Plenty of people think they have put their SUV through its paces and taken it to the max on various terrains. But you have never taken a Hyundai across Antarctica, have you?
Over a hundred years ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton was part of a great era of explorers who were attempting to conquer the planet’s greatest challenges. Now, his great-grandson, Patrick Bergel, has taken up his ancestor’s compass and driven across the coldest and driest continent on Earth. Driving a 2.2 litre Hyundai Santa Fe with limited modifications, Patrick and a small team went from Union Camp to McMurdo and back again. The group completed the journey Shackleton began in thirty days, covering almost 5800 km.
Taking A Hyundai Across Antarctica
Much of the route had never been driven across before so they had to be prepared to deal with problems as they arose. The route was plotted on GPS meetings were held to review areas with potential dangers. Nevertheless, floating ice caps and temperatures of minus 28 degrees Celsius were just the beginning. Getting the Hyundai across Antarctica was always going to be risky.
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. – expedition leader Gisli Jónsson
Jónsson, from Arctic Trucks, managed the vehicle’s preparation before the event and then led the expedition out in the Antarctic. Arctic Trucks specialises in the re-engineering and conversion of four-wheel drive vehicles for extreme conditions. In 2010, they set the record for the fastest journey to the South Pole.
The team also encountered the psychological effects of spending so much time covering extreme distances in an extreme environment.
When you’re driving through a total white-out you start hallucinating, seeing things that aren’t there. Our brains often confused us into believing we were going uphill rather than down. – Patrick Bergel
‘An Indoor Guy’ Turned Expeditionary
It was quite a challenge for Bergel, a technological entrepreneur, who describes himself as ‘an indoor guy’. However, he emphasised that they had benefitted from modern luxuries. Unable to bring any of Shackleton’s fragile and priceless possessions along, Bergel himself took a Kindle in order to read his great-grandfather’s diaries.
Shackleton’s heroic Trans-Antarctic journey of 1914-17 inspired the new expedition, which took place in December 2016. As Roald Amundsen had beaten him to the Pole, Shackleton tried to become the first to cross the continent. His ship sank in pack ice. However, the heroic explorer and five men sailed 800 miles over open, stormy sea to South Georgia, to launch a successful rescue attempt.
The route chosen took the team from Union Glacier to the South Pole. They then followed the Leverett Glacier and the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, past smoking Mount Erebus volcano. Finally, they travelled to the Ross Ice Shelf and McMurdo.
Shackleton was the first to climb Mount Erebus, which made it all the more special for Bergel to drive past. The team got to see sights, like the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, that very few others ever have the chance to. There was a sense of awe among them as they reached the point nobody in a wheeled vehicle had been beyond. Bergel described it as ‘unbelievably beautiful’.