Wednesday, March 29, 2017

North Pole 2017: Construction of Barneo Ice Camp Nearly Complete

The 2017 Arctic exploration season may have been a bust as far as full-distance expeditions to the North Pole are concerned, but there will still be plenty of activity in that part of the world in the days ahead. As usual, the Russian ice camp at Barneo will play a crucial role in providing logistics to the Arctic from that side of the ice this year, with the station reaching a major milestone today.

For those that don't know, Barneo is a temporary base that is built on a moving ice flow in the Arctic each year. It serves as a launching point for a number of expeditions to the North Pole and the surrounding area. The camp not only serves as a gateway for researchers and explorers, but also for adventure travelers looking to complete a "last degree" journey to the top of the world as well.

Construction of the base began last week with a flyover of the Arctic finding a large enough ice flow to serve as the location for the camp in the days ahead. After that, a team of paratroopers landed on the ice and began construction of a blue ice runway. That same team also cleared the way for the construction of a temporary station there, which will soon begin receiving visitors. The location of this year's Barneo camp is 89º44’N, 065º47’E.

As of today, 1200 meters (3937 ft) of runway has been cleared, which is enough for the first flights to begin delivering supplies. That will help in finishing the last remnants of work prior to the arrival of the first teams, which will likely begin in the next few days.

If you've followed the Arctic expedition season in the past, you probably know that Barneo has faced some challenges in recent years. For instance, last year the ice on the runway cracked several times, first forcing the base to relocate and later to rebuild the landing strip altogether. The team behind the temporary camp also faced political issues with Norway. Their crew and supplies usually funneled through Svalbard on their way to the Arctic, but there was a dust up last season when a team of Chechen special forces soldiers moved through Norway on their way to the North Pole for training. This caused a political incident and it appeared as if the Norwegians would force the Barneo team to relocate to Franz Joseph Land for their logical needs. Fortunately, all of those issues seem to have been resolved, and operations are once again flowing through Svalbard.

We'll continue to keep an eye on the progress of the Barneo camp and some of the more interesting stories that will come out of the base this year. While no one is making a full distance journey through the Arctic this season, there should still be a few expeditions of note to follow.

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