Cat® Machines Form Backbone of South Africa’s Antarctica Mission
- 05 July 2009
- Company & Industry News
When reaching Antarctica, those deployed to the inland base start their 350-kilometer trip from the coast to the inland station. For example, the Caterpillar track-type tractors faithfully inch their way forward at a constant rate of four kilometers per hour without stopping except to change drivers and re-fuel, taking approximately four days to reach their destination with their 25 ton payloads. Considering the challenges of the terrain and the possibility of inclement weather, it's reassuring for the Antarctica mission to know that they can rely on their Cat machines to bring them safely home.
Isolated from the outside world in temperatures that can drop to as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius in the summer and minus 45 in the winter, the research team is left to carry out their projects, relying totally on their food and fuel stores, as well as their fleet of Caterpillar machines for all their cargo haulage, materials handling and personnel transport requirements. Naturally, under these circumstances, high machine availability is a critical requirement.
Fitted with special snow / scraper blades that are around 30 percent larger than standard, at the station the track-type tractors are deployed in applications that include clearing snow build-ups, and are equipped with long and wide undercarriages to ensure stability, in addition to heat pressurized sleeper cabs to ensure that operators remain comfortable when working in these freezing temperatures.
The Caterpillar machines at SANAE 4 presently number thirteen and run on Polar Diesel, a specialist fuel formulation, as well as Cat arctic oils to ensure 24/7 operation in this challenging operating environment.
Barloworld Equipment, Caterpillar's South African dealer, maintains all the Cat machines. "After the thirteen-month period, designated machines are shipped back to Bellville to be tested and repaired. Routine maintenance on site is carried out by artisans based at SANAE 4," explains Wally Parsons, senior product manager at Barloworld Equipment Isando, who completed two four-month stints at SANAE 4 during the mid 1980's.
In 1986/87 two new D4Es and two new Cat D6Hs were delivered to SANAE 4 and Parsons, then based at Barloworld Equipment Bellville as an instructor, went down to Antarctica to train the maintenance teams and operators, as well as to carry out an assessment of SANAE 4's future fleet requirements. A need had been identified for larger and faster units to complement the existing dozers and in 1998 the fleet was joined by a Cat Challenger 65 unit, plus two Cat DV 87s, both tractor models equipped with extended undercarriages. Like the track-type tractors delivered in 1985/86, these machines are still running on the island and have proven to be truly valuable workhorses.
If Antarctica's ice sheet is released by melting, the amount of water would cause the sea level to rise more than 60 meters worldwide.