The Antarctic Snow Cruiser

In 1939, scientists and engineers at Chicago’s Armour Institute of Technology designed and built a massive new vehicle intended for use in Antarctic exploration. The Antarctic Snow Cruiser measured 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. The Institute loaned the $150,000 machine to the U.S. government for its upcoming Antarctic expedition headed by Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, and had the Snow Cruiser driven from Chicago to Boston (at a top speed of 30 mph) to be loaded on the ship the North Star. The crew managed to deliver the Snow Cruiser to the Antarctic ice, but the design proved faulty, and the vehicle was soon converted to a stationary crew quarters, never to leave Antarctica again. The diesel-electric hybrid powertrain was severely underpowered, and the smooth tires, designed for swampy terrain, offered very little traction, sinking into the snow. More than 75 years later, the world is still unsure where it is—the Antarctic Snow Cruiser could remain buried somewhere under sheets of ice, or it could have broken off with an ice floe, eventually sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Noah Berger / AP

    Photos of the Week: Taxi Ornament, Russky Bridge, Turning Torso

    Aquarium dining in Singapore, the damaged Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, increasing COVID-19 cases worldwide, a drive-through Santa experience in Los Angeles, and much more

  • Emilio Morenatti / AP

    Photos: The Reality of the Current Coronavirus Surge

    Images from around the world of the current battle against COVID-19, photographed over the past few weeks

  • NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team

    2020 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar

    Every day until Friday, December 25, we’ll present one new image of our universe from NASA’s orbiting telescope.

  • Matt Rourke / AP

    Pennsylvania: Images of the Keystone State

    A few glimpses of the landscape of Pennsylvania, and some of the animals and people calling it home