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In the early 20th century, many countries were trying to cross the Antarctic. The Kharkovchanka was the Soviet answer to the snow cruiser.

The Antarctic is a desert of white that comprises the Antarctica continent and other territories of the polar region of the Earth's South Pole. It's a land that man first set eyes on in 1820, by the Soviets, and its remote wilderness has been researched ever since.

Understandably, this is no easy task, with heavy snow, ice and temperatures that drop below -60 degrees Celcius. It's also the dries and windiest continent and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. In fact, the South Pole hasn't experienced rainfall in almost 2 million years.

Although it does not have an indigenous people, between 1,000 and 1,500 souls live there every year at a variety of research stations scattered across the continent. The question is, how did they get there?

Well, the answer is ingenuity and willpower. Many countries have set up bases there, and have used various modes of transport to get to these research stations. The most famous of all of these must be the Kharkovchanka, which beat out the Americans and their failed Antarctic Snow Cruiser.

Translated, the word Kharkovchanka means "Woman of Kharkiv", and these behemoths were built by the Soviets in 1957. It took the Soviets only three months to design and produce these snow tanks, and they were delivered by ship to Antarctica in December 1959.

Two months and 1,410km later, they arrived at the Soviet base of Vostok at the Magnetic South Pole that had been set up a few years earlier. Soon after that, they would travel thousands of kilometres more to the Geographic South Pole, surprising a crew of American's who had been flown into the area.

The Kharkovchanka was a collaboration between a tank and aircraft manufacturer, with the drivetrain built by the former. The living quarters that sit above the mechanicals contain a galley, toilet, oven and eight beds. The driver sat up front and drove the behemoth with a helicopter-like joystick.

A second-generation made an appearance in the mid-'70s with a different design to the cockpit and drivetrain, but the original Kharkovchanka's remained in use for over 50 years.

To find out the astonishing history of the incredible machines, then take a look at the video by YouTuber, Calum, below. It's fascinating to think that such old technology could be so robust, working in the most extreme environments on Earth.

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