Mechanical Engineering - September, 1939

Snow Cruiser


   The Research Foundation of Armour Institute of Technology has made public brief description of the "snow cruiser," designed under the direction of Dr. Thomas C. Poulter, as a Means of transportation for the projected antarctic expedition, authorized by the President of the United States and the Director of Territory and Island Possessions. It is expected that the expedition will get under way sometime in October.
   The accompanying drawing, Fig. 1, of the 55-foot vehicle with its five-passenger pick-a-back airplane for aerial explorations of a region 600 miles wide over a given route, shows the exterior of the arrangement and the 10 foot diameter electric motor driven wheels. Two Diesel-electric power plants will generate the electricity needed. The snow cruiser, which combines a well-equipped laboratory with quarters for the crew for a period one year without contact with the outside world, will have cruising radius of 5000 miles, a speed from 10 to 50 mph depending on grade, surface conditions, and weather, is 15 ft high, and will be able to span crevasses 15 ft wide.
   As second in command and senior scientist of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition II, Dr. Poulter made a study of exploration methods and conditions enabling him to design the snow cruiser for best use. The following sixteen points are stated by Dr. Poulter as being requirements for an exploration unit:
   1  The ideal antarctic exploration unit must have a cruising range of from 4000 to 6000 miles.
   2  It must be capable of negotiating open crevasses of as much as 15 ft wide.
   3  It must be capable of approaching within 100 to 200 miles of any point on the antarctic continent or barrier ice, and have auxiliary means of covering that distance.
   4  It should some means of attaining a high altitude for observing long distances and making aerial photographs
   5  It should have a cruising speed of not less than 5, and preferably 10 mph.
   6  It should be possible to stop at any location for as long as desired with no consumption of supplies for the unit during its stay there, and only the normal consumption of for men and fuel for their comfort.
   7  It should carry a crew of not less than three nor more than six men - preferably about four.
   8  No large or elaborate base camp should be required
   9  It should be possible from the unit to determine the position of any mountain peak or prominence visible from the unit within a half mile.
   10  It should not require any special precautions in case of a blizzard; all that should be necessary should be to head the unit into the direction of the prevailing wind and stop for any length of time.
   11  It should be possible to travel with the unit throughout any month of the year except during blizzards.
   12  It should be so equipped and manned that it would be possible to travel 24 hours per day and permit sufficient time and facilities for the men to have regular meals and the required amount of sleep.
   13  It should carry all necessary provisions for the crew for a period of at least one year.
   14  It should provide emergency means for the crew to reach some point on the coast where seal meat is available, or where a ship can pick them up or a camp. It should be possible to accomplish this within a period of hours, or at the most a few days under favorable weather conditions.
   15  It should have adequate radio equipment for reliable communications with the States.
   16  It should carry complete facilities and personnel for a very comprehensive scientific program.

Fig. 1
Fifty-five foot snow cruiser designed by Research Foundation of Armour Institute of Technology with ten-foot rubber tired wheels and five passenger pick-a-back airplane, to be used in antarctic explorations

This page last updated: 17 February 2006