ARCTIC SEA ICE –Barneo Bear Incident–(Updated)


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It sadly seems that the Russians are incapable of getting through a of year running a tourist trap at the North Pole without doing something that causes the heads of the politically correct to explode. Of course, the politically correct are very touchy  sensitive, and I myself have been known to pass through polite circles leaving accidental craters in my wake. But the Russians can’t seem to avoid offending elitist whack jobs nature-lovers.

Two years ago it was a crashed jet that besmirched the pristine snow.

Last year they offended the Norwegians by having soldiers march about, and the Norwegians offended the Russians by instituting a three-day-wait for tourists going to Barneo, so bags and backgrounds could be checked.

Sadly I think tourists may have been turned off by how badly they were treated last year. Norway may have killed the goose that laid the golden egg, by being so politically correct, for Svalbard stood to make a nice chunk of change from North-Pole-tourism. Or perhaps the elite are nervous about their wealth, with Hillary losing, and are less willing to pay $30,000 for a five day junket to the North Pole. In any case, there seem to be far fewer tourists this year.

Not that I pay any attention to all the fun they are having. Nope, not me. I am utterly focused on the sea-ice in the background, and I’m not at all jealous. Nope, not me. Disinterest is my middle name.

In any case, this year everything has gone like clockwork, but as they collect snow to melt for water, who is the water for?

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However it was with great dismay I then noticed they were already disassembling the tourist lodges, two weeks early.

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However there was hope for the future. The lack of customers might be explained by the failure of Norway and Russia to iron out their differences until the last minute. Also the wonderful efficiency of the crew might be seen as practice, and as a dry run for next year.  What’s more, commitment to landing on the sea-ice might be seen in the fact a small passenger airplane called the L-410, (originally developed in the late 1960’s), was resurrected and production has started again, and one landed at Barneo.

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A few skiers did show up, and found beautiful weather and conditions that appear far better than last year’s. (I love the pictures they post, which allow me to study the sea-ice.)

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Right at this point, when it seemed the Russians might get through a year without offending anyone, a 1500 pound bear walked up to introduce itself to a 140 pound woman, and the woman was politically incorrect, whipping out a gun and blasting the bear.  There may have been a desire to hush up the incident, but it later made the Barneo Facebook page. Here is a translation:

“Our season rarely follows a rigid schedule: one day we’re relocating the camp because of a crack, another day we’re trying to deliver spare parts from Moscow for broken tractors, and so on. We did this season without such kind of a cataclysm, but… An incident has occurred, a sticky one, and – most importantly – a dangerous kind of event.

I already used to tell about bears who terrorize skiers on the route: invaders are walking within 50 meters from the group, men put them off with rocket launcher, and they get back after a while. Each group leader has a rifle for that case.

So, a few days ago it happened that one skier fired a pistol at a bear. She had a Magnum, a combat weapon. I’m not a gun expert but I know this unit has a huge penetrating power. The bear was wounded and then disappeared. It’s hard to say how appropriate it was for the purpose of self-defense; it really may be do-or-die situation. But. The group leader Dirk Dansercoer did not informed the chief expedition leader at the Barneo Station about the incident. He did not informed the person responsible for safety of all of us. It means that people who wounded a dangerous creature concealed the fact that all groups following the same course are in danger from now on. It’s hard to predict how a wounded bear behave.

As soon as we started to get troubling messages that one of the groups is followed by a bear leaving footsteps of blood, we explored from Dirk Dansercoer (who already was at Longyearbyen) the details of the incident. Today all the groups are aware of that danger, they have established a day-and-night duty. And we scheduled a hotwash for all of the guides to elaborate rules for that sort of incidents.”

I can’t really blame a woman for defending herself, but I just know the Russians will catch hell for this. (Groan)

Not that I care. Disinterestedness is my middle name. What is it to me if a lady has a bear for dinner, or vice-versa? All I care about is sea-ice, right?

The ice Barneo is sitting on has slowed its drift in the kind weather, though the temperatures are slowly dropping, from -15°C on April 16 to -24°C on April 18 (which demonstrates the Arctic continues to lose heat under clear skies, despite 24-hour-a-day sunshine. The sun is simply still too low. Any warming is still imported from the south. But the imported air chills more slowly now.)

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There is more to this than meets the eye. From yesterday’s Barneo Facebook page:

In the matter of yesterday’s message about the bear incident: as we just learned, the case is more complicated than it appears to be. Mr. Dansercoer misinformed us. Now the incident is exploring by Norwegian Police; as far as we know, they have a footage and witness testimony. We’ll inform our readers as soon as we get exact knowledge.

