ARCTIC SEA ICE –Not Too Early To Donate $20,000 To Fund My Barneo Trip–

I’m sure there are some who wouldn’t mind sending me away to a dangerous place where jets can occasionally land (in 2005) like this:

And I am equally certain some wouldn’t mind me residing in a base where the sea-ice occasionally cracks and leads form between the tents, like it did in 2010:

Nor would some mind having me aboard a jet whose landing gear collapses slamming down on a rough, blue-ice airstrip, (seen at the start of this 30 minute film from 2015) (There is some controversy about whatever happened to the jet, with cynics stating the Russians polluted the pristine waters by letting it sink when the sea-ice melted, and more sanguine sorts suggesting they disassembled it and removed it in pieces.)

Here’s a picture of the jet:


and here is where I discussed the jet’s fate:

In 2016 (last spring) the Russians had troubles with cracks forming in the runways, and needed to shift their entire airstrip. Here is a wonderful video of a landing on the cracked blue-ice airstrip from the cockpit of a jet.

However the real troubles last spring were political, and caused by the fact that one of the reasons for the Barneo base is to train soldiers. Norway decided to make it hard for the Russians to conduct flights from Svalbard right in the midst of operations that have a very tight schedule and small window (basically three to four weeks in April) to work within, which pissed off the Russians no end, and is to some degree described in these articles.

The upshot of the political squabble seems to be that the people of Svalbard have lost some tourism dollars, as the Russians have decided things will be easier if they stage operations from Franz Joseph Land. This will involve the logistics of building the infrastructure for tourism in a stark landscape that has not known tourism (at least in April) before, but the Russians seem untroubled, perhaps thinking that if they can serve cutlets at the Pole they can do the same in Franz Joseph Land.

I am fairly certain that, after a winter of putting up with me, and with cabin-fever setting in, my wife will be extremely appreciative if I can be sent to Franz Joseph Land this April.

The question is, of course, will there be a Barneo base this year, after all the smashing and crashing the Pole has undergone with weather patterns very “loopy” (IE Meridional), and the Pole looking like this last September.


The thing is that, even when the above satellite picture was taken last September, when sea-ice was at its minimum, temperatures had already dropped below -10°C at the Pole and the leads of open water were already freezing over. What the Russians will do is attempt to locate one of those chips of “baby-ice” in the above picture, (much larger than they look), which will be, by April, “second-year-ice,” and thick enough to land a jet upon. The problem is that the “chips” drift many miles from where they are in September, and by April are not so obvious, for the entire surface is frozen and covered by drifting snow, and to the uneducated looks like one, vast expanse of white. Locating the thicker ice isn’t easy.

Nor is the logistics of building a new base in Franz Joseph Land easy. However the Barneo Facebook page reports:

Irina Orlova, the chief operations officer of the Barneo Camp: “I would say the recent official trip to Arkhangelsk was successful: we took the first step on a long and thorny way of Barneo starting point relocation to Franz Josef Land. It’s well-known that the FJL archipelago forms part of Primorsky district of the Archangelsk governorate. That’s why we had to negotiate with the governorate officials. And now we have got support of all departments, considered several ways to unfold an expedition, and made a plan for the nearest future. So we are satisfied with the results of the trip.”

The various non-Russian tourism entities seem uncertain about whether they will be flying in from Svalbard or not, but still are courting customers. For example, here is “Quark” page:

Click to access 2017-north-pole-express-barneo-ice-camp.pdf

and here is the “Polar Cruises” page:

Now, I’m just wondering if, while you are digging deep into your pockets to send me up there for three days,  you could find the extra generosity to send a friend of mine as well. I’m speaking of Roger Anderson, who is part of the University Of Washington NPEO program, who for 14 0f 15 years since 2000 gave us the luxury of being able to view the Pole via the North Pole Camera, but went unfunded last year, ( I think because the camera showed Truth and not enough ice melting, though I may just be being suspicious.)

In fact, when I think about it, just send Roger. If you send an old geezer like me to the Pole I’ll probably just get hypothermia or get eaten by a polar bear. Fund Roger, and we’ll get excellent pictures of sea-ice conditions all summer long.

6 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Not Too Early To Donate $20,000 To Fund My Barneo Trip–

  1. I wonder if the Russians (or others) ever tag chunks of “baby ice” for future use? Since they know the general arctic ocean circulation u would think it would be simple to mark a few prospective chunks in say October to simplify the task of finding a camp in the spring.
    I won’t be donating to your send a boy to camp at the north pole at this time 😉

    • I was wondering the same thing. I think they could even put a GPS on the best “chips” to make finding them easier. However if we can think of these ideas, I imagine they have thought of them as well. The problem seems to be the plates of sea-ice undergo considerable stress during the winter, and become crisscrossed by various fractures, and the fractures are hidden by fresh snow and hard to see. Also a brand new crack can appear even when they find a unblemished platform of ice, which is what happened last year. Lastly, I think thirty-years of warm AMO has made the ice thinner (something like 5 feet thick rather than 8 feet thick) which of course makes cracking easier.

      One thing the Russians are discussing is building a huge, nuclear-powered, mobile platform, (sort of part icebreaker; part aircraft carrier) to serve as an Arctic Sea airport, so they can skip the bother of blue-ice airstrips. (The Russians seem very serious about making the Arctic Sea a Russian lake.)

      This makes it all the more urgent that we get up there to camp on the ice, before tents are replaced by an aircraft carrier. Should I put you on the list, just in case I get excess donations?

      • I was up there, far enough north, that I have no desire to get on the ice … although on the ice there likely aren’t the insane bugs that tormented us all summer on the tundra. We used to joke that well it wasn’t the arsehole of the universe you could see it from there!
        It was interesting and great geology but months and months of isolation with one or two other geologists and always cold and wet had everyone ready to go postal.

  2. My dad in his youth, overwintered in Greenland near Thule, a sort of remote outpost to a very remote place. He had all sorts of interesting cold weather gear we used to borrow for cold weather camping when we were in Boy Scouts. Your shots of the kids snapping the whip brought back stories of his winter, but they used trucks and sleds and a much bigger lake. My limited experience with extreme cold conditions, makes me think a few weeks at the pole might be a bit too much for me.

    • The folk shelling out $20,000 to tour the Pole are only up there a day or two. I could handle that. It is the staff that flattens the airstrip and puts up the tents and is up there for weeks that has to be really tough.

      One thing that gets to people up there is that, by April, the sun never sets. Apparently people have a tendency to stay up for three days and then completely konk out.

      Several people have told me about “cracking the whip” behind a car or truck on ice. Must be fun. The closest I’ve come was water skiing, years ago, but then when the whip cracks you just splash, rather than sliding a quarter mile.

      You have to figure out zany things to do in the winter, or it drives you nuts.

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