Life in the slow lane: journey to South Pole by tractor fulfils 'huge dream' for Dutchwoman

Manon Ossevoort and team complete 1,500-mile trip in a Massey Ferguson that ran for 500 hours non-stop

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The tractor crawled through the snow, sometimes slowing to speeds of as little as a couple of miles an hour, as it inched along the 1,500-mile journey to the South Pole.

But speed was not important to Manon Ossevoort, a woman who had waited since 2005 to finish a journey she called a “huge dream” – to drive a tractor to the “end of the world”.

Early yesterday morning, that dream was realised, with the Antarctica2 team “ecstatic” to have reached the Pole after more than two weeks of driving across crevasses, steep climbs and deep snow for stretches of up to 23 hours or more. The rugged landscape ensured that the team were battered and bruised at the finish.

“It’s such a huge dream come true. To have dreams is beautiful but to see them realised is the most extraordinary feeling,” Ms Ossevoort said from the Pole.

Back in 2005, Ms Ossevoort – a 38-year-old actress and dramatist – started with a desire to drive a tractor from her home in the Netherlands all the way to the frozen wastes of Antarctica. It took her four years to reach the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, before she missed the boat that was supposed to take her to Antarctica. The ice-breaker on which she was supposed to travel had been given a new assignment and had started travelling north a few weeks before she reached Cape Town.

Along the way, Ms Ossevoort had collected the “dreams” of those she had met, hoping to take them to the South Pole. It was this collection that was part of the reason she never  let her dream go, despite having to go back to the Netherlands. She waited years for another opportunity, searching for sponsors that would help her to create a tractor capable of traversing such harsh terrain.

A sponsor was eventually found in Massey Ferguson, the tractor-maker, and a team of experts was assembled to start preparations for the expedition. Yesterday was the culmination of that planning, with the engine of the MF 5610 having been running virtually continuously since the expedition set off from Novo Base in Eastern Antarctica on 22 November – more than 500 hours.

American-born Matty McNair was given the job of lead guide for the expedition. She is part of a team that also includes her daughter, Sarah, as well as Nicolas Bachelet, who shared some of the driving with Ms Ossevoort, and a number of other support staff – including an Englishman, Simon Foster. Ms McNair said that even a lack of sleep could not dampen their elation.

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“Some of us had four hours of sleep, some of us have had none at all, but all of us are ecstatic to be here,” she said in a recording from the Pole.

One job that Ms Ossevoort was looking to complete before leaving the Pole was to build a snowman and symbolically entrust it with the dreams of all the people whom she had met on her long journey.

“I want people to believe in the power of their dreams – to know that with grit and determination, you can achieve your aspirations,” she said. “I had the seemingly impossible dream to drive a tractor to the South Pole. You just  have to believe in it.” A children’s book and a film of her experiences are said to be her next projects.

The team now face another race, against time. Ms Ossevoort, a mother, would like to be back in the Netherlands for Christmas. To get home, the team will retrace their exact steps – or rather their tracks – which will now have iced over, speeding up their return. With any luck they might just make it back home in time.

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