The glacier carrier

Ordinary vehicles will not travel far in the arctic tundra of Iceland. Addi Hermannsson therefore relies on modified MAN trucks to show tourists around the nation’s second-largest glacier.

MAN truck in Iceland's Arctic desert

Arngrímur Hermannsson, nicknamed “Addi” by just about everyone, is the very personification of a pioneer. At the age of 18, he saved accident victims out of glacier crevasses, crossed Iceland on skis in the 1970s and today uses three converted MAN trucks to transport tourists across rough terrain, snow and ice to the Langjökull, a glacier in western Iceland.

The modified MAN truck being used as a glacier carrier in Iceland

“The MANs are registered as buses, although they are actually trucks,” states Addi. The vehicles are spectacular: three metres wide, four metres tall, almost 14 metres long and equipped with tyres that reach up to Addi’s chest, despite his body height of 1.9 metres. The eight tyres ensure that passengers hardly notice the bumpy ride over sand, lava debris and through a riverbed. Using a smartphone app, Addi manages a system that releases air from the tyres or inflates them once again, depending on current surface conditions. He developed the system for driving on snow and ice – and it truly feels as if despite its 20 tonnes, the vehicle is gliding on the six-metre-thick snow cover as if on skis. “The tyres are one important factor, but the converter and the differential lock are just as critical. Not to forget the powerful engine. All of these elements are needed to drive on the glacier,” explains Addi. The converter transmission ensures that he can start up on slick and steep surfaces without torque interruption, while the direct power traction between engine and transmission retains rotational speed in an optimised range. Coupling both output shafts, the differential lock also facilitates driving in such challenging terrain.

The destination of the glacier tour is the ice tunnel, which extends deeply into the glacier itself. “Our guests enjoy the thrill of seeing a glacier from the inside,” explains Hjalti Rafn Gunnarsson, Marketing Manager of “Into the Glacier”. “The MAN trucks are the vehicles to enable this experience for them.” And what if the weather, at times rather intemperate in Iceland, is not willing to cooperate? “There is no such thing as bad weather for either myself or for our trucks,” says Addi. “They’re used to the extremes.”

Chief at the wheel

While the “Into the Glacier” team” has 15 drivers who may operate the MAN trucks after going through a special training, Addi Hermannsson actually prefers to take over himself.

900 newton metres, 13-litre engine, 480 hp

Made by MAN, these are the perfect vehicles for Iceland’s rough conditions. The tour operator of “Into the Glacier” uses the trucks to carry tourists onto the Langjökull glacier.

Adjustable for every surface

Depending on different surface conditions, the air pressure of the eight extra-large tyres can be increased or decreased at the push of a button. Passengers therefore hardly notice the bumpy terrain despite its gravel tracks.

No road in sight

On the glacier, the MAN truck is moving on a six-metre-thick cover of snow and ice. Due to its flexible tyres, the 20-tonne vehicle glides over the snow as if on skis.

Guests from throughout the world

Since its launch in June 2015, about 50,000 visitors have booked the “Into the Glacier” tour. According to demand, the three MAN trucks drive onto the glacier twice daily.

Deep into the ice

The highlight of an “Into the Glacier” tour is the ice tunnel. With a length of 550 metres and a depth of 40 metres underneath the glacier surface, it is the largest tunnel of its kind in the world.

Original chassis, new superstructure

The MAN chassis originally dates back to 1992. Subsequently modified, the superstructure offers room for 35 passengers and features the latest communication technology, including GPS navigation that indicates glacier crevasses.

Icelandic pioneer

Addi Hermannsson is a legend in Iceland’s tourism trade. While he equipped all-terrain vehicles with ultra-thick tyres to reach the glaciers back in the 1980s, he prefers to rely on “his” MAN these days.

Reliability in the face of extreme challenges

The MAN trucks operated by the “Into the Glacier” team are serviced every three months by MAN importer Kraftur in Reykjavik. “They’re in top condition, especially considering the tough job they are performing,” says Björn Erlingsson, CEO of Kraftur.

Images: © Dirk Bruniecki, Arnar Thor

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