First-Ever Antarctic Round-Trip Also the Fastest Crossing

The Ice Vehicle. Half-aircraft, half-sled. (Image credit: Moon Regan Trans-Antarctic Expedition.)

The Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition team has completed the first-ever round-trip across the Antarctic continent, the team reported today (Dec. 17) on their website.

After delays due to bad weather, the 10-person team left Antarctica's Union Glacier on Nov. 25 and arrived on the Ross Ice Shelf on Dec. 9. The race team covered 1,209 miles (1,945.9 kilometers) in 303 hours, making it the fastest vehicle crossing of the Antarctic continent.

'We've done it completed our Transantarctic there-and-back. Some 4,000 kms across this beautiful continent," said team members Andrew Moon and Andrew Regan in a statement. "The team is in incredibly high spirits, immensely proud of what we have achieved."

After arriving at the Ross Ice Shelf, the team then turned around and headed home by retracing their tracks to the South Pole, and on to the Antarctic west coast at Union Glacier. [Related: Daredevil BASE Jumps off Antarctic Mountain .]

But this expedition is not some quaint trip on snow machines. The crew is traveling in two giant six-wheeled, tricked-out trucks, which they specially prepared for the grueling trip. They are also piloting a revolutionary propeller-driven ski vehicle that is half-aircraft, half-sled.

The ski machine was engineered to beat anything the coldest, driest, windiest place on Earth can throw at it and to test its biofuel-powered engine in the extreme conditions.

The two six-wheelers are tricked-out with ground-penetrating radar to check the ice for crevasses, but are also mobile fuel tankers and laboratories stocked with scientific equipment to monitor the environment, vehicle performance and the bodies of crew members, who are suited up in specialist survival gear. These experiments are being done in liaison with expedition partners at Imperial College London.

Reach OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel at Follow him on Twitter @btisrael.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.