But then I suppose the lawyers got involved. From today’s page:

Victor Boyarsky, a member of the International Polar Guides Association, has just informed us that the Bear Shooting Case study is scheduled soon after completion of the Barneo season. They will make a decision after consultations with all the people involved. Until that moment we won’t make any comments on the matter.…

What interests me most is the mention of “footage.” Now, that would be an interesting bit of film to see. I hope it appears on You Tube. But I suppose the reputation of an arctic guide is at stake, so we should be patient. I do know one thing: Those bears could care less about our rules and regulations.

In other news, a new lead (crack in ice with, initially, open water exposed), apparently has made one end of the runway unusable, so they extended the other end. I can’t find any pictures of it yet, nor a description of how wide it is, but here is a nice picture of a “pressure ridge” (what happens when the two sides of a “lead” slam closed):

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ARCTIC SEA ICE –Jets at Barneo Halted by Storm–

The video below was taken by a drone flying above last year’s Barneo base, and at the start shows the sort of pressure ridges they were dealing with, which forced them to move the entire base in the midst of their operations.

This year the ice seems smoother, and so is the operation of the base.  They have drifted south past 89°N latitude, which will be handy for the cross-country skiiers headed up there to ski “the final degree”.

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You can see the direction-of-drift shifted from to the southeast to the southwest, and the rate-of-drift increased. This was due to an influx of air all the way from the Pacific that raised temperatures some twenty degrees to -15°C.  You can see the skies, which had been a vibrant blue, turning gray in this video taken by a woman walking about the camp.

Here is the layout of the camp seen from above.

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Flights had to be canceled for a day as the “milder” air generated a snowstorm, with temperatures at -17°C

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But it is not entirely uncomfortable to sit around indoors.

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And soon the skies cleared and the jets could bring more people north.

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Including a rock band, conducting a “Top of the World” tour.


In conclusion, the idea that “The Polar Icecap has melted away” is not true quite yet.

NOTE: Yesterday the Barneo base reported from 88º56’N, 018º15’E, but back on April 10 it was at 89º11’N, 033º10’E.  I noticed a second Army Mass Balance buoy (2017B) has been deployed, and was reporting from 89.19° N, 30.07° E on April 12. It seems likely it was deployed from Barneo, as the coordinates match so well.  Obviously Russians and Americans can get along, in the wild world of sea-ice. Can cats and dogs be far behind?

They placed this buoy on ice roughly five feet thick. It hasn’t reported since April 12, but it did graph the temperature rise as greatly moderated Pacific air moved in.

2017B Temp 20170412 2017B_temp

Arctic Sea Ice —North Pole Marathon at the North Pole Jetport—


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.)

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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.

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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.

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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:

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The Navy thickness map sees ice only around 6-7 feet thick.

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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.)


ARCTIC SEA ICE –Demise of the Beaufort Eryg–

The strong El Nino that faded last year left the planet with some excess heat to get rid of, and we’ve watched as a meridional pattern sent surges of warmth to the Pole, where it fueled a persistent area of low pressure I dubbed “Ralph.” Because Ralph’s winds were counter-clockwise, it resisted and at times reversed the ordinarily clockwise flow of ice on the Pacific side of the pole, called the “Beaufort Gyre”.

This presented me with a problem, because you cannot call a gyre a gyre when it is not clockwise. (It would be like calling a sunny day a storm, which is why we have the words “highs” and “lows”, to differentiate.) Therefore I spelled the word “gyre” backwards, and came up with the word “eryg”. An eryg is a counter-clockwise spin of ice at the Pole. So now you know.

Having an eryg rather than a gyre has consequences, especially on the north coasts of Alaska and Canada. Last year’s gyre tore the ice away from the coast, creating polynyas of open water  at the mouth of the Northwest Channel in the dead of winter. (March 13) (Light lilac is less than a foot thick).

Coast March 13 IMG_4608

Although the open water refroze, the baby-ice was thin and less protected by snow, and was swift to melt as the sun rose higher. Also the ice in the western south-entrance to the Northwest Passage was flushed out, (notice the streamer of ice moving out.) (May 5)

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To the north a large crack opened up the northern entrance on May 12.

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All of this was great news for people attempting the passage. Besides there being less ice to melt out of the way, open water warms more easily than ice-covered water, and the warmed water contributed to the melt.

