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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tractor Girl

Dutch actress and adventurer Manon Ossevoort driving her tractor across Africa
A young woman from Holland has driven a tractor to the South Pole. She just arrived there this last week. It took her a few weeks or a few years, depending on where you want to start counting.
    She started out many moons ago on a 34 year old farm tractor which she may have driven across Europe and Africa. Or maybe the North Atlantic. The story seems to be more about story telling and dreams than about what actually happened. Maybe you need to read the book. Anyway, Iceland seems to be the last place she was before Johannesburg.

Massey Ferguson 35. Most of the ones on the net have red hoods. Ours was gray, though a bit more faded than this one.
     I was impressed with the age of this tractor, although I probably shouldn't have been. We had two old tractors on the farm (Highwater Orchard, the infamous). One was a compact Massey Ferguson which had an integrated hydraulic lift (also known as a 3 point hitch).

Not ours, but it could have been. Even the headlight is broken.
The other was an ancient Massey Harris 44 where you sat 6 feet off the ground. Old, old, old. At least that's how I remember it. Turns out it was probably no older than I was at the time, which was only about 15.


A little more reading and I find out that Manon started her expedition back in 2005 and got as far as Cape Town and then her luck ran out. Recently her luck improved and she resumed her journey, flying in a Russian cargo plane along with the shiny new tractor provided by Massey Ferguson , to Antarctica.


Once she got to Antarctica it only took her about three weeks to get to the South Pole. While she was pretty much on her own driving across Africa, for this leg of the trip there was a support crew with a couple of trucks. Good idea. I think you'd be pretty foolish to try this all by your lonesome. You might be wondering about driving tractors in Antarctica, but it seems that the first journey that crossed the whole continent used tractors, tractors very similar to the small one we had on the farm, so this trip was a return visit to former glory for the tractor company. All hail the mighty Massey Ferguson!


So now I'm reading about Antarctica and how it's all covered with snow and ice (well, duh), and how it's really thick. So how thick is it? A hundred feet? A couple of hundred feet? Thicker. Remember it's been snowing done there for billions of years and it NEVER melts. Are you ready for this? It's two MILES thick. If we had that much ice here Mt. Hood would be obliterated.

Laser measurement of elevation via Satellite. Vertical distance is exaggerated.
In some places the ice slopes down toward the edges of the continent. In other places there is an abrupt change in elevation. Notice the line of cliffs in the above image. I've only found one mention that climbing up on top of the ice caused any problem. If might be that the abrupt change of elevation occurs in a hundred miles instead of a thousand, so maybe it isn't a big problem.

Trying to put this story together was exceptionally difficult. It might be a gender thing. I thought the video of the cross Antarctic expedition was great. Direct, succinct and to the point. Everything about Tractor Girl was all touchy freely and scattered from here and gone. That's okay, she's done something very cool.

I'm wondering how much of my attraction to this story was because it was done by a woman. Men do crazy things all the time. I'm thinking it must be because there is something to the story. Top Gear is always doing something crazy, usually really stupid, but they manage to make an entertaining story out of it. I think the thing about this story is that Manon is really trying to make things better. Dreams ARE important.

Normally a story like this would be loaded with links, but today you are going to have to fend for yourselves. I've spent way too much time on this already.

P.S.#1 Re: the Massey Harris tractor. Back then I was just beginning my fascination with all things mechanical and the brakes on this tractor threw me for a loop. They were mounted in the side of the transmission, not even remotely close to the rear axle. The brake shoes were mounted to a panel that was bolted over a hole in the side of the transmission. Inside the hole was the brake drum. Weird, but if you consider the size and weight of the rear wheels (probably a ton, being as they were filled with antifreeze), it makes a certain amount of sense. Those wheels are probably the last thing you want to fool with, and we never did. Yes, I know I'm wondering a little, but man, I thought I was done with tractors, and yet here I am.

P.S.#2 Ever notice how there's an extra 'C' in antarctica? Does anyone ever say ant-ark-tik-uh? No, they don't, they say ant-ar-tik-uh. Or maybe that's just me pirate upbringing showing through. Arrrrggghhh!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure of the value of this publicity stunt. Is it to crow that internal combustion engines will rule the world, right up the the point that they choke it off from life? Or that Antarctica is the only place that will be arable once internal combustion engines have destroyed the ozone shield? Or that mechanized farming has produced such vast amounts of cheap food that we have become so fat and dependent on machinery that we may as well ride it down to the bottom... of the world.