The Snow Cruiser

 The Snow Cruiser is a large wheeled vehicle for snow-covered ground that was built in 1939 to explore Antarctica. The Snow Cruiser was intended not only as a means of transport, but also as a mobile research station with living and working areas for its crew located in the vehicle itself. The Snow Cruiser's sloping rear section was to be used to lower the aircraft carried on the roof onto ice surfaces suitable for takeoff. The project was led by Thomas C. Poulter and Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd and failed because the Snow Cruiser was not able to overcome even the smallest elevations in practical use. It had simply not been possible to simulate the weather conditions of the Antarctic in the USA. The Snow Cruiser was abandoned. 

The Snow Cruiser in August 1940 (you can clearly see the almost treadless tires)
The Snow Cruiser in August 1940 (you can clearly see the almost treadless tires)

History of origins

An Antarctic expedition, during which Admiral Byrd almost lost his life but was rescued by Poulter, is considered the birth of the Snow Cruiser. It was here that Poulter first had the idea of building such a vehicle. Back in the USA, he then put this project into practice.

Construction of the Snow Cruiser began in August 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. They had eleven weeks to build a finished vehicle according to the plans. When completed, it was taken to Boston, Massachusetts, tested, and loaded onto the North Star for transport to Antarctica.

On January 12, 1940, the ship reached the Bay of Whales and thus the Antarctic continent. Here, the huge craft was loaded off the ship via a specially constructed ramp. However, the ramp collapsed under the load of the vehicle. Nevertheless, it was finally possible to bring the vehicle ashore The requirements placed on the vehicle included, among other things, that it should be able to cross crevasses up to five meters wide. However, the Snow Cruiser did not meet the requirements, sank into the snow and had approach problems even on the smallest of inclines. Even after several modifications to the vehicle, no improvements in driving performance could be achieved. As a result, the project was abandoned and the Snow Cruiser was unceremoniously left behind in Antarctica.

Comparable developments

Since the 1950s, Soviet Antarctic research had been using the Kharkovchanka, a vehicle similar to the Snow Cruiser in that it was also a vehicle suitable for long-distance transport in the Antarctic, with living and working quarters integrated into the vehicle. Unlike the Snow Cruiser, however, the Kharkovchanka was a much smaller tracked vehicle that had been developed on the basis of a tried-and-tested series-production vehicle.


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