North Pole 2012: Barneo Opens For Season


Since reporting that the Norwegian squad had abandoned their attempt to ski to the North Pole last week there really hasn’t been much to write about in terms of news coming out of the Arctic. That changed a bit yesterday when the Barneo Ice Station opened for the season and started to receive the first flight of the year. The temporary base of operations will now serve as the launching point for a variety of expeditions from the Russian side of the ice.

Each year the Russians rebuild Barneo on a floating slab of pack-ice somewhere around the 88ºN mark. This year the base is actually situated at 89º42′ N 42 and 95º44′ E. To build the station a team of commandos actually parachutes onto the ice along with some heavy machinery and a variety of tools that help them to construct a runway and build a camp. They spend several days clearing snow and smoothing the ice to allow the big Antonnov An-74 aircraft to actually touch down on the ice and deliver a host of explorers and adventure travelers to the Arctic. The camp remains in operation for just a few weeks, generally closing around April 25 or so.

Amongst those who should be en route or already in Barneo are Mark Wood who will be making a “two degree” journey to the North Pole and the 6 Ordinary Men team who are skiing the last degree. Mark hasn’t updated his blog yet to let us know where he is at, but the “men” made a post yesterday saying they were packed and ready to go with plans to head out today.

Finally, the French research team that plans to spend six weeks at the Pole arrived at 90ºN just a few hours ago. They’re busy setting up their camp and preparing for the work ahead. While there they intend to take a number of scientific readings on conditions in the Arctic including the effects of climate change and other environmental factors.

The big ski expeditions may all be over for the year but it seems we’ll still get some Arctic adventures this season.

Kraig Becker