Arctic wrap-up: Barneo airstrip destroyed in a storm

Posted: Apr 18, 2007 03:10 pm EDT

( A violent storm last week destroyed the runway on the Arctic ice base Barneo. Base crew is currently trying to build a new airstrip, while a number of partial NP teams are stranded on the base or on land in Svalbard, waiting for the flights to be resumed. Base manager Victor Boyarski has nevertheless stated that the base may remain open for an extra week, in order to permit the teams to make their trips despite delays. Meanwhile, Icewarrior skiers in Spitsbergen and racers towards the Magnetic North Pole are dealing with some hungry locals of the furry, sharp-clawed kind.

News from Barneo and partial NP teams

Victor Boyarski: Barneo runway destroyed by a storm ready to extend the season

Barneo ice base is currently located at 89 31,5 N, 30 27 E. However, northerly winds are making us drift toward the southeast at a speed of 0,8 km/h, Victor reported.Flights up until April 13 delivered more than 150 people on the ice, he said. Currently we have 53 people in Base Camp and three expeditions skiing towards the Pole. On April 14, a major storm broke our runway, though."

"April 15 brought even worse weather with winds at speeds up to 45-50 knots so we had to make common efforts to reinforce our big tents to keep them from flying up! In my memory (since 1997, at least) I have not seen such conditions, most of all that extraordinary high wind speed. Of course this weather prevented us for a while from starting to make a new airstrip, for which we have a place near the camp.

We are working on a new runway, having made more then 300 meters on Monday, Viktor said. Unfortunately, today we were caught up by a new cyclonic system wind increasing, visibility poor, temperatures rising and pressure falling according to the forecast, this weather will continue for two more days. We hope that we will be able to use short breaks in the visibility and continue our efforts to make the runway. As soon as the runway is ready, we are planning to bring a second AN-74 plane from Moscow and operate with two, making four trips a day to catch up with schedule. We are also ready to extend the season up to one week if necessary, just to provide our services for those who became the innocent victims of these extenuating circumstances.

Arctic crossings (partial)

Arctic Arc: Gaining back the miles lost to drift

As the wind had turned, blowing from the north at 50km/h, Alain and Dixie were pushed back by 12km during the night on Sunday, the team reported. On Monday, the weather became slightly better throughout the day, with a decreasing wind that shifted back to south/southwest, and the sun shining through the clouds from time to time. They made up for their nightly drift with a good 18km in nine hours.

NP supported teams

Richard Weber's team: No one said it would be easy

"Upon waking up this morning, Richard checked his GPS to find that he had drifted 6 miles south overnight," Weber's wife Josee Auclair told ExplorersWeb. "His voice on the phone sounded tired and somewhat annoyed at having to face this. They are in blowing winds and white-out conditions, have run into lots of rough and broken-up ice and now are also being blown back at 1km an hour."

"The UV rays are beginning to affect their faces sunblock is no longer working so they were forced to use full face masks against the sun, hoping this should put a cease to the facial swelling, she said. Also, the team has expanded their daily journey to 26 hour-long days. But hey, the North Pole is never conquered easily!"

The team's position on the morning of 17th: 88.42N

Greenland expeditions

Dutch Notice Greenland expedition: Pre-expedition problems cargo missing

One week before departure, the team is busy with last-minute preparations and problems. The cargo has arrived in Greenland, however the pulkas and the skis are missing, they reported yesterday. According to FedEx everything has been delivered, but our contact in Greenland hasn't received the pulkas.

Svalbard expeditions

Icewarrior team: Bear aware

Awoke to a cold morning and a surprise before breakfast, the team reported yesterday. Matt heard a rustling outside, and the team went to investigate. Less than 10 meters away was a 3.5ft tall, healthy bear rummaging through Martins pulka!! It had made several puncture marks, but nothing was missing. Mark fired several flares to send it on its way.

The remainder of the day was superb weather and good going over the sea ice with about six inches of snow on top. The team was able to cover another 18.4km.

Arctic races

The Polar Race: Number of bears increasing

Not seeing a bear was the exception rather than the rule as competitors moved further north passing across a major migratory route which runs through Polar Bear Pass on Bathurst Island, organizers said. The local conservation policy has meant, perhaps contrary to perceived opinion, that there has been a substantial increase in numbers in the area. Our racers, however, have taken this in their stride and have gotten used to scaring them away. For the most part, the bears are only curious, and as long as the correct techniques are followed and a careful watch is kept, we hope that all will be well.

Out on the course the competitors had probably their best day hot (-17°C) and no wind. All made good mileage, despite having to struggle through a large rubble field.

News from partial NP teams

Ulrich: Polar guiding expedition aborted in approaching storm

Swissman Thomas Ulrich and Norwegian Børge Ousland are currently guiding groups on the last degree North Pole trips. Bitter cold and harsh winds did not make it easy for the North Pole novices to get familiar with the environment. A member of Ulrichs team had to be repatriated with minor frostbites after only three days on the ice. The recent storm forced the team to abort the attempt to reach the North Pole on April 16, and all members are currently in Barneo, waiting for a new runway to be built and then being airlifted back to land.

Borges team: Still on?

The last update from Borges guided team was dated on April 15. By then, the skiers remained on the ice despite bad weather. It is not yet confirmed whether they returned to Barneo or continued the trip.

Malaysian Sharifah: NP after last degree

Malaysian female Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abd Kadir, a member of another guided team, managed to compete the last degree trip she had started on April 9. She reached the North Pole yesterday.

Alain & Dixie's Arctic Arc crossing

Rosie Stancer's website

Weber's Canadian Arctic Holidays

Adrian Hayes' North Pole Quest dispatches

Hampels' Siberia Expedition

Steger's Global Warming 101 expedition

Wide Arctic - blog

Frozen Five expedition

Arctos III expedition (Czech)

Ice Warrior's website

Polar Race

Thomas Ulrich's expeditions website (German)

Borge Ousland's website (Nrwegian/English)

Trans-Greenland expedition

Dutch Notice Expedition (Dutch/English)

Dutch Pole Spirit Greenland expedition

Pittarak expedition

Bendigo Bank Greenland expedition

Extreme Snowkite Greenland

Tara expedition

Polar First helicopter expedition


Last night Bruce got a call from the Borek Air saying the Russian Base at Barneo was being evacuated because the ice was breaking up [...] However, when I called Barneo this morning on my satellite phone, I was told it simply wasnt so." Image of Barneo Arctic ice base courtesy of Thomas Ulrich's website (click to enlarge).
As the wind had turned, blowing from the north at 50km/h, Alain and Dixie were pushed back by 12km during the night on Sunday, the team reported. On Monday, the wind shifted back to south/southwest, and they made up for their nightly drift with a good 18km in nine hours. Image of Alain and Dixie's camp courtesy of Arctic Arc expedition (click to enlarge).
"The cargo has arrived in Greenland, however the pulkas and the skis are missing, Dutch Notice Greenland team reported yesterday. Image of team members courtesy of the expedition's website (click to enlarge).
Malaysian female Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abd Kadir completed the last degree trip she had started on April 9. She reached the North Pole yesterday. Image courtesy of Sharifah's website (click to enlarge).

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