At this point, it is safe to say that the 2016 North Pole season is not going as expected. A few days back I shared the news that the runway at the Barneo Ice Camp cracked when the first flight of the season arrived at the temporary base that is built in the Arctic each season. At first it was thought that the landing strip could be repaired, but those efforts eventually proved fruitless, causing the Russian engineers there to search for an alternate location, and begin construction of a new runway. Now, we have received word that that runway has cracked too, sending the team on yet another search for a stable ice flow.
ExWeb reports that the Barneo staff indicated that a 10 cm (4 inch) crack opened in the ice along the new runway, which had already had 400 meters built. The team was evaluating whether or not that crack could be repaired, while also indicating that its search helicopters were already back in the air looking for other ice flows that could serve as a new location for the base.
So what’s the problem this year? It is a combination of things. For starters, the Arctic ice levels are at near record lows, indicating that the thickness is not what it has been in the past. On top of that, there are currently some massive sea currents (Exweb calls it an “anticyclone) that is moving the ice, causing it to break and crack. This has made things less stable, and is making it more difficult for the Russian team to find a suitable place to serve as the staging ground for the North Pole season.
meanwhile, back in Longyearbyen, Norway there are teams of explorers, researchers, scientists, and adventure travelers who are waiting to travel to the Arctic. Unfortunately, they can’t go anywhere at the moment, as Barneo is not ready to receive them. That means they have to sit and wait, hoping that eventually they’ll get a chance to start their expeditions. At this point, that might not happen for another week, greatly delaying their progress.
The team that is most effected by these delays is the British Race Against Time squad. They had intended to ski from the North Pole to Ward Hunt Island in Canada. Originally they had 35 days to complete that dangerous journey. Now, they’ve seen that number reduced dramatically, and the entire expedition is probably in jeopardy. The team headed out on a training session that will last a few days while they waited for news on the construction of a new runway. Now, they’re more than likely rethinking their plans, and possibly postponing until next year. We’ll have to wait to see if that is the case.
For now, like everyone else, we wait.
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