Australian expeditioners will have new wheels when they travel across Antarctica this summer, with an upgraded bus destined for Australia’s Casey research station. The new bus will share the name of its predecessor, ‘Priscilla’, named by expeditioners after the iconic Australian movie about a road-trip across the Simpson Desert by a bus of the same name.

The Wilkins Aerodrome is Australia’s gateway to their stations Casey and Mawson. It can take Airbus A319 coming from Hobart, Tasmania. Credit: AAD
The Wilkins Aerodrome is Australia’s gateway to their stations Casey and Mawson. It can take Airbus A319 coming from Hobart, Tasmania. Credit: AAD

The Antarctic ‘Priscilla’ will transport scientists and expeditioners across the ice desert from Australia’s Wilkins Aerodrome to Casey research station, about 70 km away on the coast. Australian Antarctic Division Mechanical Supervisor, Cameron Frost, said the bus has been specially designed to withstand the extreme conditions of the windiest, coldest and driest continent on earth. “Electric and diesel heaters will keep both the engine and passengers warm in the sub-zero temperatures,” Mr Frost said. “There are six all terrain balloon tyres weighing half a tonne each and measuring 1.5 m high which are designed to help the bus drive over soft snowy surfaces and make the trip across the ice cap a little smoother.” The $1.2 million vehicle will carry 36 expeditioners, 17 more than the current bus can transport.

The new bus is planned to transport goods and people from Wilkins Aerodrome 70 km to Casey Station which is situated at the coast. Credit: Daniel Porter
The new bus is planned to transport goods and people from Wilkins Aerodrome 70 km to Casey Station which is situated at the coast. Credit: Daniel Porter

“The Division’s Airbus 319 can fly up to 38 passengers to Antarctica so we’ve had to send extra vehicles to the runway to transport everyone back to Casey station,” Mr Frost said. “Being able to take the majority of passengers in a single vehicle with one driver will be a game changer for the station, freeing up people and vehicles for other jobs.” The 22 tonne bus will be transported to Antarctica in November.

The AAD uses an Airbus A319 specially fitted to be able to land at Wilkins Aerodrome. Flights deliver both materials and people to the Australian Antarctic stations. Credit: AAD
The AAD uses an Airbus A319 specially fitted to be able to land at Wilkins Aerodrome. Flights deliver both materials and people to the Australian Antarctic stations. Credit: AAD

The bus was manufactured in Calgary and is a smaller version of the buses used for glacier tours in Canada and by the United States Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station. Mr Frost said a proven design, high quality vehicle and also serviceability of the bus were important considerations. “The engine is the same as the cranes used at Casey station, which means the diesel mechanics are able to easily service the machines and interchange parts when required.” The bus replaces the current ‘Priscilla’ which has been in service since Wilkins Aerodrome first opened in 2008.

Casey lies at the coast of Wilkes Land and is one of three permanent Australian bases. It houses up to 160 people in summer and around 16 in winter. Credit: AAD
Casey lies at the coast of Wilkes Land and is one of three permanent Australian bases. It houses up to 160 people in summer and around 16 in winter. Credit: AAD

Source: Australian Antarctic Division