Flying in Svalbard is Mission Impossible for Both Tom Cruise and the Barneo Ice Station

Last week, Vincent Colliard canceled his solo North Pole expedition because it didn’t look like the Barneo Ice Station would operate. The temporary station, build in April at approximately 89˚N, was essential for Colliard’s pickup. Barneo also hosts a North Pole marathon and numerous last-degree ski trips to the North Pole. It has not run since 2018 because of a combination of politics and COVID.

Events this week have borne out Colliard’s pessimism. Outfitters and other partners received a letter, below, forwarded by Barneo from Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority denying permission for the estimated 35 flights from Svalbard to Barneo and back.

They cite environmental concerns while acknowledging that in the past, they permitted these flights. No more, evidently.

As Colliard pointed out, the 35 Russian workers who set up Barneo had also not received their Norwegian visas two months after applying. It is likely that tensions with Russia after its invasion of Ukraine have made Norway less disposed to involve itself in a primarily Russian operation. Barneo is now Swiss-owned, but its Russian workers are the experts who set it up.

“As of right now, it seems that we will not be able to use Longyearbyen as a staging area,” polar guide Eric Larsen told ExplorersWeb today. “The Barneo/Vicaar team is looking into alternative routing through Russia…We should know more tomorrow.”

Larsen is currently in Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard, hoping to run last-degree trips to the North Pole.

Mission Impossible

Svalbard also cited environmental concerns when they denied the rights to 30 helicopter landings to PolarX, the production company in charge of filming the eighth installment of Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible.

According to The Times, Kristin Heggelund, the head of Svalbard’s environmental department, said that they were trying to “preserve a virtually untouched environment” and that the flights risked disturbing that.

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko is the editor of ExplorersWeb. One of Canada’s premier arctic travelers, he is the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden, and has just finished a book about adventures in Labrador. In 2018, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Governor General of Canada and in 2022, he received the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal for services to exploration.