Over the next few days, construction is set to begin on the 2015 Barneo Ice Camp. This temporary base of operations is built in the Arctic each spring in order to serve as a staging ground for explorers, researchers, and adventure travelers heading to the North Pole. Located on the Russian side of the Arctic ice, Barneo has been operating somewhere near 89ºN Latitude for the past 15 years, providing access to the frozen Arctic Ocean to a wide variety of visitors in the process.
Traditionally, the process for building the base begins with Russian aircraft flying into the Arctic to first locate an ice flow of suitable size and stability. Once the location is selected a group of paratroopers drops onto the ice, along with construction equipment. They immediately go to work building a temporary runway that is suitable for large aircraft such as the Antonov An-74 cargo-passenger plane. The team also constructs a small camp to accommodate the men and women who come and go throughout the brief Arctic exploration season.
Once the camp is established and the runway is built, larger aircraft can land on the ice flow and begin delivering gear and supplies. They’ll also shuttle the visitors to Barneo, some of whom will continue on to the North Pole by skis or helicopter.
From the sounds of things, it seems like 2015 will be quite a different season for Barneo than in year’s past. Early reports indicate that there will be fewer tourists heading to the Arctic this spring, while more scientists and researchers take their place instead. Additionally, it seems the Russian military will use the camp as a base of operations while it conducts training operations in the Arctic as well.
Traditionally the camp opens around the first week of April and remains in operation for about three weeks. Weather conditions will determine just how long Barneo remains in service each year, as the ice flows begin to break up as the season advances. It is likely that the 2015 version of the base will follow roughly the same schedule.
Sadly, it seems there are fewer explorers heading into the Arctic this season, so it is unclear what kind of news we should expect out of Barneo in the days ahead. Right now it seems that visitors will be mostly limited to researchers and military personnel, but if a good story arises, I’ll be sure to share it. The North Pole season will certainly be a quiet one though it seems.