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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 14:59 GMT
Antarctic explorers test kite power
Ski-buggy on trial in Switzerland
The buggies travel at more than 50 mph
Two men have set off for the Antarctic on an expedition that will test a completely new vehicle for travelling across remote snowy landscapes.

Buggy pulled by kite
The driver is less than two feet from the ground
It is a kite-powered ski-buggy, designed by Formula One racing engineer, Kieron Bradley, and capable of speeds in excess of 50 mph (80 kilometres per hour).

Irishman Jamie Young and Brian Cunningham of the UK - both originally from County Antrim in Northern Ireland - are planning to complete a 650-mile (1,000-km) journey in a week to 10 days.

With conventional sledges, it would take six times as long.

Five kites

The low-slung buggies weigh just 75 pounds (34 kilograms), and run on specially adapted skis.

Speed: 50mph-plus
Weight: 75 pounds
Power: Range of five kites of different sizes
Specially adapted skis
Driver 20 inches from ground
The explorers will whizz along less than two feet (50 centimetres) from the ground.

They will have five different kites ranging in size from two to 10 square metres, to cope with varying wind conditions.

"We will have either too much or too little wind," said Mr Young.

He added: "But the main problem is visibility. You would be going at 80 km/h into a fairly white environment."

Map of Antarctica
The two men will begin the trip across snowy wastes from the South Pole to Antarctica's Patriot Hills on 21 December, after a few days to sort their gear at Punta Arenas in Chile.

With 24-hour daylight, they will be able to keep going for 18 hours per day if conditions are good, covering a distance of 65 miles.

If one of the buggies is damaged, both men can travel on the remaining buggy.


"The expedition is going to revolutionise the way people travel across Antarctica," said Anne Kershaw, president of Adventure Network International travel agency.

Jamie and Bryan (right)
Both men are in their 50s

Brian Cunningham, aged 59, began his adventuring career in 1967 by yachting to Iceland and back.

Also a mountaineer and ice climber, last year he completed a challenging dog-sledding expedition on Canada's Baffin Island in temperatures below -40C.

In 1981, he was the first to run Britain's 90-mile West Highland Way in less than 24 hours. He is now a visiting professor at Manchester Business School.

Jamie Young, aged 50, has competed in a transatlantic single-handed yacht race, led a kayaking expedition to Guinea Bissau and paddled around Cape Horn.

In 1997, he was part of a team of Irishmen who re-enacted Sir Ernest Shackleton's famous 1915 trip in a seven-metre lifeboat from Elephant Island to South Georgia in the Southern Ocean.

They set off on Monday for Punta Arenas.

The BBC's Tom Heap
"Both man and machine will need levels of endurance not proven on an alpine ski slope"

Click here to go to Manchester
BBC science correspondent Christine McGourty reports from Antarctica

See also:

21 Nov 02 | England
26 Sep 02 | Science/Nature
21 Oct 02 | England
14 Oct 02 | Scotland
21 Aug 02 | Wales
07 May 02 | Science/Nature
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