A Dutch Actress Is Journeying to the South Pole on a Tractor

She pays tribute to great polar expeditions of the past and carries the dreams of thousands with her

Tractor in Antarctica
Massey Ferguson/Antarctica2.com

Decades after Ernest Shackleton failed to cross Antarctica, British explorer Vivian Fuchs and New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary led the 1956 mission, the first successful overland crossing via the South Pole. On that mission, they had help—three converted Massey Ferguson TE20 tractors. Now, another expedition is building on this legacy: a Dutch actress, Manon Ossevoort, is currently driving her own tractor to the "end of the world."

The journey is part of her performance about dreams and achieving them, she explains in her TEDx talk at Delft:

The tractor girl: Manon Ossevoort at TEDxDelft

This time a Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor will roll 2,900 miles across the ice and snow. The expedition departed this past week and plans on arriving at the South Pole on December 7. 

Ossevoort calls herself "Tractor Girl" and with good reason: She has already driven from her home town in Holland all the way to Cape Town, South Africa, a trip that took four years. She says her dream was to drive to the end of the world on her tractor.

As a child, that meant the South Pole. To an adult, she says in her TED talk, the end of the world might as well be a region torn by war or famine; that's why she decided to drive through the Balkans, where she did a performance at a Kosovo prison holding youth who committed crimes during the war.

But when she got to Cape Town, there was no longer a ship to take to Antarctica and no way of continuing her journey, according a post at MyFarmLife (which is sponsored by Massey Ferguson). Years later, after telling her story and writing a motivational book, she found a sponsor in Massey Ferguson—a company eager to remind people of its historical connection to exploring the land at the end of the world.

Hillary’s role in the continental crossing of 1956 was originally to set up supply bases for the final leg of the Fuchs’ expedition after they left the pole and headed out toward the McMurdo Sound. (Fuchs started at the opposite side of Antarctica, near Vahsel Bay on the Weddell Sea.) Since he used their tractors, Massey Ferguson has footage from the beginning of his journey:

Massey Ferguson Heritage - 50s 3

However, once Hillary set up the bases he pressed on toward the pole where he met the overland party. In a telegram, Hillary told the Massey-Harris-Ferguson Farming Company that their tractors were partly responsible for the success, according to a news release:

Despite quite unsuitable conditions of soft snow and high altitudes our Fergusons performed magnificently and it was their extreme reliability that made our trip to the Pole possible. Stop. Thank you for your good wishes - Hillary

Ossevoort is literally carrying the dreams of thousands, including those of youth in Kosovo, in the form of digitized letters and emails, that she plans to put in the belly of a big snowman she will build at the South Pole. It will be a time capsule to be opened in 80 years. She recognizes that her journey may seem "crazy" but she told Yahoo! News that this last stunt is "so that in the future children and people can read something about our dreams and not only about politics or war."

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