Machinists Flag Reaches South Pole

IAM Local Lodge 99 member Spencer Smirl, left, holds the IAM flag with another participant of the Fiennes Antarctic crossing expedition. The six-month journey will go from Crown Bay on the continent’s east shore to the South Pole and then to Ross Island on the continent’s south shore.

IAM Local Lodge 99 member Spencer Smirl of Calgary, Alberta, Canada has taken the IAM flag to the ends of the earth, literally.

At 28, Smirl is the youngest member of the “The Coldest Journey,” a more than 2,000-mile-long coast-to-coast crossing of Antarctica that aims to raise $10 million for the fight against avoidable blindness.

The trip is being made during the Antarctic winter, when the sun almost never rises and temperatures can dip to a life-threatening -90 degrees Celsius.

It’s a feat that’s never been done before.

Smirl is one of two mechanics on a journey that will last more than six months, including 273 days on the ice. The expedition, which left its base at Crown Bay on March 21, 2013, is using two CAT D6N track-type tractors to pull an “ice train” – two cabooses that contain accommodations, storage and scientific lab units. The CAT D6N’s were donated by Finning International and extensively modified for the expedition. Smirl and fellow mechanic Richmond Dykes are responsible for maintaining the tractors during the historic trek.

Smirl has been working at the Ekati Diamond Mine facility near the Arctic Circle since 2011, so he’s used to working in isolation and braving sub-zero temperatures in near-total darkness. Two days out of Crown Bay, he took time to pose with the Machinists flag when the temperature was -67 degrees Celsius.

Click here to visit the “The Coldest Journey” website, which includes a live map and blog updates on the expedition.