Unintentionally the roads served as preparation for the difficulties that lay ahead in Antarctica, with the skill of the men on board thoroughly tested on route to Boston. Perhaps while leaving a 20-mile traffic jam behind in Framingham, Massachusetts, the team were looking forward to carrying out repair work and tackling difficult maneuvers without the watchful eyes of hundreds of spectators. It was likely that they finally departed from Boston with a sigh of relief on board the ship North Star on November 15, 1939, setting sail for Little America in the Bay of Whales.
Frustratingly, the Snow Cruiser’s real problems had barely begun and disaster almost struck as soon as the crew tried to disembark from North Star in early January 1940. While descending a timber ramp, about two-thirds of the way down, the front left wheel plunged straight through the wooden structure. The three men guiding the vehicle from atop the roof struggled to hold their footing as the Snow Cruiser dropped and banked to one side.
As those watching stepped back from 37.4 tons hanging off the ramp, the already-open cabin doors sliced forward beyond the windscreen, almost sending a crew member to his doom. After copious amounts of diesel smoke, the Snow Cruiser finally broke free from the crumbled remains of the ramp to some relieved cheers from the spectators below. However, the supportive shouts from those watching soon tailed off as the ultimate anti-climax presented itself—the smooth tires were unable to move the Snow Cruiser through the snow and ice.
It is perhaps easy to scoff some eight decades later, now that the on-going development of winter tires has established that tread, ideally with chunky block edges as well as circumferential and lateral grooves interlaced throughout, is an efficient means of gaining traction on snow and ice. Even Goodyear, who provided the Snow Cruiser with its rubber, now sell winter tires with complicated tread patterns that guide snow away from where a car makes contact with troublesome surfaces.