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Vivian Fuchs makes the great Antarctic trek

Posted in Adventure, Exploration, Historical articles, History, Transport, Travel on Thursday, 29 March 2012

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This edited article about Antarctic exploration originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 679 published on 18 January 1975.

Vivian Fuchs, picture, image, illustration

The trans-continental conquest of Antarctica by land was made by Vivian Fuchs, by Severino Baraldi

It was the first attempt to cross by land from one side of the ice-sheathed Antarctic continent to the other, and so far everything had gone well. The expedition, led by Dr. Vivian Fuchs, was part of the British Commonwealth’s contribution to the 1958 International Geophysical Year, and to support it, 12 nations had set up 50 different bases in the Antarctic.

Unlike explorers in the Antarctic, who had used only dogs, this expedition had set off with three Sno-Cats, whose tank-like tracks were considered ideal for gripping the snow. Supported also by two tracked cargo carriers and a Muskeg tractor, hauling between them all some 20 tons of food, fuel and equipment, Fuchs was reasonably confident that the expedition would not be faced with any real difficulties beyond those created by the harsh conditions.

Changing weather conditions, however, made the use of heavy machinery a liability, rather than an asset. Although part of the route had already been explored, the weather had so weakened the snow that every yard the expedition covered was now a hazard.

Disaster now seemed inevitable.

It came finally when Fuchs and his companion, David Stratton, riding in one of the Sno-Cats, suddenly found the snow collapsing beneath them. The next moment they found themselves dropping in the dark blue depths of a crevasse.

The Sno-Cat mercifully stopped its plunge. It was now perched across a yawning chasm, with its rear caterpillar gripping the edge behind it. One of its front treads was swinging vertically in the air, leaving the other to take the whole front of the vehicle on a slender ‘toe-hold’.

But miraculously, Fuchs and his companion and the machine were hauled to safety and on January 19th, 1958 they arrived at the South Pole.

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