However during the summer the gyre began to shift into a eryg. There was little ice to the south, but the northern approach to the Channel began to see ice jamming into it. Most crushed up against the south side of the channel, leaving an area of clear water to the north by Melville Island, (which may have replicated the conditions William Parry found in 1819 when he sailed from the east past 110° west up there). Yet so much ice was pouring into the north, and then taking a right and heading south, that the luxury liner Crystal Serenity hesitated, before dashing through.  All in all there was only around a ten day window-of-opportunity to make the passage before things swiftly refroze. Here’s the map for September 3:

Coast Sept 3 IMG_4611

This year the ice has been pushed backwards by the eryg, right into the entrance of the channel.  Rather than baby-ice six inches thick, in late March the ice was six and even nine feet thick. (March 31).

Coast March 31 Current IMG_4612

To make comparison easier, lets put 2016 and 2017 side by side.

The immediate thought might be that it has been much warmer to the north, to make the ice thinner up there, and much colder to the south, to make it so much thicker, but in actual fact what we see is the difference between a gyre and a eryg. In 2016 the ice was shifted northwest and piled up thicker to the north, and in 2017 the ice has been shifted southeast and piled up to the southeast, smack dab in the entrance  of the Northwest Passage.

However things look like they may be about to change. The lagged effect of the El Nino is fading and the lagged effect of last year’s weak La Nina may be about to shift the eryg back to a gyre.  The west winds at Barrow have shifted, and are currently blowing from the east at 20 mph. The ice isn’t budging yet, fozen fast to shore with temperares at 5° (-15°C).

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O-buoy 14 did warm nearly to -10°C on April 2, but has since sunk back to -25°C. It too remains frozen fast and isn’t budging, southeast of Melville Island in Parry Channel.

Obuoy 14 0405 webcam

If I can sneak away from doing my taxes I’ll update the maps below later. If I can’t, the two major features to note is the slow growth of high pressure towards Canada, and that even as “Ralph” fades, (or perhaps sinks towards Siberia), his “signature” persists as a swirl of warmer air curling towards the Pole in the temperature maps, currently coming via the Siberian coast. The maps start on March 26.

FIRST AN-74 LANDS AT BARNEO 2017 NORTH-POLE CAMP (Sea-ice looks less tortured than last year.)

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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:

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.

ARCTIC SEA ICE —Barneo 2016 begun–

After some nervous discussions about not having a North Pole Base base this year, the Russians have apparently begun work on it.

Irina Orlova: Ice floe found for Barneo 2016 expedition


Ms Orlova, on March 18, two helicopters flew to find an ice floe on which the Barneo camp can be built. Did they find it?

I’ve just spoken with the head of the helicopter crew Yevgeny Bakalov who said they are going to drop equipment on a new floe. I don’t yet know its precise location but it’s about 70 km from the pole.

What kind of an ice floe can accommodate the camp?

A camp primarily needs a runway — 1,200 meters long and no less than 40 meters wide. It is pitched near the runway. So, an ice floe should be at least two kilometers long. Last year we found a very good ice floe, about five to three kilometers.

How do you deliver equipment for building a camp?

When a befitting ice floe is found, an IL-76 flies from Murmansk and delivers two tractors to it. They even out the runway where an AN-74 will deliver equipment. This is a technical flight and it carries an employee who approves the runway. Then the expedition center’s team begins building a camp. Some materials for the camp are just dropped while others are carried by next flights.

More to be found here:

No word yet about the planting of the North Pole Camera.

North Pole Camping at Barneo. Only $28,995.

Barneo jet over tent barneoicecampquarktile

Time is running out, if you want to get rid of me by sending me to the North Pole.

After all, what is a piddling $28,995 to a wealthy person like you? And there is always the hope I won’t come back, though the tour guide calls this “embracing the unexpected.”

Barneo route map. Map_NorthPoleExpressBarneoIceCamp

If you are a real tightwad, I suppose you can send me the cheap way, for only $18,995.

But you don’t really want to have people look at you and call you cheap, do you?

You had best hurry. Time is running out. Not only are all the vacancies filling up, but we all know the ice is melting away up there, and soon there will be none left to camp on.9605374252_a1551c2c48_c

So please do not delay, and send your money to me swiftly.

For more on the topic of the Barneo camp, with some funny pictures,  you can check out the post I wrote last year on March 21:

And here is a report I wrote about the 2014 season.

And here is the report from last year, when the jets landing gear crumpled to get things off to an interesting start.

By the way, they wont start actually building the camp up there for another month, I think. They like to wait until sunrise, which is March 22 at the Pole.