Patrick Bergel, great-grandson of Ernest Shackleton, completed what his Great Grandfather started over 100 years ago by achieving the first crossing of the coldest & driest continent on earth by car. The 30-day expedition facilitated by Hyundai Motor was undertaken in a 2.2-litre diesel Hyundai Santa Fe with limited modifications. They not only had to cover extreme distances at temperatures down to minus 28-degrees Celsius but also had to plot new paths on floating ice caps that have never been travelled by wheeled vehicle before.
Bergel, who normally works as a technology entrepreneur, said: “I’m not a polar explorer; I’m an indoor guy. So it was a big cultural shift – and it was quite something to have been the first to do this. Getting to the South Pole was a special moment. The fact that this was a place my great grandfather tried to get to more than once and I was there, it felt like a genuine connection.
“What we did though was one thousandth as hard as what they did. You know, no comparison – modern appurtenances, comparative luxury. But it was an amazing journey, and an amazing achievement.”
The team travelled from Union Glacier to the South Pole then followed the Leverett Glacier and the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, past smoking Mount Erebus volcano, to the Ross Ice Shelf and McMurdo. Bergel added: “Some sections were unbelievably beautiful and only a few dozen people actually get to see the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. That was the point at which nobody in a wheeled vehicle had been beyond. My great-grandfather was the first to climb Erebus and I’d seen pictures of it as a child. It is quite spectacular, with plumes of smoke coming out, and it was pretty special to be driving and see it come out of the cloud.”
The journey was carefully plotted on GPS and locations of potential danger areas were reviewed in detailed meetings with experts at Union Glacier before departure but there were still plenty of pitfalls along the way.
“When you’re driving through a total white-out you start hallucinating, seeing things that aren’t there,” said Bergel. “Our brains often confused us into believing we were going uphill rather than down. In one area, a giant crevasse field, we had to rope up the vehicles to make sure if one fell in it could be recovered by the others. We had one scary moment there – but we managed to get through OK.”
One of Antarctica’s most experienced driving experts, Gisli Jónsson from Arctic Trucks was tasked with managing the vehicle’s preparation before the event and then led the expedition out in the Antarctic. Jónsson explained: “People who have a lot of experience of Antarctica know what it does to machinery: basically, anything and everything falls apart,” said expedition leader Jónsson. “A lot of people thought we would never ever make it and when we returned they couldn’t believe we’d actually done it!”
The expedition which took place in December 2016 has been made into a short film by Hyundai. The film can be viewed at www.Shackletonsreturn.hyundai.com.