The Antarctic Snow Cruiser: Historical Photos Of An One-of-a-kind Vehicle That Turned Out To Be A Colossal Failure, 1939-1940
In the late 1930s, the United States government commissioned an ambitious project to build a vehicle that could traverse the treacherous terrain of Antarctica. The result was the Antarctic Snow Cruiser, a massive vehicle that was intended to be a mobile research station for scientists exploring the icy continent.
The Antarctic Snow Cruiser was a marvel of engineering at the time. It measured 55 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 16 feet tall, and weighed a whopping 37 tons. It was designed to be fully self-contained, with sleeping quarters, a kitchen, a toilet, and even a small laboratory. It was also equipped with a generator, a heating system, and two-way radios to allow for communication with base camp.
The Snow Cruiser was built by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York in 1939, and after a series of tests and modifications, it was deemed ready for its Antarctic expedition. It was loaded onto a ship and transported to Antarctica, where it was unloaded onto the ice and set out on its mission.
However, things quickly went wrong for the Snow Cruiser. The vehicle was far too heavy for the snow and ice of Antarctica, and it frequently became stuck in the deep drifts. The vehicle’s tires were also inadequate for the terrain, and they frequently punctured, leaving the Snow Cruiser stranded.
The vehicle’s size also made it difficult to maneuver, and it frequently got stuck in narrow passages between ice formations. The heating system was also ineffective, and the crew had to rely on oil lamps and blankets to stay warm.
Despite these issues, the crew managed to use the Snow Cruiser as a base camp for several months, conducting scientific research and making exploratory trips. However, when it was time to return to base camp, the vehicle’s problems became even more apparent.
The Snow Cruiser’s steering mechanism had failed, and it was unable to make the return journey. The crew was forced to abandon the vehicle and make the trip back to base camp on foot, a journey that took them over two weeks to complete.
After the expedition, the Snow Cruiser was left abandoned on the ice, where it slowly sank into the snow and was eventually buried. It remained there for over 50 years, until it was rediscovered by a group of explorers in the 1990s.
Today, the Antarctic Snow Cruiser is considered a cautionary tale of engineering hubris. Its massive size and impressive features were no match for the harsh realities of Antarctica, and it ultimately proved to be a colossal failure. However, the vehicle remains a fascinating artifact of a time when humanity was still pushing the boundaries of exploration and scientific discovery.