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It’s a typical day at Carlini Base on King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands that lies about 75 miles off the coast of Antarctica.
Despite temperatures of 30-below zero and winds that can exceed 186 miles per hour, a pair of telehandler operators sit inside the cabs of their two Italian-made Dieci Runner 40.13 telehandlers moving containers that recently have been delivered to the island’s single tiny airstrip by cargo plane.
It’s all in a day’s work for these durable, highly adaptable machines.
Colder than Cold
Dieci is a brand that’s not well known in the US, but actually builds some of Italy’s biggest and most popular material handling heavy equipment, including telehandlers.
Some of its machines currently are in use at the very bottom of the world, where operators face some of the harshest conditions on the planet.
Carlini Base is an international research center where scientists perform a variety of oceanographic, glaciological, biological and climate change research. It’s also home to the South Shetland archipelago’s online airstrip.
Conditions there can be horrific. At the height of summer — which is, of course, mid-winter in the northern hemisphere — temperatures range only between 30-below to 1F degree. In spring, warmer sea water often causes enormous cold fronts to roll in from Antarctica’s center, which can cause the 186 mph winds.
Yet the Dieci machines are designed to stand up to these conditions.
Each telehandler has a lifting capacity of 8,800 pounds, with a 27,000-pound lifting height. But they also have been customized with some special features which help enhance their performance in Antarctic conditions.
These include a preheater for the engine air intake duct, a water heater, and special underbody protection to help protect the vehicles from King George Island’s rugged terrain.
The telehandlers are used for a variety of tasks, including loading and unloading materials from the cargo jets that supply research centers at the base and throughout Antarctica. They also can be used for excavation and construction, having the ability to be fitted with a fork and toothed excavation bucket, both of which are operated via hydraulic controls from inside the heated cabs.
Dieci has been building telehandlers, truck mixers, dumpers, wheel loaders with telescopic booms, and other materials handling equipment since 1982.
So the next time you complain about operating your forklift in cold weather conditions, take a moment to consider the extreme conditions faced by these hard-working vehicles at the very bottom of the world.