Expeditions 7: First successful traverse of the Greenland Ice Cap

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A Toyota Hilux truck equipped with Nokian Hakkapeliitta 44 tires completed the first successful crossing of the Greenland ice cap last year, a gruelling journey through white-outs with zero visibility.

Nokian’s Hakkapeliitta 44 tire was put through its paces on the expedition from the southern coast of Greenland to the land’s northernmost point and back. The challenge, titled Expeditions 7, saw seven men travel the 5,000km on ice in 20 days. One of the team’s special vehicles built by Arctic Trucks was equipped with Nokian Hakkapeliitta 44 tires.

The adventure began in Isortoq at the southern tip of Greenland and headed north up to Wulff Land. For the most part the journey took place on top of the continental glacier, which is several thousand kilometers long and over 3km thick at certain points.

During the journey, the team logged weather information and collected snow and ice samples which were later handed over to universities for research purposes. The expedition lasted nearly three weeks before the group arrived in the village of Sisimiut on the west coast of Greenland. The total distance traveled was 5,169km.

During preparation one of the vehicles fell partially into an ice-covered river.

“The hardest part was setting off and finding a safe route from the sea ice onto the thick continental ice sheet,” explained Emil Grimsson, one of the founders of Arctic Trucks.

“We were driving on the thin river ice when one of our vehicles fell in. Fortunately, it was the worst thing that happened, and we were able start our journey only a few days later than planned.”

The expedition faced a number of other challenges along the way. Varying winter weather conditions and white-outs with zero visibility made progress slow at times. On the slowest legs of the journey the vehicles could manage only 10km/h. The lowest recorded temperatures were -40°C.

“Seeing the size of the glacier in its entirety was breathtaking,” Grimsson added. “Arriving in Wulff Land after days of driving on ice was also memorable. The place was impressive, almost surreal. I’m not sure anyone has ever driven a car that far north.”

He continued, “I wanted to use Nokian Hakkapeliittas due to my previous experiences with them. These tires master extreme conditions and work unbelievably well even in temperatures as low as -40°C.”

One Nokian Hakkapeliitta 44 tire weighs 70kg and is over 1m in diameter. The tire was developed jointly by Nokian Tyres and Arctic Trucks.

“In soft snow you need large tires with sufficient room for air. You can adjust the length of the tire’s contact surface by regulating the inflation pressure. A wide tire has better load-bearing capabilities and will not sink as deep into the snow as a narrow tire.”

One of the most important steps in the planning process was to calculate the vehicles’ fuel consumption accurately as there are no gas stations on the glacier. The team carried more than half the fuel in sleds towed behind the vehicles.

“Luckily, we ended up consuming less fuel than we had estimated,” Grimsson said. “This was the first time we had ever pulled fuel in bladders on sledges behind the cars. We struggled to secure the bladders on the sledges and to keep the sledges from falling apart on the hard-packed terrain.”

The three-week expedition saw the seven participants become a close-knit team in which everyone played a part, from cooking to vehicle repairs to photography.

Grimsson concluded, “Trips like these take you to another reality. You can only focus on the here and now, enjoy the moment and forget about everything else.”

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Rachel's career in journalism began around five years ago when she started working for UKi Media & Events, having recently graduated from Coventry University where she studied the subject. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the ground-breaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of the automotive and tire industries.

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