The Sno-Cat is a tracked vehicle that was originally used to maintain phone lines in North America in the 1940s.
In 1958 however, it was used to carry equipment in the first motorised crossing of Antarctica, travelling 2000 miles over 2 years! It traversed terrains as different and perilous as soft deep snow and frozen choppy sea. It was able to function in extreme conditions, including -55°C and wind speeds up to 45mph. In fact, this very expedition led to the founding of the British Antarctic Survey.
The Sno-Cat was able to reach the remote areas of Antarctica for scientific survey (it did get stuck a few times though!) , such as measuring the thickness of the ice sheet, which continues to be important in understanding climate science. Visit the Atmosphere gallery to find out more about our climate changing world- and see a real Antarctic ice core.
What about its use in the future? With energy shortages on the horizon we will need to find new sources of fuel. The sea surrounding Antarctica contains rich oil fields and natural gas, and in 2048 a ban on mining minerals is set to end. Maybe vehicles like the Sno-Cat will be used to reach these valuable resources?
Why can’t a normal car drive across Antarctica? (How would the Sno-Cat fare on UK roads?)
What equipment would you need Sno-Cat to carry on an expedition to Antarctica? (See here for an idea of daily life on the British Antarctic Survey)
Should areas of remote wilderness like the Antarctic continue to be protected from mining, when our need for energy increases every day?
The Sno-Cat is part of the Ten Climate Stories exhibition and is found in Making the Modern World, on the ground floor.
Tom (Cambridge University), Gulmira & Chen (Tokyo Institute of Technology)