World Motorcycle Tour: Australian's Antarctic Motorcycling

On January 5, Australian motorcyclist David McGonigal became the first rider to include Antarctica as part of a world tour. McGonigal, who left Australia in November to spend two years riding around the world with his [then] wife Lynn Woodworth, landed his large BMW R1100RT touring bike at the Argentinian research station of Esperanza on the Antarctic Peninsula and spent a night camping in the open on Antarctic soil. "Even though all my Antarctic riding was on about a kilometre of formed roads at the base, it was hard work. It was rough gravel and ice and certainly hadn't been designed for motorcycling," McGonigal states. "In fact I didn't get much chance to ride at all because half the base staff came down to have their photographs taken with the bike after I was interviewed by the Esperanza radio station."

This was the first time that a touring motorcycle or any BMW has been Antarctica. The short ride on the icy continent makes McGonigal the first person to motorcycle on all seven continents and puts him well on track to be the first road traveller (motorcyclist or motorist) to include all continents in a single journey.

"My bike is capable of 200 km/h but I never exceeded 20 km/h in Antarctica. Perhaps more nerve wracking that the frozen roads was getting the bike ashore. I was travelling as a lecturer and co-ordinator on a cruise for Sydney University's Department of Continuing Education aboard the Russian ice-strengthened ship the Professor Molchanov. To go ashore we had to lower the bike by crane onto a tiny inflatable Zodiac."

"There was a two metre high rim of ice at the shoreline and we manhandled the motorcycle over that. Previously, I had been worried that the bike may disturb wildlife but the Adelie penguin who watched me land seemed merely curious about this new object in its environment. It only waddled off when a noisy group of Argentinian scientists came over to help us carry the bike over the ice."

"We intend to run another Sydney University trip to Antarctica next summer but I may leave the bike behind. I'll return when it's possible to ride to the South Pole. Right now we're about to start riding back through South America - aiming for the top of Alaska by July. They've just opened the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Ocean and it looks like an exciting ride. Anyone who wants to follow our travels can find me on the worldwide web at http://www.davidmcgonigal.com.au."