on it, at http://www.rumdoodle.org.uk/ . A highly recommended read.
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Old 10-01-2006, 09:50 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

I've now been trading a few emails with George Cook and thought I would post this email from him as it provides some interesting information about cab configuration on the ANARE Snow Tracs.

In the email printed below, he refers to "Weasels" and I am presuming those to be the Studebaker Weasel. Those units would fit the appropriate timeline as they were first produced for WWII and were used in all parts of the world as snow, mud & sand vehicles. I've been told that some of them ended up in Antarctica.

G'day again Bob

Ah yes, if you go back to my tip referring to the Snow Tracs down you'll see it was under the heading "Ancient History" - and that's very much what it was. I was there 40 years ago this year, leaving Australia in late 1965 and returning in early 1967.

I'm probably not the best person to give a history of SnowTracs there, as I was only a traveller in them - not involved on the mechanical side. As far as I know, they arrived at Mawson where I was based, in the early 60s - probably about 1962. Mawson opened in 1954 with Weasels, still one of those left in my time. The first SnowTracs were painted a scarlet red colour and had what you call the 'traditional cab'. The later ones were fitted with bodies made (I think) at least in part in Australia - and the forward sloping screens. We had (I think from memory) three of them at the station, two came with us on the Spring Trip. All these later ones were painted an orange colour.

I can't say how long they stayed there, my guess would be well into the 70s and the Australian bases now use Hagglunds for medium transport. I don't think Australia has ever used Snow Cats, the main heavy duty vehicles are Caterpillar tractors (D4 in my time, now much larger). The thought occurs you might find a bit about current vehicles on the Antarctic Division website www.aad.gov.au - though I doubt there's much historical stuff there, they aren't particularly big on that side of things unfortunately: that's where I'm hoping the ANARE club can help.

Cheers

George


The photo of the stamp below shows a very tiny image of a couple snow vehicles. The cab configuration is not the same as the traditional Snow Trac, but is very similar to the forward sloping windshield that George refers to in his email. So it is actually possible that the stamp might show an image of an ANARE Snow Trac. It is also likely that the image is an amphibious Studebaker M-29 Weasel, of which approximately 14,000 to 15,000 were produced in the mid 1940's and which were in use for at least 20 years thereafter.

Notice also that the stamp shows a triple peak mountain in image. Also notice that the first image from George in the prior post shows a triple peak mountain in the distance. Hmmm????
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Old 10-01-2006, 05:10 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Australia's ANARE alumni have a magazine called the AURORA. I received an email from John Gillies, the editor of AURORA today and he provided the following information. It is interesting that their "main gripe" was the bronze sprocket wear. I wonder if they realized that the sprockets were 1. designed to wear, and 2. were reversible to prevent the tracks from wearing prematurely?
Hi Bob,

I have some back copies of our ANARE Club journal that contain articles written by the Engineers when ANARE bought the vehicles. I will dig them out and scan them and send them to you.

I can recall two different cabin types that we had. A forward sloping windshield and a backward sloping windshield.

The main gripe with them was that they had a bronze toothed sprocket as a drive wheeel and they wore rather rapidly.

At the end of 1967 our mechanics refurbished one with a steel sprockets fitted onto the bronze inner. This may have chopped out the track cross members but it lasted another year of hard work on the Amery Ice Shelf in 1968. There are several in the ANARE store in Kingston Tasmania.

I will send some photos of the one they sent to Melbourne for the ANARE 50 year Jubilee in 1997 when I can find them.

George was at Mawson in 1966 and I followed him in 1967. I returned to Antarctica in 1969 to Casey, we usesd a snotrac there in 1969 as a runaround vehicle to service the radio transmitters several km away.

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Old 10-02-2006, 11:02 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Here is an article about the Antarctic Snow Tracs published in the AURORA magazine, March 1999.
The SNOWTRAC WILKES - 1963_
By RA Saxton

During 1960, Bob Dalton of the Antarctic Division, when invited to see Norm Hamilton about a small aircraft, became interested in some brochures on the Snowtrac, and indicated that the Antarctic Division may also be interested.
Norm Hamilton, who was the Australian distributor of Porsche cars, went ahead and imported two Snowtracs from Sweden. Later when the vehicles were in Melbourne it was arranged that Frank Smith of ANARE Head Office, and who had wide experience in snow travelling, to take one vehicle to Mt. Buller for test runs. (See article by Frank in this issue of Aurora).

