A team of engineers, commercial divers, and enthusiasts managed to successfully drive a converted electric Toyota Land Cruiser underwater for over 4 miles (7 kilometres), navigating the nearly 100 feet (30 metres) depths of Darwin Harbour in Northern Australia.
The stunt has its roots in a 40-year-old attempt that saw a similar Land Cruiser test its swimming skills, only to hit a rock less than 2 miles (3 km) from the start and fail. However, for the people living in the nearby town of Darwin, the experiment became an urban legend, and now, a brave group of people coming from all sorts of backgrounds have successfully recreated the drive using electric power.
The second-hand 1987 Toyota used for the run was lovingly named “Mudcrab,” with one of the team members explaining the choice with simple words: “because it’s orange and crawls along the bottom of the Darwin Harbour.”
To make it compatible with water, the standard petrol engine was yanked out and in its place, an 88-kilowatt NetGain HyPer9 electric motor was installed and hooked up to the original transmission. For waterproofing, the team employed “innovative engineering techniques.” Explaining what these are, Luke Purdy, an Australian TV personality that’s behind the Aussie Salvage Squad TV show, said: “We basically put a garbage tin over the top of it and saturated it with silicone oil.”
Everything else stayed roughly the same, though, with Purdy adding that “the transmission and diffs can handle water,” all while filling a bunch of drive components with food-grade grease to lubricate them and keep out seawater.
Furthermore, the 37-inch tyres were filled with water to keep the car from rising from the seabed, while inflatable buoys chained to the car were used to lift it out of the mud when it bogged down.
A team of about 30 commercial divers took turns in driving the converted Japanese off-roader, each taking the wheel for about 15 minutes at a time.
The journey started at 9 am and was supposed to take about 7 hours, but the mud, silt, and sand of the Darwin Harbour’s seabed, plus a pipe crossing, made the trip much more difficult than expected. In total, the team needed almost 12 hours to pull it off, emerging from the water before a cheering crowd around 9 pm on the other side of the harbour and claiming two new world records.