North Pole 2016: Ice runway cracked, skiers grounded – UPDATED

Skiers at Longyearbyen. More on Dixie Dansercoer’s Arctic Survival test results.

(Correne Coetzer)

Latest Update from Barneo, April 5, 2016, 08:05 EDT:

The runway has cracked beyond repair. Only 650m left. The 2 Mi-8 helicopters located a new ice floe and airlifted one of the tractors to start clearing the ridges.

April 4 report:

All eyes are on the only full distance ski team this year, the British Trio, Mark Wood, Mark Langridge and Paul Vicary. Yesterday they wrote on Twitter, “North Pole 16 has had the green light – were off!” No further news since then, but it seems they are grounded in Longyearbyen, judging by the reports of Barneo staff.

Lift-off first takes the skiers with the Antonov-74 (AN-74) to Barneo Ice Camp. From there they get an MI-8 helicopter to their start point (90ºN).

The Barneo Russians reported that the first AN-74 technical flight has flown to the Ice Camp. Thereafter the ice runway developed cracks, which grounded the second technical AN-74 flight in Longyearbyen. The British Trio are supposed to fly to Barneo with this second flight, Victor Boyarsky told Explorersweb/Pythom last week.

The weather seems to be working with the Russian Runway Doctors as temperatures were down to -32ºC at Barneo. Cracks are filled up with water, which has to freeze over. The Barneo staff has also changed the direction of the runway slightly.

At Longyearbyen, guide Dixie Dansercoer told Exweb this second technical flight is scheduled for tonight. He and several partial ski teams are gathered in Longyearbyen. Read more about Dixie’s drysuit innovations below.

Partial routes

Eric Philips (Icetrek) told Explorersweb he is doing a double degree [last 2 degrees], with a 14 year old girl and her dad, and cameraman Petter Nyquist, filming for Nat Geo. Icetrek has two other teams. Audun Tholfsen is also guiding a double degree and Dixie Dansercoer guiding a last degree.

Other Polar guides, who are either in Longyearbyen or on their way there to guide last degree teams, are Bengt Rotmo, Eric Larsen, Inge Solheim, and 2008 Russian North Pole Full Route Winter team, Matvey Shparo and Boris Smolin with their yearly youth team.

Barneo news

As if Nature is not a big enough challenge in the Arctic, the Russians reported on March 30, that the Russian Geographical Expedition Centre, who runs Barneo, found out the previous day, they could not rent the Antonov-74, “the very and the only one which can land on the ice airdrome.”

“An-74 is in higher demand and it is hard to find it on the aviation service market. In the end of the past summer we started to look for the plane. Our previous partner Shar Airlines had placed all its aircrafts in job and we had to turn to another company. The talks started and within the next 6 months we were posed new and new technical requirements that we regularly managed to meet. The closer the expedition was the clearer it became that our new partner could break up the arrangement. We started searching for a reserve variant. Finally yesterday our partners informed us that neither the plane nor the crew was ready etc. “

Fortunately for “a good acquaintance” of theirs, they could get another plane relatively fast. They added, ”Usually people wait for the strip. Not a single season was easy to us. But sorrow makes us wise and difficulties make us stronger. RGO Expeditionary Centre has no its own aircraft and no budget for such a purchase.”

Arctic Ski Survival

Yesterday Explorersweb posted three articles by Dixie Dansercoer about him investigating Arctic survival skills and gear. (see links below)

He added today, “I have ameliorated the drysuits, as they needed not only to become lighter, but also more ‘molded’ onto the body, etc. Three prototypes into this project, I have now shaven off a lot of weight and the suit only weighs …. 970 g! This is like three times lighter than the existing drysuits. Every gram counts in our business, as you know! I will take some photos while testing the third prototype during the upcoming last degree.”

Barneo 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.

Inside the Arctic Circle, Longyearbyen is situated on the biggest Island of the Svalbard archipelago, Spitsbergen.

The Geographic North Pole is at 90 degrees North.

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

Follow updates in the Daily Dispatch Streams on Explorersweb and (teams with RSS blog feeds).

Previous/Related on Explorersweb/


North Pole 2016: Barneo ice floe found – Updated

North Pole 2016 update: News from VICAAR

Heads up: Yasu Ogita’s 2016 Arctic expedition

Dixie Dansercoer investigates Arctic survival skills and gear:

Arctic Ski Survival: Testing drysuits and skis (Part 1 of 3)

Arctic Ski Survival: Testing Flotation and Skis (Part 2 of 3)

Arctic Ski Survival: Protocol and Results (Part 3 of 3)


Russian Arctic Cars: Great North Route Expedition 2016

Expedition pages:

Full Route (reverse) – Geographic North Pole to Canada (Ward Hunt Island) 775km:

Mark Wood, Mark Langridge and Paul Vicary (all UK), unassisted (no resupplies), unsupported (no kites, dogs, vehicles)


Barneo Ice Camp:

Website RGO = Russian Geographical Society


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