Researchers with the U.S. scientific mission in Antarctica are planning to use a fleet of tractors to shuttle cargo and fuel on a thousand-mile trek between the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) research stations at McMurdo and the South Pole.
Last year, scientists used tractors and sleds to transport 1 million pounds of fuel and cargo to the South Pole across a Texas-sized ice shelf and up a glacier to support research exploration, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Antarctic Sun reported.
The Sun reported that tractors and sleds were frequently used by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s and 1960s for transporting cargo, but the practice declined in favor of using cargo planes.
"The introduction of heavy ski-equipped aircraft, in particular the LC-130, allowed the USAP to range widely on the continent and caused surface traversing to fall into hibernation," said George Blaisdell, NSF operations manager for the USAP.
Now the NSF's mission plans to rely more on tractors and sleds for the reduced cost and to reach remote areas not accessible to aircraft due to a lack of even terrain.