The Massey Ferguson MF 5610 Dyna-4 tractor which is to provide the power for the Antarctica2 expedition to the South Pole is all set for its extraordinary journey.
To be driven primarily by ‘Tractor Girl’, Manon Ossevoort, backed by a team of engineers and other support staff, the MF 5610 has been chosen from the Massey Ferguson range for a number of key reasons, says Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Sales Engineering and Brand Development.
“We wanted to provide the Antarctica2 organisers with a current production tractor, and a machine from the Massey Ferguson 5600 series made sense as it is light, manoeuvrable and compact, yet has the same size of cab as that used on larger MF 6600 and MF 7600 tractors,” he explains.
“At 110hp, the MF 5610 is the most powerful three-cylinder tractor ever offered by Massey Ferguson, and one of the reasons we selected this particular model is to illustrate our confidence in higher-horsepower tractors with such engines. The tractor being used is a standard machine available to farmers around the world, but some special preparations have been necessary for its trip.
“Three key issues created by the harsh climate and conditions of Antarctica have driven our tractor preparation programme - the low temperatures, the terrain and the altitude,” explains Campbell.
“It’s likely that temperatures on the expedition will be as low as minus 40 degrees C, and may possibly drop to minus 50C. To this end, as well as polycarbonate in place of cab glass, which can shatter in low temperatures, plus additional cab insulation, the tractor cab has been fitted with a Webasto heater. This is fed by the tractor’s fuel supply to ensure the driver is kept warm and the tractor’s instrumentation is protected from the severe cold. A similar unit, powered by the engine heating system, has been fitted to the tractor chassis, providing additional heat for the transmission.
“Aside from this, and the addition of an extra 410-litre fuel tank and a generator mounted on the tractor’s rear linkage, there have been very few changes to the fuelling system. The tractor will be run, though, on jet fuel, which does not crystallise at low temperatures like conventional diesel. Fuel dumps have been placed strategically along the route, and the tractor will be towing a balloon-tyred trailer carrying additional fuel.
“The other measures taken in terms of tractor power include additional engine insulation under the bonnet, widened radiator grille holes to reduce ice crystal build-up, and the fitment of two heavy-duty batteries. It’s not intended to stop the tractor over the course of its journey, but in cold tests we carried out at the French military research establishment at Angers, we have started the tractor at minus 50 degrees C. Our oil partner, Castrol, has supplied special lubricants to cope with such temperatures, based on their experience with construction equipment in the Arctic.”
During its few weeks on the ice, the MF 5610 will clock up as many hours’ operation as an average year’s work on many farms.
Key to overcoming the challenges of the terrain - from soft snow to the hard ice known as sastrugi - will be the tractor’s tyres. Flotation at extremely low pressures, plus good grip and traction, are critical, as is low fuel consumption.
To limit fuel use and provide reliability and comfort, tyre and wheel supplier Trelleborg identified a need for tyres which offer a wide footprint and high carcass deflection at very low pressures, coupled with excellent rim adhesion. The MF 5610 has been fitted with ProgressiveTraction tyres, characterised by a special double lug that operates on the ground at different times, progressively releasing higher traction when and where required. The double lug also provides the tyre with better flotation capability at low pressure.
Simulations, plus indoor and outdoor testing, led Trelleborg engineers to adapt the tread pattern of the ProgressiveTraction tyres, reducing the height and rounding tread at the shoulder, to make them better suited to run on soft ground such as that anticipated in Antarctica. Meanwhile, a unique carcass design was developed, capable of performing at pressures as low as 0.3 bar. Trelleborg also designed a special rim profile to ensure a safe bead position to prevent slippage and rim roll-off.
While the expedition start point at Novo Base is 800m above sea level, over the course of the journey the altitude reached by the tractor will be as high as 3400m, and this also presents some challenges, notes Campbell Scott.
“We’ve tested the effects of this sort of altitude in regions including Colorado in the US and the French Alps. The main issue of concern is the turbocharger. The air is thinner at altitude with less oxygen which can result in lower power output. But we understand this effect, and are confident it will not be a significant issue.”
In the cab, a number of adaptations have been made to improve comfort over the harsh terrain, including a higher seat back, four-point seat belt and additional hand rails. Meanwhile, externally, one of the most important additions is a crevasse bar, designed to prevent the tractor disappearing into a crevasse should its front wheels enter one. There is also an electric winch fitted to enable the tractor to pull itself out of problem situations.
There is no mobile phone network in Antarctica and, in order to allow remote monitoring of the tractor’s performance on its journey, the MF 5610 has been fitted with a special version of the AgCommand telemetry system from Massey Ferguson’s parent company, AGCO.
“This will allow critical data about the tractor’s performance, such as fuel consumption, speed and temperatures, to be relayed to the expedition HQ and the website on which the tractor’s progress can be charted,” says Campbell.
“With the testing we have carried out and the preparations we have made, we are confident the MF 5610 will be the perfect partner to help Manon Ossevoort and team complete the challenge of the Antarctica2 expedition.
Leading industry partners supporting Antarctica2 include Massey Ferguson, Trelleborg, Castrol, AGCO Finance, AGCO Parts, Fuse Technologies and MechaTrac. The expedition will attempt a 5000 km round trip to the South Pole November 2014-January 2015.
"At 110hp, the MF 5610 is the most powerful three-cylinder tractor ever offered by Massey Ferguson"