After discussions with the then director of the Antarctic Division, Dr. Phil Law, and viewing of films, it was decided to take two machines to 'Mawson in 1960-61.

In August 1962, SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) held a conference in Colorado USA. At this conference Frank Smith submitted a paper "The Snowtrac, a Useful Scout Vehicle".

The Snowtracs covered in this article were shipped to Wilkes in 1962-63 and are probably the same model as those described in Frank's SCAR paper.

The engine is a horizontally opposed four cylinder OHV aircooled Porsche industrial engine developing 41 kW at 4000 rpm. The ignition system uses coil and distributor and the carburettor is a dual downdraft Zenith model. The clutch is a standard heavy duty dry plate. The gearbox is synchronised.

Power is transmitted to an extended differential, which forms part of the steering mechanism. The steering is simple and unusual; it consists of two variable pitch pulleys each mounted on vertical shafts above the axle housing on each side of the differential gear box and coupled together by a Vee belt. Both pulleys are mechanically in constant mesh with the half axles through bevel gears. While the steering mechanism operated without difficulty, it is an operation that must only be used when the vehicle is in motion. This system gave steering the same response as that of steering a motorcar.

A large number (33) of modifications are listed in Frank's paper as being made either by ANARE, or by the supplier. Some of these were minor, whereas others of a general nature such as changing the 6 volt system to a 12 volt system for a-Bosch distributor to be fitted.

The vehicle has a mass of 1000 kgm, a towing capacity and carrying capacity of 500 kgm each. The track bearing pressure is 5,25 kPa (0.75 lbs per square inch). This low surface pressure is excellent in soft snow.

During both the autumn and spring traverse trips in 1963 the one Snowtrac operated as the leading, or scout vehicle. The performance of this Snowtrac showed up certain limitations. This vehicle was fitted with radio receiver/transmitter, magnetic compass and astro compass as well as mirrors for lining up with the following tractor train.

Around the station and coastal areas these vehicles operated most satisfactorily but once inland on sastrugi the story was quite different. Travelling in the early part of the season with sastrugi on an average of 0.6 to one metre high and occasional dunes up to 1.5 metres high, vehicles take a severe hammering despite the most careful driving. Because of the necessity to average altimeter readings I travelled three nautical miles ahead of the Nodwell fitted with the seismic equipment. During poor weather conditions such as drift and partial white-outs, which would be the case 9 days out of 10, there was great difficulty in nursing the vehicles over sastrugi. Mile after mile, day after day the vehicles were hammered. The Snowtrac chassis was simply nowhere strong enough.

The tyres on the small front pneumatic idler wheels at low temperatures slipped on the rims, tearing out the valves despite high inflation pressures. Eventually when we had no more tubes we ruled the tyres with rags and water, which froze to help keep the tyre in some shape.

The rough surfaces and heavy snow drifts caused the vehicle heater to fail after a couple of days travel. In all we were in the field, autumn and spring, for 146 days and would not have had more than 5 days use out of the heater. Some form of windscreen demisting is most important. I had to use a paint scraper continuously until our return journey, when driving north in summer with the sun up 24 hours each day, it was then clear. Frank Smith in his paper recommends up-grading the heater from 7000 k Joules to 15000 k Joules per hour. Our problem was that the heater simply did not operate under rough inland conditions. The paper refers to loss of power at altitude and almost no power at 8000 feet but I cannot recall any noticeable loss of power at 3000 metres. The vehicle carried very little load, only about 160 litres of petrol and emergency camping equipment in case I was separated from the other vehicles in severe weather conditions. The supplies were to see me through a period of up to 14 days.

The temperatures over the period in the field ranged from -20 to -50 degrees C. The engine certainly gave no problems but, latterly on the spring traverse, jump starting was necessary after battery failure. During the autumn traverse, petrol in the sump oil resulted in an oil change being necessary but there were no further problems after that. The hand brake froze early and was not used again because there was no real need for it.

