Antarctica, a place so unhabitable that traversing through it is only possible on a dog sledge or on foot. No one can dream of bringing a production car and travel on snow and ice in its near stock condition. However, after over 100 years of Sir Ernest Shackleton's attempt to reach McMurdo, his great-grandson, Patrick Bergel, has attempted the same feat from Union Camp of South Pole, in a car. The attempt made in 1916 failed as the boat taking Sir Ernest Shackleton and 20 other brave polar explorers sank, however, everyone made it back thanks to the legend.
To complete his great grandfather's wish, Patrick went ahead and attempted the same task in the Hyundai Santa Fe with near-stock configuration. Powering the SUV was the 2.2-litre diesel engine seen on the production car, however, wider low-pressure tyres were fitted and the car was fitted with new subframes, suspension and gears inside the wheel hubs in order to take on the 5,800 km ordeal.
Scott Noh, Head of Overseas Marketing Group, Hyundai Motor Company said: “We were aware of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s story and as a Company felt a resonance with his courage and pioneering spirit. Our film celebrates this spirit and through Patrick, his Great Grandson, completes his dream to cross Antarctica – just a hundred years later. We hope that it showcases Hyundai as a brand that that is more than just a means of transportation.” The other modifications to the Santa Fe was a larger fuel tank and conversions to run the car on Jet A-1 fuel and a pre-heater. The minimum temperature that was recorded during the attempt was minus 28 degrees Celcius and this was the first time an attempt was made using a wheeled vehicle.
The 30-day expedition involved driving the Hyundai Santa Fe over floating ice caps as well as taking it through whiteouts with a few metres of visibility. Gisli Jonsson, one of the most experienced drivers at Arctic Trucks led the operation and was equally astonished at the machine after completing the event and said, “People who have a lot of experience of Antarctica know what it does to machinery: basically, anything and everything falls apart. Even the big machines crack up and break apart. This was the first time this full traverse has ever been attempted, let alone doing it there and back. A lot of people thought we would never ever make it and when we returned they couldn’t believe we’d actually done it!”
The month-long expedition also saw its set of challenges with Patrick and the others taking this attempt as the extreme temperatures took a toll on them physically as well. That said, after completing the feat, the feel for the great grandson was nothing short of elation. “The journey was incredible and the car was a pleasure to drive. Sometimes it felt less like driving and more like sailing across the snow. It was a proper expedition with a challenge to accomplish that nobody else had done before. It was about endurance not speed - we only averaged only 27km/h – and success was about how we and the car handled it. I’m very reluctant to make direct comparisons between what my great grandfather did and what we’ve done recently. But it is quite something to have been the first to do this in a wheeled vehicle,” he said.