Monday 23 September 2019

Penguin Special - An Antarctic Snow Cruiser

CAPE ARGUS  –  December 1939

In 1939, The Antarctic Snow Cruiser, a massive new vehicle intended for use in Antarctic exploration, was built by scientists and engineers at Chicago’s Armour Institute of Technology. It was 55 feet long, weighed more than 37 tons fully loaded, and rolled on four smooth 10-foot-tall tires designed to retract and allow part of the vehicle to scoot across crevasses. Rear Admiral Richard Byrd was the leader of the Antarctic expedition. The Snow Cruiser was driven from Chicago to Boston to be loaded on the ship the North Star. 

Here is a diagram of the 150 000 dollar snow cruiser, Penguin Special, designed by Dr. Thomas Poulter of Chicago’s Armour Institute for Rear-Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s use in Antarctic exploration. It averaged only 10 miles an hour, but in its 27-ton body it could carry fuel enough to take it from New York to San Francisco and back again without stopping. It carried a plane on its back. (CAPE ARGUS - 1939, December 23)

This picture will give you some idea of the size of the Admiral Byrd ice cruiser. The three men here are standing against one of the wheels. Admiral Richard Byrd is the figure on the right. (CAPE ARGUS - 1939, December 27)

The Bear of Boston sailing from Boston, Massachusetts, in a snowstorm on her way to the Antarctic with members of the Byrd Expedition on board. (CAPE ARGUS - 1939, December 30)

Read more about the Snow Cruiser at

To see how the Snow Cruiser was unloaded in Antarctica, have a look at the YouTube video

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