The southernmost continent of the world, Antarctica, has long been a source of fascination for explorers, scientists, geologists, and, of late, tourists, especially those travelling on cruise liners. The extreme remoteness of the place combined with the exotic life forms that live there and the mysteries that lie concealed under the numerous layers of ice pose an enticing challenge to many. According to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), 51,707 people visited the cold continent during 2017-2018. This was an increase of 17 percent from the previous year and is in keeping with the rising trend seen since 2011-2012.
The latest team of adventurers setting out on this journey of discovery to the inhospitable continent is heading out from Edmonton soon. And their journey is definitely not going to be as simple as boarding a cruise liner and sailing up to the glaciers!
Known as Xpedition 90x, this 2,400-kilometer (1,491-mile) return voyage is expected to last up to 30 days and put to test man and machine alike.
Technology At Its Best
The three-member team led by innovator-inventor Darryl Weflen, President of Airworks Compressors Corp, will be credited with quite a few firsts. If the team succeeds, it will be the first Canadian-led Antarctic expedition. This voyage also has the distinction of being the first single vehicle expedition to the South Pole as well as the first hybrid vehicle expedition to the South Pole.
The team will be testing out the ruggedness of Weflen’s patent-pending hybrid drive system known as G-Force, which will be used in Rockhopper, a modified International MXT. The vehicle now features a custom-made Cummins 6BT 12-valve turbo diesel with 210 horsepower engine! The Rockhopper will use Jet A as the extreme temperatures of Antarctica are bound to turn diesel to gel. Meanwhile, G-Force is a green technology intended for Class 4 and larger vehicles, which Weflen wants to introduce to the commercial trucking industry and the military after it is tested successfully.
One distinguishing factor about G-Force is that besides propelling the vehicle, it also functions as an auxiliary power unit (APU) supplying heat, electricity, and air conditioning to maximize cab comfort. Its versatility in terms of the ability to recharge while driving or even idling without the need for plugging in, reduced heat signature, and ease of fitment make it suitable for a range of military endeavours. Work on fine tuning the hybrid drive-train system has been ongoing for more than a year.
Tracking the Journey
The Rockhopper will first be packed into a sea container with its tracks removed and be transported by truck to Vancouver, where it will travel by ship to Punta Arenas, Chile. It will then be moved on to a transport jet heading for Union Glacier where it will get its tracks back and embark on ground travel to its final destination. The team plans on travelling 12 to 14 hours and sleeping in tents during the course of their journey.
The Rockhopper has been fitted with a state-of-the-art tracking system from, you guessed it, GFI! Equipped with the best reporting times in the industry, GFI is a veteran in the fleet management segment and works in adherence to industry regulations and specifications. With options like geofencing and history replays, we like to think we’ve made a name for ourselves in the northern hemisphere. We created a custom website to track the progress of the truck as it undertakes this exciting journey from Edmonton to Antarctica.
The Team and Their Goal
Weflen is a refrigeration mechanic by trade who also holds quite a few patents. An avid race car driver, he has built quite a few race cars himself! He is also credited with driving the fastest Go-Kart in the world at 158.8 M.
The other members of the team are Jerry Fuentes, who will manage communications and navigation, and Greg Weflen, who will be entrusted with collecting data and carrying out mechanical repairs.
The aim of this Antarctic expedition is to encourage future explorers to reduce the carbon footprint of this type of vehicle and to aim for future commercial operations, with the overall end goal that it will reduce fuel. It is expected that G-Force technology will help reduce emissions by nearly 20 percent while helping minimize engine strain.
Besides doing their bit for the environment through this journey of a lifetime, the enthusiastic team hopes to get across the message that the world is a huge place with vast, unexplored territory that people should make time to go discover!