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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Quad Bikes in Antarctica

Quads lined up heading to Robo's Hut near Casey Station
Can-am 800cc Quad-Trac with Honda 300cc at the rear
 I don't know why I've not mentioned these machines in previous blogs as they form a big part of the equipment list at the Davis and Casey Stations in Antarctica. Up front, I don't really care for them as they are uncomfortable, cold, and potentially lethal. But as I'm in the over 50's yo demographics,I tend to see comfort as a higher priority than the horsepower rating of a machine. 

Honda Quad at Casey Station
The machines we use vary from the baby Honda 300 up to 400 cc quad to the Can-am 800cc quad trac monster. We also have variations of the quad in the form of Polaris buggies.

We use the Quads for search and rescue as well as science based expeditions out on to the sea ice. They are all fitted with handle bar warmers as well as "barmits" for added protection for your hands  against the wind. They also carry recovery gear for the quads,ice drilling equipment, survival equipment for surviving blizzards,GPS, and personal provisions.

Quad-Trac Casey Ski-way with sled
Before you can use them in Antarctica, you need to have attended a two day course conducted by Honda in the use of the Quads.Once that little formality is out of the way you then have to complete a travel training and survival course once you are on station. The video (10mins), Quads in Antarctica,by Antarctic Horse with the sound tracks by snowflake / CC BY 3.0 was part of my re-familiarization you have to also complete every 4 years to ensure your up to date.

The quads for the most part handle all we dish out to them. But like all machines they have their limitations. With about 4 pounds of tire pressure they handle soft snow ok. But the really soft powdery snow they can "bog". On sea ice they are fine for the most part when you have the micro spikes imbedded in the tires. Blue ice up on the plateau can be dicey as the machine tends to skate around sideways.Because they are so light the spikes have no way of biting into the rock hard ice surface. 

The Quad-Trac bikes I never use as they are generally used by the aviation group for towing sleds on the ski-ways at Davis and Casey as well as the ice airstrips.
Polaris Buggies at Davis

Davis is the only Australian Station that has the "buggies" as they are also used primarily by the aviation group during helicopter operations which is limited to Davis. Davis Station also has a more extensive road network. Basically, they're a mobile toolbox. The new ones we have are Polaris 500cc and are RED.