Thursday, May 05, 2016

Barneo Ice Camp Closes for 2016

The 2016 Arctic exploration season came to an end last week when the Barneo Ice Camp closed for another season. The temporary ice base is built on an ice flow in the Arctic Ocean each year, and for several weeks it serves as the launching point for various expeditions, research teams, and well-heeled adventure travelers to travel to the North Pole or explore the region. This year it was clear that the Arctic continues to be a place in transition, with the future of travel there seeming more difficult than ever.

For the second year in a row there were now full-distance skiers to the North Pole. The logistics of such an expedition seems to be getting more challenging with each passing year, and climate change is making that journey more difficult than ever. I've said before that the toughest expedition on the planet is skiing to the North Pole, and we may actually have seen the last team to do that a few years back. Others have announced plans to attempt that journey, but no one has been able to duplicate it. That was the case this season as well with the Race Against Time squad, and I think it will probably be the same for future teams too.

2016 was a difficult year for the team that builds and operates the Barneo base as well. Not only did they have problems building and maintaining the ice runway there, they also ran into issues dealing with the Norwegian government too. The challenges with the runway were the result of the Arctic Ocean churning the increasingly thinning ice there, causing the landing strip to crack. Those problems aren't going away, and will probably continue to get worse in the years ahead.

The Barneo team has announced that they'll avoid traveling through Svalbard in Norway moving forward, and will instead use Franz Josef Land for their logistics starting in 2017. The friction with the Norwegians began when a reporter claimed that a team of Ukrainian commandos passed through Norway on their way to Barneo – something the Barneo staff denies – which calls into question whether or not the flights from Svalbard to the ice camp posed a security threat. As a result, the Norwegian government put new restrictions on the Barneo flights, which ultimately forced the change of direction for future seasons.

The 2016 Arctic season was reasonably successful with marathon runners, researchers, explorers, adventure travelers, and more passing through Barneo. Now, it'll be another year before we'll see if anyone can make the journey to the North Pole again. Good luck to the explorers aiming for that feat in 2017.

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