Lost Sno-Cats of the Belgian-Dutch Pole Expedition 1964-1967

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You will find these vehicles somewhere in an abandoned shed. These are the Tucker Sno-Cats Type 743s, which were used from 1964 to 1967 during the Belgian-Dutch Antarctic Expedition. The paintings in the doors were made by the Belgian comic artist Hergé. He is the cartoonist from Tintin. Unfortunately these have been removed by vandals.


In the year 1599, a glimpse of Antarctica had been captured from the VOC (East India Company) ship named ‘Blijde Boodschap’. In the captains log it is written that the continent was seen from the ship. However, the official discovery is written to the Russian Von Bellinghausen and the Briton Edward Bransfield who, in 1820 saw the icy plain from the sea.


From that moment on the interest for the South Pole is flourishing: the last area on earth that has not yet been entered by anyone and has yet to be mapped. Scientists in particular are eager to gain access to the vast area that has a size equal to that of Europe and North America combined.


While the Netherlands undertook seven scientific expeditions to the North Pole on the initiative of the Royal Meteorological Institute between 1878 and 1884, other countries (Norway, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, France and Belgium) are trying to reach the South Pole. In 1895 the continent was first entered and two years later the Belgian Adrien de Gerlache carried out a spectacular expedition.

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Over the years, representatives of many nations, sometimes at the expense of human lives, set foot on Antarctica. Due to the advancing technology it is becoming easier to survive in the area south of the 60th Southern latitude where the coldest temperature ever measured is -126.4 °F below zero.


In 1911 the Norwegian Roald Amundsen first entered the geographic South Pole, followed by a month later, the Englishmen Scott.


Under the code-name Operation Deep Freeze, America undertook a scientific expedition in 1955 which also established a permanent research station. Shortly thereafter, other countries, including Belgium, are also building research stations.


Gaston de Gerlache, the son of the nineteenth-century Belgian hero Adrien De Gerlache manages to persuade the Belgian cabinet to finance a new expedition. In 1957 he founded the King Baudouin base. This base is included in an international network and serves as an observation post for geological and geographical exploration of the neighboring coastal area and mountains. In addition to the scientific program, trips are also undertaken with tractors, dog sleds and airplanes. This makes it possible to make maps of the coast and of the mountain ranges. In this way a new mountain range is discovered: the Queen Fabiola mountains.


After expeditions in 1957, 1958 and 1959, however, the money is pended and the Belgian government asks the Dutch government in 1960 to participate and share the costs. At first the Netherlands did not wanted to join, but decided in 1962 to grant 650,000 guilders to the expeditions.


The Dutch mainly did meteorological research in the 3 years from 1964 to 1967. After that, all the material was retrieved. A part, including the sno-cats, can be found in an abandoned barn.

Source: Andere Tijden (c)


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