In the Spirit of Adventure

Feb. 1, 2024
You never know where you’ll discover something new

In Tasmania, a three-year-old southern elephant seal, affectionately known as “Neil the Seal,” has become a local sensation.

Neil comes ashore several times a year to small towns along the coast of the Australian island where he enjoys disrupting traffic, chomping on traffic cones, and disfiguring road marker posts.

The 1,300-lb seal is also fond of barking at police, sunning himself in the middle of the street, and napping under cars, giving one resident the most original “can’t come to work” excuse ever.

Unlike sea lions and walruses, seals can only flop along on their bellies to move around on land. Neil may look like your drunk uncle doing The Worm at the end of a wedding reception, but he has no problem getting around town and then returning to the ocean after he’s had his fun.

Thanks to his endearing and unpredictable behavior, Neil has become an international social media star. #NeilTheSeal now has an Instagram account with 112k followers, he’s featured in TikTok and YouTube videos gathering millions of views, and he even has an unofficial merchandise line.

However that fame can come with a price. Local wildlife authorities and marine experts are concerned about the impact of increased human interaction with Neil.

"Neil might seem unbothered by people and some people might think patting a wild animal makes good social media content, but wild animals are unpredictable and could be dangerous if harassed,” the Tasmanian Marine Conservation Program (MCP) said in a statement.

Southern elephant seals are the largest species of seal on the planet, and commonly come ashore for hours or even days at a time to regulate their body temperature, give birth, or in Neil’s case, to molt their fur all over your front yard before falling asleep in your driveway.

Off the beaten path 

Afraid to take your electric vehicle on a road trip? Don’t complain to Chris and Julie Ramsey who just finished a 17,000-mile road trip in a Nissan EV.

In December, the Scottish adventurers completed the world's first-ever drive from the 1823 Magnetic North Pole to the South Pole using an electric vehicle to demonstrate the viability of EVs as replacements for diesel-powered expedition vehicles in polar regions.

The Ramseys completed the groundbreaking nine-month "Pole To Pole EV" expedition in a Nissan Ariya e-4ORCE, built with the help of Icelandic specialist Arctic Trucks.

Some slight modifications were required, mainly switching to larger 39-inch tires with matching wheel arches and adding ice-friendly gear and body reinforcement work. The roof rack had storage for a drone to capture images, and an espresso maker was even built into the cabin.

The additional load led to a reduced range for the EV, dropping from the original 272 miles to 150-200 miles. Despite this, the Ramseys managed to navigate through the Arctic and Antarctic terrains by implementing some creative solutions.

Depending on the weather, the duo charged their EV by utilizing either a 5kW wind turbine or a prototype solar hybrid charging solution. And in places where no renewable sources were available, a petrol generator served as a fallback.

To get the most out of each charge, the couple would build snow walls to shield the car's underside and front radiator from the harsh winds in order to keep the battery warm. At times they even used a dedicated tent to cover the entire vehicle.

Compared to the poles, the Ramseys journey through the Americas was relatively easy, but still came with challenges. Since Central and South America don’t have enough readily available charging stations, the couple collaborated with Enel X Way to install additional chargers along their existing Pan American EV charging corridor that runs from Los Angeles to Argentina.

The "Pole To Pole EV" expedition is not the Ramseys' first foray into electric vehicle adventures. In 2017, they became the first to enter and complete the Mongol Rally in an EV, driving 10,000 miles, from Western Europe to Russia, in 56 days in a modified Nissan Leaf Acenta.

While the couple’s globe-trotting escapades are impressive, what’s truly unbelievable is that their marriage also survived all that time in the car. RB

About the Author

David Matthews

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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