The three British men who set out to drive a Land Rover from Argentina to the Arctic Ocean 55 years ago have finished the trip. Mike Andrews, Martin Hugh-Jones and Ben Mackworth-Praed, all now aged in their late 70s, returned to Fairbanks, Alaska and drove their original 1960 Series II Land Rover north across Alaska to Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean. A fourth member of their original team, Andy Bacon, had already passed away.
In 1960, the team of four Cambridge graduates set out to drive the entire length of the mainland American continent, from Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina to the Arctic Circle, a trip of 30,000 miles. They called it the ‘Cambridge Trans-American Expedition’ and almost made it. Just 500 miles short of their destination, in appalling weather and on barely driveable tracks, they had to give up and sell the Land Rover to pay for their return to the UK.
How the 2015 trip came about is a miracle in itself. Mike Andrews, a retired television producer, wrote an article for Land Rover Owner magazine five years ago about the trip, using original photos. The Land Rover’s current owner, Eddie Angel, in Anchorage, Alaska saw the article, recognised the vehicle and got in touch with Mike, offering it to them to finish the trip.
“It was pretty derelict at the time”, Andrews said, “But after a lot of work, it is running well again, although it does show the scars of age – just like us”.
The original trip was a tremendous adventure. The Pan-American Highway hardly existed in some places back then. They crossed salt flats between Chile and Bolivia using a train track to avoid sinking. Oxen pulled them across a river in Costa Rica and the Series II took a pounding.
“The Land Rover basically disintegrated en route,” Mike told the Daily Mirror. “We broke practically every part of it. We got to Alaska and it had to have major rebuilds because the roads were so bad, our heads were constantly banging on the roof.”
The original expedition had a serious scientific purpose, reports St John’s College, Cambridge university website. Veterinarian Martin Hugh-Jones studied animal husbandry practices and livestock disease along the route. This study led to Hugh-Jones later making the important discovery of the mode of transmission of Foot-and-Mouth disease by aerosol, with the virus being sucked up from infected animals by evaporation into clouds and later rained out onto other cattle downwind.
The three, accompanied by the Land Rover owner Eddie Angel, photographer Michael Rudd and others, finally made it to Prudhoe Bay on 10 August – and got to drive the 1960 Land Rover on the sandy beach. Look out for a programme about the return trip on BBC TV some time in the future – made by Mike Andrews.