North Pole 2011: Barneo Station Ready To Go


While the 2011 North Pole season has been a bust for explorers heading to 90ºN from the Canadian side of the world, there will still be plenty of adventurous souls that will be visiting that fabled destination this year. Most will be making a “Last Degree” journey from the Russian side of the ice, and as ExWeb reports today, the airstrip at the Barneo Station is ready to start receiving visitors.

Barneo is a temporary base that is built each season to facilitate travel to the Pole. It is constructed when a team of Russian paratroopers drop on to the frozen Arctic Ocean, and set up camp. They then go about smoothing out the ice for a runway, which eventually allows the big Illyushin jets to deliver paying clients. The base is roughly situated at 89ºN, which allows for these last degree adventures, and in a few short weeks, it’ll be gone completely. But for now, it stands ready for the first travelers to arrive, and begin their journey on skis to the North Pole.

Much like on the Canadian side of the planet, it doesn’t sound like the weather conditions have been all that great near Barneo this year either. High winds and deteriorating ice have made it a challenge to establish the base at all. The first Illyushin was scheduled to arrive last Friday, but the runway wasn’t complete yet, but everyone is hopeful that the base will open for business in the next few days.

Amongst those waiting for a lift to Barneo are Parker Liautaud, the 16-year old hoping to make the journey to the North Pole to help inspire other young men and women to do something adventurous. Parker is also hoping to raise awareness of global climate change and the effects it is having on the Poles as well. According to his most recent journal entries, he and his guide, Doug Stoup, are in Longyearbyen, which is located on Spitsbergen, where they continue to patiently for the word that Barneo is ready for them. So far, they’re still waiting, but as you can imagine, they’re eager to get out on the ice and get the journey underway.

Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry aren’t headed to the North Pole, but they are off on an arctic adventure of their own. The siblings began their attempt to kite-ski the length of the Northwest Passage a few weeks back, and are making steady progress as the winds allow. While the high winds may have prevented many of the polar explorers from setting off this season, they are very much welcome for Eric and Sarah, who have managed to knock off serious milage on some days thanks to those gusts. This past Saturday alone, the duo covered more than 86.5km (53 miles). They still have a long way to go, but they seem to be enjoying their arctic adventure so far.

Kraig Becker