INTERFACE: Antarctic Extremes to Prove More Products

10 November 2018

From gaiters, heated bedding and waterproofing sprays to hats. This year, the list of products to be tested in Antarctica is varied. The trademark project has finished its first year of pilot testing and is entering the second one. The trademark is given to products that performed well in the extreme polar conditions.

Preparations for the next expedition to the ice continent begin right after the explorers come back from the previous one. Larger pieces of cargo including the technologies and equipment to be tested leave for Antarctica at the beginning of October. “Bulky items are packed in crates, put on pallets and shipped in a container. The container is loaded on a ship from Germany to South America where it clears customs and awaits the arrival of the expedition at the end of December. In the container there are mainly seasonal consumables, provisions and scientific equipment that doesn’t have to be flown in by plane in the scientists’ personal luggage,” says the manager of the Czech Antarctic Station of Johann Gregor Mendel, Dr. Pavel Kapler, in regard to the expedition’s logistics.

By the time you read these lines, the cargo will have already been on its way. Among the things that sailed away in the container are e.g. backpacks, gaiters, waterproofing sprays or a protective coating for the interior of the station that is run by Masaryk University on James Ross Island in Antarctica. Until it arrives on the ice continent, the cargo has to make a 13 thousand kilometre journey to Punta Arenas, Chile. From South America, the cargo travels either by plane or on board an icebreaker together with the scientific expedition.

Smaller items such as outdoor equipment are transported in the scientists’ luggage which means they will be packed around Christmas. “These products are given to the expedition by the end of November so that there is enough time to pick the right sizes and try everything out before setting off,” adds Mr. Kapler. Last year, the polar explorers were given shoes and thermal underwear. These products stood the test so well that they were the first to obtain the “Tested in Antarctica” trademark registered by Masaryk University.

One of them was the Predator shoes made by the Czech company Prabos which focuses mainly on military and work shoes. Their products are used e.g. by Czech rescue teams, the army, and firemen. “When coping with extreme conditions, sturdy and reliable shoes are of utmost importance. That’s why we’re glad that our product that was used heavily by the expedition withstood the extreme conditions well,” says the chairman of the executive board of Prabos, Ing. Jaroslav Palát.

Feedback is Essential

The heavy-duty footwear was tested by 17 members of the expedition. Walking through the Antarctic landscape meant, among other things, crossing numerous icy creeks or scaling mountains and icebergs. There were strong winds, heavy snowfall and temperatures ranging from +15 to -15 °C.

The two types of thermal underwear made by the VÚB Company also stood the tests – they were praised for being both efficient and comfortable. Along with the trademark the company was given several tips regarding the cut of their products.

“Even though we’re not quite at the South Pole, the testing is really demanding. As far as outdoor equipment is concerned, regular consumers use it only seasonally or at weekends. However, in Antarctica the products go through rigorous testing – we’re using them almost every day and some scientific groups walk up to 700 kilometres per expedition. The scientists don’t give the equipment any preferential treatment either – their primary objective is to get to the place of their research. That means they go through even the hardest terrain which tests the products to their limits,” explains Mr. Kapler.

For most companies, the most important thing is to expose their products to the polar extremes. Thanks to the testing they get useful feedback on how to further improve their products. The trademark itself is used mostly as a marketing tool which informs the consumers that the product has certain qualities. The harsh Antarctic conditions are reflected even in the design of the trademark depicting a snowflake carried by icy winds.

The polar extremes attract a lot of companies. The round table about the possibilities of polar testing which took place this June was attended by 12 company representatives from various fields. The list of products to be tested by this year’s expedition is varied as well.

“Companies usually don’t have a very clear idea about what benefits can the testing bring them. We discuss this during the negotiations preceding the conclusion of the contract,” describes the process Mgr. Jana Daňková, business manager of TTO MU, that prepared the trademark together with the Faculty of Science.

Desert Sister

This unusual model of cooperation caught the interest of the Czech Egyptologists from the Faculty of Arts at Charles University who are planning on offering companies a similar trademark “Proven by Desert”. “We’re happy to be an inspiration to our esteemed colleagues. I believe that Egyptology, as well as the Antarctic research, is at the forefront of the popularization of Czech science. We’re  keeping our fingers crossed for our colleagues,” says Mr. Kapler.

Both projects offer companies similar benefits – a possibility to test their products in rare and extreme conditions, cooperation with top scientists and an attractive trademark that can boost product marketing. “I’m certain that what makes the trademark Tested in Antarctica so attractive is not just the university’s name. First and foremost, it is the photos, seminars and meetings, and the scientists who take part in the expeditions. It is them who give Antarctica its face and added value,” concludes Mrs. Daňková.

Testing in 2018/19

The following products are leaving for Antarctica with this year’s expedition to win the Tested in Antarctica trademark:

  • hats (K A M A spol. s.r.o.)
  • backpacks (BOLL GEAR s.r.o.)
  • gaiters (BOLL GEAR s.r.o.)
  • waterproofing spray (NanoConcept)
  • socks (Fuski BOMA s.r.o.)
  • heated bedding (VÚB, a.s.)

During the forthcoming Antarctic season, the NanoConcept interior paints and the NanoTrade s.r.o. diesel additives will be tested as well. However, these products do not aspire after the trademark.

So far, the Tested in Antarctica Trademark was given to three products:

  • Footwear for extreme conditions S50862 PREDATOR GTX (made by Prabos plus a.s.)
  • Thermoregulation underwear CleverTex Merino (made by VÚB a.s.)
  • Thermal-Insulation underwear CleverTex Viloft (made by VÚB a.s.)

Consumers can find out more about the tests and the tested products on the website www.tested-in-antarctica.com.

Read more articles about applied research at Masaryk University in our INTERFACE magazine

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