Amphibious Land Rovers set for epic adventure


01 November 2023
By land and by sea... : credit: © JLR
Exciting new adventure planned for Defender

The London Duck Tours distinctive yellow DUKW amphibians are almost as synonymous with London as red buses. Or at least they used to be – the company actually lost access to the ramp used to enter the River Thames in 2017… You can trace the DUKW’s roots back to the Second World War when they were used to move men and materials ashore where no port facilities existed. The premise of an amphibious vehicle is perfect for exploration, as it can go places that no other road car can, and that’s exactly the motivation for the Defender X team (

The team – made up of expedition veterans, pioneering adventurers and polar explorers Jeff Willner, Steve Brooks, Mikael Strandberg and filmmaker Sofie Rørdam – set themselves a mission to drive from London to New York, a journey entailing three quarters of the Earth’s circumference, over 18,000 miles of highway, 3400 miles of frozen tundra, and 1000 miles of river and ocean. Their steeds? Two highly temperamental Defender 110s station wagons.

Affectionately named ‘Princess’ and ‘The Mother Ship’ the Land Rovers have been modified with 38-inch snow tyres ready for the harsh winter of the Alaskan wilderness. When on land their amphibious equipment is stored on the roof, and just before they enter water, custom-made pontoons with a propeller (the X-drive system), powered by the Defenders’ engines, are bolted to both sides. They are then driven using the steering wheel, accelerator, clutch and gears: “We wanted a Land Rover that became a boat, and was just as capable as a boat as it was as an off-road vehicle,” Jeff Willner told BBC News, Suffolk.

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An attempt was made to complete the journey 18 months ago but the team was forced to return to the UK from Siberia when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. It was then decided that the journey would be done in stages over the coming years although no date has been set for completing the challenge in full. When that time comes, however, the trip will most likely be considered the world’s last epic drive –you can follow defender.x on Instagram – stay tuned for a future feature.