Last December, the great-grandson of Ernest Shackleton climbed aboard a modified Hyundai Santa Fe Sport to complete the illustrious explorer’s famed Antarctic trek. Patrick Bergel thus became the first man to cross that frozen continent in a passenger car.
The 5,800km return trip ran between Union Camp and McMurdo and took 30 days to complete. The Santa Fe Sport drove over frozen terrain in challenging conditions, with temperatures sometimes plunging to -28 °C. The itinerary even included new roads on ice floes on which no wheeled vehicles had ever driven.
The expedition was inspired by the legendary trans-Antarctic voyage undertaken in 1914-1917 by Shackleton, who, having been beaten to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen, was attempting to be the first to traverse the frozen continent. The explorer’s ship sank after getting stuck in pack ice, but he and a crew of five men navigated nearly 1,300 km across open and treacherous seas to reach South Georgia Island, in order to set in motion a successful rescue operation.
One of the most experienced specialists in Antarctic driving, Gisli Jónsson of Arctic Trucks, was in charging of preparing the Hyundai vehicle and managing the expedition. "People who have a lot of experience of Antarctica know what it does to machinery: basically, anything and everything falls apart," said Jónsson. "Even the big machines crack up and break apart. This was the first time this full traverse has ever been attempted, let alone doing it there and back. A lot of people thought we would never ever make it and when we returned they couldn't believe we'd actually done it!"