Barneo — a warm island in the cold ocean

 It would seem that in our time of rapid development of IT technologies that can easily lead to the world of virtual reality, surprise anyone with anything, is almost impossible, or at least quite uneasy, nevertheless, the phrase "Arctic tourism", increasingly appearing in articles and essays, TV and radio broadcasts dedicated to the triumphant return of Russia to the Arctic, this is what most people feel about this feeling of surprise.

Indeed, what kind of tourism in its habitual presentation can be talked about in the regions of eternal cold, in the regions in which blizzards are immeasurably greater than hotels, where there are no sunrises in the winter, and in the summer of sunsets, where there is no Internet or mobile communication, where water can exist simultaneously in all three aggregate states, and so on … But it is, and now, for almost thirty years, it has been fairly stable and successfully developing. At the moment, two main directions for the development of Arctic tourism can be identified, which reliably and firmly merge as the meridians, the North Pole includes cruise flights on nuclear icebreakers along the Murmansk-North Pole-Franz Josef Land archipelago -Murmansk and ski expeditions, and helicopter tours to the Pole, organized through the ice base «Barneo». Both directions were formed mainly during the darkest period of the post-Soviet period in the Arctic — namely, thanks to the collapse of the structures of the Northern Sea Route that occurred in the early 90s and the complete reduction of scientific research and production in the high-latitude Arctic.

The nuclear icebreaker fleet and polar aviation remained suddenly unclaimed, and this situation was aggravated by the inevitable loss of highly skilled professionals who had lost their jobs, which, especially in polar conditions, like nowhere, «solve everything»! And then there was the idea of ​​a kind of re-profiling of the available technical resources from the solution of temporarily unavailable national economic tasks, to ensure tourism projects, especially since it was primarily about the possibility of visiting the North Pole — an unattainable dream for the absolute majority of people. In the summer of 1990, the first tourist voyage of the nuclear-powered icebreaker “Rossiya” to the North Pole was completed. This cruise lasted more than three weeks and included, besides the North Pole, also a visit to the Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya archipelagos, and Vaigach Island. The first tourists were mostly residents of Western Europe and the United States. Since then, until now, this route operates smoothly during the summer months from late June to mid-August. Its duration was reduced to 11 days due to exclusion from the program visits to Novaya Zemlya and Vaigach. Depending on demand, 4-5 cruises to the Pole are realized every year. The average number of tourists, on the board, is about 120 people. The first helicopter expedition to the Pole took place in 1992. The organizers were two Russian companies «VICAAR» and «BARK». The first group of tourists was only 12 people (all from France). The flight from Dixon to the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago -North Pole-Dixon was performed on 3 MI-8 helicopters, two of which served as tankers for refueling a passenger helicopter — a total flight time took of about 90 hours, out of which 20 hours a helicopter with tourists flew. It is clear that such a version of the tourist program had no prospects, primarily in terms of its duration and safety. A year later, in 1993, a tourist program was implemented on the North Pole using an intermediate icefield and a temporary ice base that later became known as Barneo. The first tourists — participants in the Barneo project were the paratroopers who made the jump to the North Pole. The implementation of such a project became possible with the use of technologies for the construction of temporary bases and icefields on drifting ice, developed and successfully used in the high-latitude Arctic in the 1960s-1980s for various kinds of scientific research. With their cessation in the 90s, a kind of conversion of these technologies arose, which ultimately led to the development and implementation of an international project with a somewhat unusual one, bearing in mind the very specific conditions in which it has been implemented for 25 years , the name «Barneo». Yes it was Barneo. through «a». This little trick is called to put to sleep with its very warm sound the vigilance of one or another doubting the correctness of its choice, a tourist, and at the same time giving us the full right to reject all possible claims and suits if the conditions of the real «Barneo» do not coincide with its expectations. In fact, this name came along with the mentioned technologies, as the callsign of one of the former bases.

