The Antarctic Snow Cruiser - a Massive Failure

When Thomas C Poulter rescued Admiral Byrd from the South Pole during a 1934 expedition, he decided that what Antarctica needed was a giant vehicle that could roll across crevasses.

According to The Polar Times (Vol 3, No 3), he persuaded Chicago's Armour Institute of TechTiology to design such a vehicle, which was built in less than three months in Illinois at a cost of US$150,000.

The diesel powered Snow Cruiser weighed 37 tons, was 17 m long, 6 m wide and 5 m high, an exceptionally large vehicle for that time. It had living quarters for five, a kitchen, cabin, engine room, machine shop, darkroom and storeroom.

It was reputed to be able to carry food and supplies for a year and enough fuel to travel 8000 km. The tyres, produced by Goodyear, were 3 m in diameter and had been built to withstand very low temperatures. But the cruiser could not travel fast. Its top speed was 50 kmph (30 miles ph).

Unfortunately there was no time to test the cruiser as it had to be in Boston by mid-November to catch the ship to Antarctica. It left Chicago 24 October 1939 drawing large crowds along its route.

The trip was supposed to take eight days, but in fact it took 19 days. Problems along the route were numerous. The rain slowed it down. A

truck accidentally slammed into it in Indiana. The cruiser's fuel pump malfunctioned. The cruiser struck a bridge in Ohio, rolled down a hill and got stuck in a muddy ditch for nearly four days. Its fuel line burst.

An enormous crowd met the cruiser in Akron where Thomas Poulter, who was driving the machine, picked up two spare tyres from the Goodyear factory and gave Goodyear VIPs a ride.

The cruiser finally reached Boston where it was loaded onto the North Star. It arrived and was unloaded at

McMurdo Sound 12 Janurary 1940. It was here that Thomas Pouter's dream ended. He discovered that the cruiser was far too heavy, and when the wheels sank into the snow, the engine was not powerful enough to break it free.

Any disappointment became overshadowed by America entering World War II and Poulter's expedition was cancelled. The first Antarctic Snow Cruiser was abandoned on the ice. Its present whereabouts is unknown, but it is likely to be the on the floor of McMurdo Sound.

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