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Cat D6Ns take to the ice

Cat D6N in Antarctica

Finning-modified Cat machines arrive in Antarctica and get to work preparing for The Coldest Journey

THE two Cat D6Ns that have been specially modified by Finning to function in temperatures down to –70°C are now operating in Antarctica following their offloading from the former polar research vessel which transported the machines to the ice.

The two machines departed on the first leg of their journey from London to South Africa on 6 December 2012 on board the SA Agulhas, arriving nearly two weeks later.


Following a short stop in Cape Town, they spent a further 10 days at sea sailing down to Crown Bay, where the two units are now fully functional on the Antarctic ice.

Commenting from the ice, Finning lead engineer Spencer Smirl said it was fantastic to see the two machines finally being craned out of the SA Agulhas.

‘My colleague, Richmond Dykes, and I had been running some preliminary tests on the Cat D6Ns while they were in the cargo hold, so we were confident that there were not going to be any problems with them when we finally got them started,’ he said.

‘Having said that, it still came as a great relief to get the engines fired up so we could start using the machines to assist with the rest of the offloading process.’

Over the next couple of months Mr Smirl and the rest of the expedition team will be focusing on preparations for the journey to the South Pole.

The Cat D6Ns will play an integral role in this initial groundwork as they are needed to transport fuel over a crevasse field to the area where base camp will be built for the Sir Ranulph Fiennes-led Coldest Journey expedition.

‘We’ll also be testing out the modifications that have been made to the units,’ added Mr Smirl. ‘They have run smoothly so far, but we have to recognize we’ll be operating the machines in one of the harshest environments on Earth, so we can’t afford to take any chances.

It is estimated that the expedition team will begin their world record attempt – the first ever winter crossing of Antarctica – on 21 March.

The expedition hopes to raise £10 million for ‘Seeing Is Believing’ – a global initiative that helps to tackle avoidable blindness around the world. For updates on the expedition’s progress, visit:; or to make a donation, visit:


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