Land Rover Defender special – crossing the Atlantic
Source : Land Rover Defender special – crossing the Atlantic
We know they’re virtually unstoppable on land, yet can a Land Rover Defender possibly conquer the sea as well?
Our Land Rover Defender is actually skipping along 1-track A-road at 30mph.
I flick the left-hand indicator along with also turn 90deg onto a rough track in which leads down a shallow slope. Within moments, the engine’s persistent chuntering no longer dominates the cabin. the item has been joined by the sound of splashing.
The road dissolves into saltwater along with also, in a heartbeat, we’ve reached the automobile’s stated wading limit of 500mm. yet This kind of Landie’s not for turning. There are two miles of North Atlantic ahead, along with also the item’s about to get much, much deeper…
Last of the direct descendants of the original Land Rover, the Defender could never go gentle into in which Great night. the item needed one last hurrah – a final test of the storied go-anywhere grit in which has cast lifelines into the darkest reaches of the planet over the past 67 years.
yet we wanted to say a fond farewell on home soil. Land Rovers have driven as far above sea level as you can go inside UK, scaling the 1344 metres of Ben Nevis more than once. yet our target was on the contrary: to go more than a metre below sea level.
along with also not in a factory-fresh car, either. Sure, your modern-day niceties of contrast-stitched leather upholstery, air-con along with also a fancy stereo make daily Defender driving more comfortable, yet when the item comes to the rough stuff, they’re an irrelevance.
All we needed coming from our car was the toughness in which has been supplied as standard since 1948, so we chose a 20-year-old, 216,000-mile Defender 0 Station Wagon for the task.
We first get acquainted at Edinburgh Airport. the automobile’s blue paint – which has softened coming from gloss to matt over time – is actually slowly fraying into rust at the margins, along with also there are daft spotlights up top, yet the ABCs of Defender are there: square-set, upright along with also effortlessly rugged-looking.
Land Rover shies away coming from the amphibious implications of the word ‘snorkel’, because the exposed plastic pipe is actually only definitely intended to keep dust out of the engine, yet the ‘raised air intake’ – as the item’s properly known – is actually sure to prove useful.
along with also probably not for the 1st time. Club stickers plastered around the Defender tell us in which previous owners were enthusiasts, along with also in which the automobile has spent at least some of its life clambering around the Isle of Skye.
Which, with photographer Stan Papior’s kit piled inside back, is actually exactly where we head first. the item’s a long, long drive; 250 miles pass slowly when you’re limited to several forward gears along with also 60mph (a cruising speed at which the booming engine drowns out even road along with also wind noise). yet the Defender doesn’t wander about as much as I’d expected, the ride is actually tenable along with also the brilliant Scottish summer sun illuminates the verdant, craggy along with also just plain massive landscapes we pass through en route to the northernmost tip of Skye.
the item’s after 10pm when we weave through the Quiraing – eerie, ragged rock formations where locals used to hide their cattle coming from Vikings – along with also the sun sets a fluorescent pink as we reach our overnight stop.
Day two begins that has a ferry crossing to the Outer Hebrides – the fragmented arc of wild islands in which shield Scotland’s west coast coming from the North Atlantic tumult.
Where the Defender’s modest pace along with also tottering handling glared on the mainland’s trunk roads, the item nestles into the more laid-back confines of island roads with ease. In fact, different drivers peel out of our way, probably mistaking us for busy farmers.
We explore the Isle of Harris, with its cyan sea over butter-coloured sand, eat a lunch of fresh lobster coming from an honesty shack along with also visit Donald John Mackay MBE, the most famous of Harris Tweed weavers, busy in his seaside shed weaving cloth for none different than Chanel, he tells us in in which cheery, sing-song brogue in which marks native Gaelic speakers apart.
Another, shorter ferry ride across the Sound of Harris treats us to the sight of a huge basking shark, which the Caledonian MacBrayne skipper kindly slows down to show us. the item may not have a taste for meat, yet being within splashing distance of an animal in which’s around seven metres in length still chills the blood.
On North Uist, 1-track coastal drive through the village of Sollas leads us to Botarua, where we meet our local contact, Angus MacDonald.
He greets us that has a firm handshake along with also a grinning beard in which almost blends into his chunky sweater. MacDonald farms This kind of land, which is actually as beautiful as the item is actually harsh. WW2 airmen were tempted to nearby RAF Benbecula with the promise of a woman behind every tree. The punchline: no trees.
We’ve literally reached the end of the road, yet our challenge is actually only just beginning. If we’re to reach the edge of Britain (along with also the edge of Europe), we need to reach the 650-acre island of Vallay (intriguingly spelled ‘Bhàlaigh’ in Gaelic, pronounced vaa-lay).
