South Pole expedition calling

Cayman resident and sailor Andrew Moon tackles a whole other venture

Freezing weather, bone-dry air and nonstop ferocious wind are just a few of the conditions that the Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition encountered, but they finally reached their goal of the South Pole.

The team of 10 — led by Cayman resident Andrew Moon and explorer/entrepreneur Andrew Regan — began their journey on Friday, 26 November, pushing off Union Glacier on their first leg of a 3,600-mile-trek to McMurdo Station, a US research centre.

The now-bearded and smiling group reached their destination on Friday, 3 December.

Moon made a satellite phone call on Thursday, 9 December to the Weekender while standing on a rugged ice shelf overlooking a snowy transantarctic mountain range.

“It’s slightly overcast, and it’s relatively warm, compared with what have experienced in the last couple of weeks,” Andrew Moon said, adding that the current temperature there was minus 10. “But we’ve had weather we’ve had weather of minus 52 with wind chill, and wind of 97 kilometres per hour.”

They had some minor issues with the vehicles, but they dealt with them. And that’s with a new vehicle — the Winston Wong Bio-Inspired Ice Vehicle — making its first Antarctic appearance.

The vehicle looks like something out of a Batman movie, riding on large skis and with a small cockpit. It was a concept vehicle, originally designed at Lotus and completed at Imperial College in London.

“We took the bio-fuelled vehicle to the South Pole because that was our objective, to show that if you could take a bio-fuelled vehicle to the South Pole, you could take it to the supermarket,” he said. “So we took it to the South Pole.”

They left the vehicle in the South Pole, and on Thursday, they were on the other side of Antarctica. That didn’t mean they didn’t run into other problems.

“On this side we got snowed in for about 40 hours,” he said. “We were stuck due to a storm and we just to hunker down because we had ferocious winds and very cold temperatures and we couldn’t see where we were going. It was just too dangerous to go.”

They had to sit it out, then got going, out of the storm, which happened to be the worst storm in the past 17 years.

“We’re fine though,” he said.

Mr. Moon has been broadcasting video of the expedition to his website, and he spoke to children at Cayman schools before the expedition, and will be speaking to schoolchildren when he returns to Cayman.

“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for some time,” he said. “It’s achieving a number of goals. There’s the adventure aspect to it, which is, in some ways, selfish. But there’s more than that. There’s a scientific aspect to this expedition.”

The expedition is involved with Imperial College London, and there’s an outreach program that tackles the education aspect to it.

“The ultimate goal was to have an adventure with a legacy,” he said.

Research

The team has three vehicles: two six-wheeled, engineered-for-purpose Science Support Vehicles and, leading the way across the ice, the iconic, unique Winston Wong Bio-Inspired Ice Vehicle, which is the first bio-fuelled vehicle to reach the South Pole.

The team expects to prove the efficiency and reliability of wheeled vehicles in the Antarctic terrain. The majority of travel around the Antarctic — usually by researchers and scientists — is done using small planes.

As they journey across the continent, the expedition team will trial technology, undertake experiments and gather data.

The Life Platform using Sensium TM technology collects and locally processes vital sign information including motion, heart rate and single lead ECG using electrodes positioned across the chest. Information is transmitted wirelessly in real time to computers. This technology uses non-intrusive, remote and ultra low-power continuous monitoring.

The Winston Wong Bio-Inspired Ice Vehicle — the ‘microlite on skis’ — which is the expedition’s scout vehicle named in honour of the expedition’s main sponsor Professor Winston Wong — is set to be the first bio-fuelled vehicle at the South Pole. The team will monitor the all-round performance of the ice vehicle and its fuel as it makes this historic journey.

The team are mapping and photographing meteorites for Matthew Genge from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London. The large, white, undeveloped expanses of Antarctica make it a prime location for meteorites. These rocks are often older than the Earth itself.

Snow samples will be collected over the course of the expedition and kept for analysis of trace metal concentrations and Persistent Organic Pollutants. Trace metals and POPs can be used as markers to show the circulation of pollutants within the Southern hemispheres.

Ground penetrating radar is being used to study the surface integrity of the ground in front of the vehicles. The data from the radar will be collected for future crevasse-mapping.

The expedition’s on-board weather centre will both inform the team and provide a full record of all weather experienced.

Professor Wong, the expedition’s main sponsor, is a Taiwanese businessman and alumnus of Imperial College London. He is committed to the advancement of biotechnology and to a global approach to the world’s advancement.

To follow the expedition online, visit their site at www.transantarcticexpedition.com

Andrew Moon is a sailor who has carried out a comprehensive study of Polar history and exploration and is an expert on navigation and routes across Antarctica.

Andrew Regan is the co-leader of the expedition and architect of the partnership with Imperial College London.

The Winston Wong Bio-Inspired Ice Vehicle Originally was originally developed with an 1150 BMW engine adapted to run on E85 bioethanol. The engine was changed in the run-up to the 2010 Expedition to a Rotax 914, which will be better suited to lower temperatures and higher altitude and is proven to deliver more horsepower. Its top speed is 84 mph.

The expedition is also using two six-wheel-drive Science Support Vehicles, each weighing 4.7 tonnes. They use high wattage solar panels that power all scientific equipment on board.

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The frosty Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition team.
Photo: Submitted
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