The Incredible Saga Of The Lost Antarctic Volkswagen Beetles

A red volkswagen beetle hauling a sled on a ice sheet in Antarctic

Normally, when planning an expedition to Antarctica, you might look for a beefy vehicle for wandering the great wasteland of snow and ice. Something like the building-size Antarctic Snow Cruiser, or the tough Soviet-made Kharkovchanka. You’d probably over look, say, a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle.

Rookie mistake! You’re going to end up like Australian explorer Douglas Mawson overlooking the hard-working People’s Car little car like that. Through a wonderful combination of timing, science and marketing, several Volkswagens made their way to Antartica via Australian researchers in the 1960s. And, as it turns out, the humble little Beetle was damn useful for getting around!

Allow one of my favorite YouTube creators, Calum, to tell you the full story on these amazing vehicles:

The Crazy VW Beetles That Conquered Antarctica

The first VW to end up in the Antarctic was stock, with just basic winterization thrown in to handle the incredible temperatures in the Antarctic. Volkswagen worked directly with Antarctic researchers to develop a better, more resilient vehicle for use around the base, which would arrive the very next year. I don’t want to ruin the video, as the story of the Bugs in the Antarctic just gets better and better, but suffice to say, three of the official VWs to go to Antarctic ended up winning racing series before meeting mysterious ends. A fourth car is currently sitting some 700 feet below the ice.

While Volkswagen claimed to be the first car in Antartica, that claim to fame actually belongs to a car brought on a Shackleton expedition in the early 20th Century, the little VW Bugs were much more useful. This whole video is delightful, as are the other videos Calum puts out.