Going Off-Road…Perthshire Style

With Iceland fieldwork looming on the horizon (3 weeks to go!), it seemed appropriate to do some pre-emptive off-road driving in preparation for the rocky tracks that criss-cross the remote Icelandic interior. One of the nice things about the RSE fellowship is that it has extra funds attached on the side courtesy of the EC Marie Curie Actions fund. This enables non-science training that is nevertheless useful for research.

So off to the Scottish Off Road Driving Centre we went, and by ‘we’ I mean myself and two PhD students from the UK Centre for Astrobiology, one of whom – Mark – will be field-assisting in Iceland this summer. Sam just came along for the fun of it (who wouldn’t!?). Set in the beautiful Perthshire hills, the off-road course combines steep accents and descents with rocky, undulating roads and standing bodies of muddy water. While different to the volcanic desert of Iceland, the course gave us a great grounding in basic 4×4 features and control, and our excellent instructor Walter had a bottomless bag of driving tricks that will hopefully get us out of any difficult spots we encounter…

Overview of the course at the Scottish Off-Road Driving Centre.

Overview of the course at the Scottish Off-Road Driving Centre. Photo credit: Mark Fox-Powell

For 3 hours, we learnt the power of the break pedal, to avoid the clutch at all costs (clutch = out of control free-wheeling), and how to secure the vehicle on slopes in such a way the car will stay still. Most importantly, we learnt that the Landrover Defender is a rugged beast of a car.

Sam getting us out of the lake

Sam getting us out of the lake. Photo credit: Mark Fox-Powell

Mark tackling the ditch

Mark tackling the ditch: Photo credit: Mark Fox-Powell

And no-one got hurt 🙂

Half-way rest to enjoy the hills

Mid-point rest to enjoy the hills. Photo credit: Mark Fox-Powell.