First skiers on Arctic ice; Norway revoked flights – UPDATED

Plus expert advice about ice conditions for Reverse Full Route Ski

(Correne Coetzer) UPDATED April 14, 2016, 09:40 EDT

The runway has cracked again. Only one flight with marathon runners flew in. The second flight with runners was in the air and had to return to Longyearbyen. The Russians are extending the runway to the one side. Barneo expedition leader, Victor Serov, said to the staff in LYB that all the skiers are well and the divers are happy at the North Pole, reported Irina Orlova. Temperature is -17ºC, wind 5m/s, and light snow.

April 13:

Just as the Russians got the 4th runway attempt ready for the flights to continue to Barneo Ice Camp, the Norwegian bureaucracy stepped in, again.

As updated in the previous story yesterday, the Antonov-74 in Longyearbyen (LYB) got the green light from Barneo staff to land on the newly prepared runway.

Plus expert advice about ice conditions for Reverse Full Route Ski.

Fights revoked

The first AN-74 flight to Barneo was yesterday afternoon; a technical flight, delivering only supplies. The second, scheduled for last night, was booked with skiers. Irina Orlova accompanied the plane. Excited about the good condition of the runway, she returned to LYB late afternoon to meet the skiers, ready to leave on the next flight. Unfortunately, she also met news from the Norwegian authorities.

The Norwegians decided to allow only one flight to the North, while the other eleven flights, which the Barneo organizers declared well in advance, were forbidden.

Irina today explained, “The reason is the flight to Murmansk* (which we were begging for, at least for two days in advance, telling we have people on ice in need of food, fuel, etc). Now we were suggested to start from the scratch – apply for the next flight 48 hours in advance (mind that today [April 12] they cannot accept it being finishing work). It means that tomorrow we send application, and, in the best case, get the permit for the evening 14th or morning 15th of April. How, do you think, we may bring on the ice, for example, the group of Richard Donovan’s marathoners, all 55 guys? Only this requires two flights! Or, those long-suffering tourists, who are, for ten days, awaiting the beginning of their programs, how to help them?”u2028

After negotiations, today the Norwegians gave permission for five flights to Barneo. Irina said Richard Donovan and Terje Aunevik helped with the acquisition of the permits. The Antonov is ready for departing tonight with two flights, 20h00 and 02h00.

*”The flight to Murmansk” refers to the AN-74 that flew from Longyearbyen to Murmansk to get the needed supplies to the Ilyushin-76, so that it could be airdropped at the Ice Camp that was cut off from the outside world.


The only planned full route team for the season, Mark Langridge, Paul Vicary and Mark Wood reported to be on the ice. “They were lucky to get there last night, before Norwegian authorities temporary stopped flights from Svalbard,” reported their home team today.

They added the team has 12 to 15 days to get to the North Pole. This is a change in route plan. It is logic that the three men can’t try to ski from the North Pole to Canada, 775 km, this late in the season. 12 to 15 days give them enough time to do the last two degrees of latitude to the Pole, 220 km in a straight line.

Advice: Ice conditions for reverse full route ski

Arctic ice and weather expert, Trudy Wohlleben, explained to Explorersweb about ice conditions this time of the year.

“Starting in April, the ice between Canada and the North Pole is starting to loosen and move more freely. By May, you are often swimming more than skiing, especially north of 85ºN. I know the skiers are tied to when Barneo opens if they want to start from the Pole, but ideally, they should start a month earlier based on climatological ice conditions.”

Barneo is a drifting ice base in the Arctic, which is annually established under the aegis of the Russian Geographical Society expedition center “Polyus” Russian Association of Polar Explorers.

It is a temporary Ice Camp, built by the Russians every North Pole ski season. The camp is built on a suitable ice floe inside 89 degrees North. Primarily the ice floe should be suitable to build a runway of at least 1200m long for an Antonov-74 to land from Longyearbyen, Svalbard. They, therefore, need a floe of at least 2km long and at east 40 meters away from the nearest open water (lead).

This year when the ice floe was found on March 25, an Ilyushin-76 flew from Russia, dropped two tractors by parachute, as well as staff and other equipment to start clearing the runway. The tent camp that is built every year, serves as a base camp for skiers, tourists, runners and scientists.

On March 27, a Boeing-575 from Moscow Vnukovo Airport landed at Longyearbyen (Svalbard) with special cargo for Barneo (gear not intended for airdrops, like scientific equipment) and two team members who for the storehouse, sorting and preparing things for the season.

The town of Longyearbyen is situated on the biggest Island of the Svalbard archipelago, Spitsbergen, inside the Arctic Circle, and under Norwegian rule. Svalbard had a total of 2,654 residents on January 1, 2016.

The Geographic North Pole is at 90 degrees North.

A degree of latitude is 110 km / 70 miles / 60 nautical miles.

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Website RGO = Russian Geographical Society

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