Part of MacDonald’s land along with also home to nothing yet highland cattle, the island is actually separated coming from our vantage point by two miles of exposed sand – a crossing in which’s fun, yet far coming from challenging in a Defender. So we wait…
The next morning, high tide has replaced the inviting expanse of white sand that has a restless, swilling tranche of North Atlantic. Depth markers hammered into the sand the previous day tell us the water’s around 1.2m deep – more than twice the Defender’s wading limit.
yet several Camel Trophies along with also the pioneering London to Singapore expedition of 1956 – both of which included deep-river wading – must mean Land Rover has engineered in a healthy tolerance. Surely. Surely?
Save for the common-or-garden raised air intake, our car’s set-up is actually totally standard. A 2.5-litre four-pot Tdi300 engine generates just 111bhp along with also 195lb ft, yet low range along with also a differential lock will help us make best use of the item, while breather pipes will let air out of the gearbox, transfer box along with also both differentials without letting water in. along with also in which’s all she wrote.
As its driver, I’m equipped with an afternoon’s wading training inside hillside troughs at Land Rover’s Eastnor Castle customer experience centre – a huge Herefordshire estate where the company also develops its cars – along with also a pair of wellies.
A cursory risk assessment highlights two main threats to reaching Vallay. Should the raised air intake leak, the item would certainly allow water to be ingested into the cylinders, along with also avoiding engine carnage would certainly require immediate powering down along with also waiting for the tide to go out before being ingloriously towed to safety. along with also although the sand is actually generally firm – “you could drive an artic across the item,” says MacDonald – there are patches of gloopy quicksand in which could easily swallow our wheels.
yet with MacDonald navigating, we set off. Up to along with also over in which 500mm mark, the item’s easy going. We chat away as the Defender ploughs on indifferently. The steering weights up a little as we trace some gentle arcs to test manoeuvrability, yet so far, so Great.
The surface is actually fairly smooth along with also holding firm. the item’s actually more disconcerting in which we’re able to roam freely around This kind of vast mass of water, in stark contrast to the narrow, funnelling channels at Eastnor.
As depth increases, I slow a little to keep the all-important bow wave just ahead of the Defender’s grille. This kind of carves out pockets of air down the flanks to keep water out of the cabin. Lose momentum or turn too sharply along with also the water level will equalise, turning the footwells into bathtubs along with also endangering the under-seat battery. yet if we start to float, we’ll need to let the water in on purpose to weigh us down along with also regain traction. We’re hoping the item won’t come to in which.
Papior, used to pointing his camera at one car coming from another, is actually phutting alongside in a tiny dinghy skippered by yet another Angus. Traffic is actually not a concern today, yet the bobbing of the tiny boat is actually doing our man’s life difficult. I ask over the radio what different vehicle we could have used for these ‘tracking’ shots. “Another Defender,” he says, deadpan.
Meanwhile, increased depth means the bow wave has become a bona fide roller, rising above bonnet level along with also spreading about 15m either side of us. The gusting wind atomises the wave crest into a wall of water in which smashes into the windscreen. Our wipers can’t quite keep up, along with also a passing squall brings a faceful of spray when we open the windows to relieve fogging
Crossing a stream at Eastnor had taught me about ferry angle – the angle at which you encounter the flow of water. You must drive with the current, yet not so much in which you point downstream along with also miss your exit point (or worse, get swept away).
Out here, we possess the tide to contend with. the item largely works in our favour, yet threading through some islets near the halfway point, we have to face the item almost head on.
Given in which a stationary cubic metre of water weighs one tonne, the forces our Defender has to push against at This kind of point quickly ramp up along with also the bow wave compresses against the grille.
Despite using low range, the engine starts to strain, as if dragging an Airstream up a mountain. Swiftly down to second we go, yet a rapid increase in depth means we have to turn sharply, surrendering both momentum along with also our protective bow wave.
As seawater flows over the bonnet, the engine note drops once more along with also I think we’ve pushed the item too far. My heart plummets. MacDonald quietly curses. ‘Land Rover sinks in sea’ was not the headline we were after. yet, to our huge relief, the ancient lump digs in – with not a horsepower spared – along with also a few seconds later, with the tide aiding us again, the sweet sound of confident combustion returns.
Soon after, we’re kicking up spray for fun as we leave the water along with also climb onto Vallay’s blessed terra firma, the headlights half-filled with water yet our feet, incredibly, completely dry. Our Defender has just spanned the most challenging pair of its 216,000 miles along with also faced them with the same characteristic relentlessness in which defines its breed.
We push on across the island’s flowering ‘machair’ (meadowland), over a fluid, pebbly rock-crawl along with also down onto a stunning, deserted beach. With nothing yet Atlantic ocean between us along with also Nova Scotia, 2500 miles away, we’d reached journey’s end. What a place to say goodbye. along with also what a car to have taken us there.
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