Modern Barneo is a complex that includes an icefield and residential modules built from frame tents, warmed by mobile heating devices. Standard residential modules of about 40 square meters designed for quite comfortable living at the same time for 10 people, two modules of cabins of companies each with an area of ​​80 square meters. m are connected through a common kitchen unit. In addition, the camp includes separate modules with electric generators and a garage for a snowmobile and a bath. Depending on the need, the camp can take up to 100 people or more. The construction of a standard residential tent takes only 2-3 hours. The ice aerodrome is a runway, constructed with the help of tractors and brought to the possible perfection in these conditions manually. The parameters of the strip on average fit into the required standards for a length of more than 1000 meters and a width of 60 meters. Tents of the flight crew and flight dispatcher are located next to the strip. The construction of the strip is the final stage of a complex transport and logistics operation beginning in mid-March with the departure of two MI-8 helicopters from the airfield of the base (Krasnoyarsk or Surgut) with stopover on Sredny Island on the Northern Land archipelago for refueling and flying further north along the meridian of 95 degrees east longitude to the point on the drifting ice of the Arctic Ocean at the maximum distance,possibly in terms of fuel reserve. Depending on the wind, this point can be at a latitude of 87-88 degrees. Simultaneously with the flight of helicopters, a transport plane IL-76 flies to Murmansk and all cargo need to be dropped on the ice , is delivered to Murmansk. As main cargo there are the over 300 barrels with fuel for fueling helicopters , and they are unloaded on platforms for dropping. Two Dt-75 tractors using for the construction of the runway are also delivered and are deployed on special platforms for dropping. IL-76 is loaded with first part of barrels and is on standby until the helicopters report accurate coordinates of the point and weather conditions to Murmansk. In the presence of favorable conditions, the IL-76 aircraft flies along the Murmansk route — a point to the sea — the North Pole region — Murmansk. After fuel dumping in the amount sufficient for the full refueling of two helicopters, the aircraft goes to a point close to the North Pole, where it throws paratroopers and the remaining fuel and then returns to Murmansk. Helicopters, having come to the point of the second discharge, refuel and take off in search of an ice field suitable for the construction of an airfield. For the construction of an icefield, it is necessary to find a field of thick, one-year-old ice with a thickness of at least 150 cm, which is sufficiently large at least 2 x 2 km. This is the thickness necessary for the safe landing of the AN-74 aircraft, which will carry out all passenger transport operations on Barneo. When a suitable field is found, its coordinates are reported to Murmansk and the IL-76 aircraft makes the second dropping of the general cargo — two tractors and fuel and returns to Murmansk for loading the remaining fuel and flies to the base construction area for the final third dropping. Meanwhile, the construction of the runway begins, continuing depending on the conditions from two to five days. When the lane is ready to receive airplanes, an AN-74 airplane will fly from Longyearbyen (Svalbard) by technical flight carrying representatives of the Flight Inspection (Rosaviation) carrying out technical acceptance of the strip, as well as part of the equipment and equipment for the construction of the camp together with representatives of the advance group personnel of the future camp of Barneo. The construction of the Barneo camp begins, in which all the expedition members on the ice and free from other work take part. The next two flights are loaded with all the remaining equipment. As soon as the camp is ready, passenger flights begin with tourists and scientists. The duration of the season in Barneo, as a rule, does not exceed 3 weeks. During this time, the camp is visited on average by 200-250 people. During the season on Barneo, a variety of ski programs of varying duration are being realized, the participants of which are skiing from 200 kilometers to 5 kilometers with an indispensable finish on the North Pole. Delivery of participants to the start point, their evacuation from the Pole, as well as provision, their insurance on the route is carried out by two MI-8 helicopters stationed on Barneo in constant duty mode. In addition to skiing, the programs of visiting the Pole by helicopters, parachute jumping and scuba diving at a point close to the Pole and even wedding ceremonies are successfully implemented. In 2010 I had to play the role of Polar priest, blessing the marriage union, concluded with complete non-resistance of the parties on the North Pole itself. The newlyweds wanted to invite to the ceremony a real priest from Longyearbyen, but he refused on the pretext that … «The North Pole is not his Diocese.» Perhaps he was right because only God knows where his Diocese is! In this situation, I, as an expedition leader on Barneo, had nothing else to do except how to perform this high and very cool Perhaps he was right because only God knows where his Diocese is! In this situation, I, as an expedition leader on Barneo, had nothing else to do but to fulfill this high and very cool mission myself. Newlyweds were quite pleased with the wedding ceremony, despite some natural in this situation, the inconvenience of putting on ice rings on frozen fingers. The bride, according to tradition, gave me (as a priest) her garter! Another difference of this exciting ceremony by itself is carried out in more temperate latitudes, was that we were forced to move into a helicopter to drink (and not nibble) the traditional champagne. At minus 30 degrees even seasoned «Soviet champagne» instantly freezes on contact with the cold walls of the ceremonial crystal glasses.

Barneo regularly organizes a marathon race in the area of ​​the camp followed by a visit of runners to the North Pole by helicopter. In 2016, on Barneo, a very unusual, even for those who had seen the kinds of organizers, a figure skating program in the North Pole region was carried out. The Japanese figure skater performed several elements of an arbitrary program on a small — a few meters across, an artificial skating rink, arranged by experts from Barneo. To do this, we had to solve the problem of obtaining a small enough area for filling, the amount of fresh water. Uneven and soft sea ice is not suitable for skating, especially for the performance of the elements of figure skating. The water was prepared by melting snow. Recently, we learned about the project for an international ice hockey match at Barneo in 2019. To implement of the project it will require a very large amount of fresh water, and this can be achieved using a mobile desalination, which should be delivered to Barneo on the plane, that is, desalination must be sufficiently compact. This will determine its relatively low productivity, which will require the development of an adequate method of pouring. In other words, it is possible to realize this idea, and technical details, and accordingly, the cost of its implementation, we are ready to discuss with the initiators of the project.

During the whole season, groups of Russian and foreign scientists working on ocean and sea ice research work at Barneo. It should be noted that after the suspension of 2013 due to the deteriorating ice conditions and the resulting climate change works for the organization of the drifting scientific research stations, ice base Barneo remains today the only reference point of the Russian presence in the high Arctic, and I am sure will remain so for a long time, because the point of the geographical North Pole — the tops of our planet will attract to itself representatives of new and new generations who dream of being, even a very short time, at the point where the wily GPS within just a few seconds shows the cherished 90 degrees north latitude and fast and oddly change figures indicate the longitude, which, as well as the concept of time at this point, is not existing!

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