Unique steel sledges designed and built in Derbyshire for the daring bid by veteran explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes to make the first ever crossing of Antarctica in winter are now making slow but steady progress across the polar icecap.
The 14 ‘skoots’ designed and manufactured by steel specialists at William Twigg Matlock Ltd, are carrying essential supplies of fuel on the 2000-mile pioneering journey through one of the harshest environments on earth.
Images sent to Matlock from Antarctica this week show the skoots attached to two Finning caterpillar tractors which have been specially modified to tow them in a ‘train’ across the ice and snow wilderness where temperatures can plunge to as low as -70C.
Each sledge is over six metres long, three metres wide, weighs two tons and will carry a rubber ‘bladder’ containing 8000 litres of special diesel.
The first leg is across a crevasse field to an area where a base camp will be established for the ‘the coldest journey on earth’ expedition.
Twigg’s director Richard Tarbatt and works manager Alan Boden, are following the expedition’s progress closely as it heads off on what has been described as ‘the last great polar challenge’.
“We invested around 2000 hours of time in the skoot production project and have every confidence in the skills and expertise of our designers, platers and welders. We do not envisage any major problems”, said Richard this week. “Twigg’s have considerable experience of producing equipment for use in the very coldest climates including the Antarctic.”
Sir Ranulph and his six-man team plan to set off from the Russian base at Novolazarevskaya at the end of March and travel via the South Pole to the American base at McMurdo, a journey that will take around six months.