To summarise it could be said that all traverse vehicles must be designed to handle rough surface conditions unlike anything in the temperate world. The continuous thumping over rough surfaces does put a very great strain on vehicles; the Nodwell, a very much larger vehicle, broke its chassis under the same surface conditions. Personnel heaters are nice to have for comfort, but demisting is essential. A resettable odometer would have been excellent for navigation. Often it was necessary to temporarily leave the route but. later pick up the location and proceed with measuring distance.

Reference: Symposium on Antarctic Logistics. Colorado August 13th - 17th 1962 Page 388 - The Snowtrac, a useful scout vehicle. by F.A. Smith.

THE SNOWTRAC

by Frank Smith.

During 1960, the Aviation Officer of

Antarctic Division was invited to see Norm Hamilton's aircraft, which he called a "Jackaroo". The small plane could carry pilot plus one passenger providing neither had a cut lunch. It was at this demonstration that Bob Dalton became interested in some brochures of the Snowtrac, and indicated that the Division may be interested.

Norm, Australian distributor of Porsche cars went ahead and imported two Snowtracs from Sweden. Later when the machines were in Melbourne Norm paid a visit to H.Q. in Collins St., seeking a driver with snow experience. I happened to meet Norm at the front door, so after a long discussion and a phone-around I agreed to take a Snowtrac to Mt. Buller where we could stay in my ski club.

I drove Norm and his son Alan to the club over deep snow and it was about pre-dinner-drinks-time when we were sighted from the club happily tippy-toeing with lights on and going in fine style.

Dr. John Birrell, a club member and the Victorian Police Surgeon muttered something about arresting the bloody rat-bag who was driving around in such conditions.
John flew out the lodge door and floundered in about one and a half metres of soft snow, but when he saw me he said "Bloody hell Smithy you were about to be charged with drunken driving, anyway now you are here come and have a drink"!

While on Mt. Buller we helped carry out a rescue of a ski-tow mechanic who was bob-sledding an electric motor down the mount when he bounced over a mogul (hump), both man and motor became airborne, the man landing first, the motor landed on his legs fracturing both. The motor weighed about 60 kg. We were on the spot in seconds, likewise a ski-rescue team who had expected an accident. However they quickly strapped his legs and made them comfortable, I then drove him to the hospital room at Ivor Whittaker's Lodge, from there he was transferred to Mansfield Hospital.

There was a lot of interest shown by commercial lodge owners and clubs, we could have made a small fortune carting grog, rations and lovely snow-bunnies all over the mountain.

Back at our office we discussed the Snowtrac with Phil Law, plus showing a movie of the tests on the mountain. It was decided to purchase two machines, which were taken to Mawson in 1960-61.

Some modifications: - Altitude compensation to the carburettor.
- Fitting of our own ice-grousers.


- Published in Aurora Vol.18 No 3 March 1999


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Old 10-02-2006, 11:10 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Hi Bob,
here a a few shots I took in 1967 I only had a tiny half frame camera in those days.
I have scanned them in for a powerpoint slide show at some stage and it shows up my non typing skills.

We went out into the hinterland to recover Snowtrac that had been left there several months before when it could not be started.

Cheers John
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Old 10-02-2006, 11:13 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Here are 2 emails that I received from John. Rather than trying to figure out how to repost his information in a different format, I figure it is much easier to simply post his emails as they are totally on topic to what we are trying to fingure out!


Hi Bob,
here are some photos taken in 1963 by Ray McMahon the Officer in charge of Mawson that year.
The story is written by Allan Moore. The vehicle in the sling was the new one that they lost.

The reason we used the steel sprockets was that there were no replacement bronze sprockets available. All the available sprockets had been turned many times.
The vehicles were very expensive and I think they were being run down by 1967. We used one of the cabins to refurbish a weasel in our spare time and use as a run about but they were well past their use by date too.

I will try and find a photo of the one we had at Casey in 1969

Cheers

And here is another:

Hi Bob,

our ANARE Club Journal is called AURORA
I spoke to another old veteran today who told me that the Snowtracs were imported into Austraila without any body work, just engines and chassis
The cabins were constructed and installed in Australia.

