In March, a modified Ford F-150 crashed through ice near Tasmanian islands in the Arctic Circle. The truck was part of a circumnavigation trip called the Transglobal Car Expedition, which returned five months later to retrieve the vehicle from the Arctic Ocean. The team employed divers, airbag flotation devices, and a helicopter to retrieve the truck.
The rig was no ordinary F-150. It had been heavily modified by Arctic Trucks to its AT44 specification, meaning it sported huge 44-inch tires ideal for keeping the truck “floating” in deep snow. If the company sounds familiar to you, it is because it is the same company that equipped it Top Gear Toyota Hilux trucks modified for his trip to the North Pole. Most of its conversions are based on Toyota, including the Land Cruiser, both the original and the Lexus GX equivalent, but the company also modifies Isuzu, Nissan, Mercedes Sprinter, VW Amarok and Iveco trucks and SUVs.
Arctic Trucks’ work involves changes to the F-150’s chassis, and while the front suspension is raised about an inch, the rear is kept at stock height to maintain a low center of gravity. Locking differentials and cab-operated air up / air down systems are also invaluable additions when crossing off the net.
Unfortunately, the equipment wasn’t enough to keep the Ford from breaking through when it tried to wade (ha!) An ice-covered Franklin Strait on March 23. Pilot Torfi Birkir Johannsson recounted the heartbreaking situation:
I immediately suspected that it was deep underwater and that we would lose the car, my thoughts went “what do we need most before we lose it”. I considered whether I had to get back in the car to get some clothes there, my phone, my computers, etc., but I decided to jump on the roof rack and get the extra heavy clothes that all four of us had stored on this car.
I managed to free two straps and four bags, my thought was that we would need them especially if the other car also fell and jumped off to take these bags to safer ice.
No other vehicles have been lost, but the team says they want to leave the site in as pristine condition as possible. So they spent the past few months figuring out how to recover the sunken Ford. The solution was for experienced Arctic divers to attach large airbags to the truck and float it to a nearby island.
There, it was inspected and attached as a sling load to a Super Puma helicopter in nearby Taloyoak in Nunavut, Canada. The mission in one of the most remote areas of the globe has proved successful, such as Car and driver reported. Ford now awaits the next ship that can take it to Montreal.
The team learned valuable lessons from this effort, which is only evidence for actual longitudinal circumnavigation. That 25,000-mile journey will begin in September at the southern tip of Argentina, heading north through South and North America before reaching the North Pole.
The plan is to drop off the F-150s in Resolute, Nunavut, and proceed with four other six-wheeled Russian Yamelya amphibious vehicles. From there, the team of 16 plans to cross the Arctic and travel south through Greenland. They will arrive by ship in Denmark before crossing over to Europe and Africa. Finally, they plan to cross Antarctica to return to Argentina, arriving in January 2024.
The purpose of the shipment is to “unite people from all over the world in one journey, “according to the group’s website. The team is made up of Americans, Canadians, Russians, Ukrainians and Icelanders.