• Henrik Haupt

Expedition Antarctica: Abandoned Sno-Cats in Belgium

Updated: May 10

Abandoned Antarctic vehicles

Well hidden in a garage in Belgium, three American-produced Sno-Cats Antarctica vehicles are in disrepair. They were on the Antarctic expedition in 1966, which was a collaboration between the Netherlands and Belgium. The garage is not abandoned, and the owner comes by once in a while and looks after them. He has put his phone number on a sign next to the open door, so you can call and get permission to see them. A bucket has also been set up if you want to donate some Euros for the preservation of the vehicles or whatever the owner thinks they should be used for.

The place is poorly protected, and unfortunately, it has had some consequences for the otherwise quite special vehicles, which in my opinion should have been at the museum a long time ago.

A rather funny detail I have since found out is that the vehicles' owner is Tony Van Autenboer. Tony was the leader of several Belgian expeditions to Antarctica between 1957 and 1970. After returning from Antarctica, he had the vehicles transported to his barn, and for some years, still had a hope that they would join another expedition.

The vehicles were started up in the barn several times, thus minimizing the risk that they would seize up over time. However, the vehicles never came on an expedition again and will hopefully be taken to a museum to be preserved one day. But today, it is still Tony who has the vehicles stored, and therefore also him you can call if you want to be allowed to see them.

Sno-Cats at work at antarctic expedition1
I have found a few pictures with the same type of machines, however, used on another Antarctic expedition.
Sno-Cats at work at antarctic expedition2

TinTin and Hergé

An interesting detail about the Sno-Cats from 1966 I found in the garage is that the logo is designed by Hergé, who is most famous for drawing TinTin.

This really unique detail means that the logo is quite valuable, and unfortunately, someone has therefore chosen to cut out the logo on a couple of the machines. Thus, it hurts even more, to see them stored in a garage without the necessary protection.

Hergé first designed the flag and logo for the Belgian Antarctic expedition back in 1957.

Logo designed by Hergé on these abandoned Antarctic vehicles
Abandoned Antarctic vehicles

Fortunately, not all the logos are cut out of them. It really gave something extra to the already fascinating vehicles to immortalize them still with the original logo. In addition to the machines, there were a few different spare parts and equipment used on the expedition.

I have read a few different texts written by Tony Van Autenboer, which describe life on the expedition, and it has been some really harsh conditions they have worked under. As an example, it was so cold that these Sno-cats were quite challenging to start-up in the winter. So to prevent damage, take some hot appliances with you to preheat the engines for some time before you could start them up properly.

Abandoned Antarctic vehicles
Equipment from the Antarctic expedition in 1966

The garage, which is called Expedition Antarctique, was so well stocked with equipment that it almost looked as if the garage was built around the vehicles. So I was a bit challenged to photograph these pretty unique vehicles, but it was an amazing experience.

No comfort in these old Antarctic vehicles