The backward slope on the windshield stopped a bit of the powder snow thrown up by the tracks settling in the windshield.

They did not float too well as the 1965 Mawson party lost one through the seaice and as a consequence ANARE expeditions were not allowed to take vehicles on the sea ice again.


I will scan the article about losing the vehicle through the ice and send it later., with some photos the author sent with the article.


Cheers John
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Old 10-02-2006, 01:58 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Here is another article from the A.N.A.R.E. AURORA magazine!
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WORST KIND

By Allan Moore

THREE BRUSH WITH DEATH IN THE ANTARCTIC

(Mawson - June 1963)

The following item relating to a dangerous incident near Mawson appeared in the Melbourne Sun a few days after June 12, 1963. While the article is brief and straightforward, it did not convey any information about preparations for the trip, and the aftermath of this somewhat ill-fated, mini- expedition.

Our OIC, Ray McMahon (the "Gaffer"), had been on our backs for several days to finish preparing and packing for our sea-ice trip to Taylor Glacier and rookery, using one old, and one brand new Porsche Snotrac. June 12 was not far from Midwinter and of course daylight was minimal. The weather had not been particularly good for several days, and for some unexplainable feeling of uneasiness, I would have been happy not to start out on this trip at this time. (The Gaffer will probably relate this to some difficulty in getting me out of bed). On the other hand, visibility was generally good with no drifting snow, but it was overcast with a fairly strong wind blowing. The sea ice at this time of year, we felt, should have been fairly thick and tough.

Preparation was good in all respects. Bill Edward (Snr. Diesel Mechanic) had the Snotracs running well, and we planned to evenly distribute as much of the supplies and support equipment as we could, between the two vehicles and the small sledges they pulled in the event of forced separation. Each sledge carried their own fuel, two polar pyramid tents, food, and we placed our sleeping bags and clothing in a number of old PMG calico mail bags, with a few spares as well. We had properly functional "Angry 9" radio transceivers onboard each vehicle, with a Morse radio officer (myself) to operate them. And in keeping with our plans, three men were assigned to each of the two vehicles.

We set out for Taylor Glacier during the morning utilising the available light. With a good run we expected to reach Taylor Glacier in 5 - 6 hours, or thereabouts. From memory, Bill Edward drove the first vehicle, and I the second. We kept a reasonable distance of about 100 yards between us and drilled a number of ice-core samples before proceeding on each "leg" as we travelled during those first hour or so. We were several miles out to sea and the Casey Range was easy to see in spite of the overcast, and rather glum weather.

About 11 or 12 miles from Mawson we drilled another sample core of sea ice, and while I don't remember its exact thickness, its condition and depth did not convey any danger signals to us. The terrain we were traversing appeared to alternate between snow- covered and bare blue sea ice. We moved off in our mini convoy with my Snotrac maintaining the agreed distance from the first vehicle. Within a minute or two the leading Snotrac suddenly came to an abrupt halt while moving through an area of snow-covered ice, nosed in and started to sink. Realising what had happened we immediately turned around, retraced our tracks on to hard ice, parked and ran to help our friends. By the time we got to the leading Snotrac, the last of the three passengers climbed through the roof hatch, and stepped onto the unbroken sea ice as the Snotrac disappeared forever into several thousand feet of icy water. By our best guess this amazing incident was over in about 15 seconds leaving the six of us staring dumbfoundedly at a square hole in the sea ice. This was not quite the type of "forced" separation we had envisaged during our pre-departure planning.

Utilising the old PMG mail bags had the effect of reaping us an unexpected reward. While standing around the hole in the ice trying to reconstruct events - and still somewhat shocked - mail bags started bobbing to the surface. Within a short time we had salvaged most of the sleeping bags, all of the bags of clothing, and I think, one polar pyramid tent and a few misce"llaneous items. And everything inside the bags was completely dry. We did not wish to remain here any longer than necessary as it was obvious that the sea ice in this area had broken out during one of the many storms we had had in previous weeks, and the prospect of proceeding to Taylor Glacier could not now be considered.

