As reported by Reuters:
Wrapped warmly against the cold, a group of runners set off for the barren white landscape for one very cool race – the North Pole Marathon.
Some 50 running enthusiasts from around the world braved harsh conditions for Saturday’s 42.2-km (26.2 miles) race on the frozen ice of the Arctic Ocean, staged at the Barneo Ice Camp.
Wearing balaclavas, goggles, gloves and layers of thermal clothing, participants had to complete 12 laps of a course lined with markers. A refreshment tent was on hand for those needing hot drinks, snacks and to warm up.
As well as the cold, runners were also faced with soft snow and small ice pressure ridges.
Polish runner Piotr Suchenia crossed the line first with a time of 4 hours 6 minutes 34 seconds, while for the women’s race Frederique Laurent from France triumphed with a time of 6 hours 21 minutes 3 seconds.
“It was probably mentally the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, physically it wasn’t the worst, I just couldn’t get a rhythm on the soft snow,” runner Gareth Evans said.
“(I) wouldn’t change it for the world, it’s a very unique place and delighted to be a part of it but a beach in Miami sounds good right now.”
(Writing by Reuters Television and Marie-Louise Gumuchian, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
Things seem to be proceeding more smoothly at the Barneo Base than they did last year. So far the slab of ice they have chosen to build their blue-ice jetport upon has held together, whereas last year the ice was more tortured and they had problems with leads appearing right on the airstrip. Temperatures have been down around -30°C, and reportedly dipped to -40° at the time of the marathon, which was held during the “night” when the sun dips just a bit lower, up north of 89° north latitude.
So far they haven’t been hit by the gales that plagued the base other years, and the amazing operation has unfolded like clockwork. I always wonder what explorers of the past would have thought, had they been able to to look into the future, and witnessed the galley and cafeteria. (I like the doubly-quilted ceiling.)
I also wonder if the chit-chat around the tables is politically correct, and about how the sea-ice at the Pole is vanishing, even as jets land on it. I have heard that one sales-point is to tell people they may be the last to ski on the icecap, as it is vanishing. (Hey, if it gets people to spend $30,000 for a three day junket, who can blame the salesmen?)
This year the ice looks surprisingly flat, considering the storminess of the winter. I expected more pressure ridges.
The blue object is, I think, a portable bathroom, which is another item the original explorers lacked. (I think I will avoid dwelling on the sufferings of the past, regarding this subject.)
The Barneo base continues to drift south-southeast, though its rate of drift has slowed.
One interesting tidbit is that they are reporting temperatures some ten degrees colder than the DMI temperature maps show.
The DMI thickness map (modeled) shows the ice to be around ten feet thick at the base:
The Navy thickness map sees ice only around 6-7 feet thick.
Of course these maps tend to generalize, and average away the local variations. The Russians likely chose a thicker slab of ice for their blue-ice jetport. Now is when we need an actual field worker taking a core, but I haven’t heard whether our crew that sets up the North Pole Camera got enough funding this year. (Last year they didn’t.) (The year before they reported they were hitting salt water after only drilling down four feet, but I was unsure if they chose a frozen-over lead where the ice was thinner.) In any case I have the general impression the Barneo base is on thicker ice this year.
(This is slightly off topic, but note how all the sea-ice along the coast of Russia has been shoved to the west sides of the marginal seas, while the east sides have the thin ice of frozen-over polynyas. The west winds were unusually persistent this past winter, creating a different set-up for the summer melt.)