- Written by webmin
While researching the Poulter-designed Snow Cruiser over the last couple of weeks, I came across mention of another car that would be worth posting this chilly chilly morning (-18 degrees Fahrenheit on my way into work this morning!). Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton – he of the ill-fated Endurance expedition – had in 1907 set sail for Antarctica on the Nimrod expedition with the very first motor vehicle to set tire on the Antarctic ice: an Arrol-Johnston, a product of Paisley, Dumfries, in Scotland.
The inclusion of the Arrol-Johnston came not solely due to its air-cooled engine and thus its ability to start and run in extremely cold temperatures. Rather, industrialist Sir William Beardmore (later Lord Invernairn), who financed Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition, had recently purchased Arrol-Johnston and sent the car with Shackleton as a sort of publicity stunt. According to Beaulieu, it was a specially built car, featuring a four-cylinder 12-15hp Simms engine, a coalscuttle hood, and two sets of wheels – one that mounted wooden tires and another that mounted Dunlop pneumatics. (Other sources mention a third set of wheels fitted with solid rubber tires, cogged in the back.) Its exhaust pipe was routed to travel to the carburetor, under the floor to act as a footwarmer, then through a tank used for melting snow for cooking.
Shackleton was quoted as believing that the Arrol-Johnston might make it to the pole, but it proved unable to negotiate the deep snow on either set of tires and only came within 150 kilometers of the pole. Only by fitting skis under its front wheels was engineer Bernard Day able to make it somewhat useful near the expedition’s base camp at Cape Royds; fitted with a trayback, it could transport loads across the sea ice from the Nimrod to the camp. Unloaded on January 1, it continued to serve the expedition through December 1 of that year, when it fell into a crevasse.
I haven’t yet come across the temperatures that Shackleton and Day encountered with the Arrol-Johnston, but it’s hard to believe they were much colder than what we’re experiencing this morning.