We returned to the remaining Snotrac and loaded the recovered equipment into the sledge. We opened the roof hatch, left the rear door wide open, and took up appropriate positions in the event of another forced emergency evacuation. With the Snotrac's nose already pointed towards Mawson, we headed off slowly and carefully following our earlier tracks over tested sections of ice. Our little group of six was generally quiet and apprehensive, with not a great deal of talking being done until Mawson was in sight. We were upset about the loss of the new vehicle and our inability to conclude those studies we had set out to undertake at the rookery. We marvelled at the good luck of Bill Edward, Dick Lippett (Medical Officer) and John Vukovich (Weather Observer), and their extremely lucky escapes from what would have been a terrible death.The other two expeditioners were David Cooke (Geophysicist) and Robert White (electronics Technician). Ithe incident also made me ponder why I felt uneasy about going on the trip, at this time, in the first place. I will never know, but one must always respect and try to anticipate the sometimes unforgiving force of nature.


-
On our return to Mawson, the Gaffer and our other expedition friends were very supportive and did not "stir" us to any great extent. Obviously grateful that the occupants of the first Snotrac returned safely with us, we did later feel the unfortunate loss of the Snotrac for which a great deal of spring and summer work had been planned. The above recollections are intrinsically linked to another "Close Encounter of the Worst Kind" - and highlight again the fact that while Antarctica is an exquisitely beautiful place, it is patient, absolutely unforgiving, and will take full advantage of an expeditioner's slightest miscalculation or error of judgement. And even with the best of planning, one can still come to grief. Bill Edward and I returned to Mawson in 1965 for another stint, and while we enjoyed some sporting activities on the sea ice, our healthy respect for the vagaries of the Antarctic nature, never waned.


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Old 10-03-2006, 09:36 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Here is a little more information from John.
Hi Bob,

Ray McMahon was the Officer in Chrge of the station when the Snow Trac was lost through the ice.

I heard today from Frank Smith that the windows were raked forward to try and stop the sunglare from the windshield, and also reduce the snow deposits.

Some were used in Australia in the Snowy Mountains area by ski lodge operators carrying guests and supplies during the snow season

Here is another photo of the Snow Trac we had at Casey in 1969.
I had built an Ice yacht but the sea did not freeze to a glassy surface like it had at Mawson, (due to the constant high winds) so I towed the ice yacht, behind the Snow Trac to a melt lake in the hills. However the smooth frozen surface was not very long bit we took some photos instead.

I passed your Email to Dave McCormack at the Australian Antarctic Division.
Let me know if there is any other information you would like to know.

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Old 10-04-2006, 01:35 PM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Here is an additional bit of information, along with two photos of traditional cab configuration Snow Tracs. This is from the Casey outpost in Antarctica.
Hi Bob,

here is a photo I took in 1969 at Casey in the summertime probably mid December.
The Snowtrac is parked outside the Radio office. It is the model with raked back windshields.

Apparently the bodies were made in Australia by a Company called RECAR a panel works in Melbourne Australia.
I spoke to the custodian of the two remaining Snowtracs owned by the Australian Antarctic Division and he told me that there are two different windshield types in their collection.

I forwarded your initial Email on to him (Dave McCormack) he is a veteran mechanic with many years of wintering in the Antarctic.

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"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion:
the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases,
while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage
of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force."
- Ayn Rand
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Old 10-05-2006, 10:41 AM
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Default Re: Snow Trac vehicles in Antarctica

Here is another communication from John. This is a rather interesting photo as it is from the 50th Anniversary of ANARE celebration and features a Snow Trac plus a couple other fun toys!

Notice that this is a reverse windshield Snow Trac with the custom cab. Also notice there is some sort of storage box on the exterior of the drivers side of the cab above the track. I wonder if that is a fuel container for an aux. heater? Or if that is a tool/equipment storage box?
Hi Bob,
this photo was taken by the late Malcolm Kirton at a display of vehicles used by ANARE celebrating the 50 years of ANARE in 1997

The Snowcat was lent by The Antarctic Division and the DUKW and LARC lent by the Army.

I hope all this information has not overloaded your computer and filled in a few of your queries.

Cheers John
www.anareclub.org.au

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