Barneo Ice Camp is a unique Swiss-owned, Russian-operated drift station on the frozen Arctic Ocean near the North Pole. With its integrated ice runway, Barneo caters for the air-borne tourist industry that operates from Longyearbyen in Svalbard (Norway).
Barneo is a seasonal camp, set-up in late March every year only through a highly complex and technical series of logistics incorporating Ilyushin-76, Antonov-74 and Mi-8 flights from Moscow, Siberia and Svalbard, parachute and skydiver drops, specialist advisers and observers and temporary camps on the Arctic Ocean. Once the ice runway has been prepared, using tractors parachuted onto the ice, technical AN-74 flights deliver the camp infrastructure and Barneo usually opens its doors to the first passenger flight around April 4.
The AN-74 flies from Longyearbyen in Svalbard, Norway around three times a week, taking passengers on a 2.5 hour flight over the Arctic Ocean to Barneo. Passengers are mostly tourists visiting the North Pole but also includes guided and private ski expeditions, scientists and media. Mi-8 helicopters fly regularly between Barneo and the North Pole as well as ferrying scientists to their local work sites.
Camp facilities include heated accommodation tents with comfortable bedding, a large mess tent and kitchen serves regular hot meals, provides 24-hr tea, coffee and snacks and houses a souvenir store with unique Barneo, Arctic and North Pole memorabilia. A trauma surgeon resides at the camp for the season as do specialists in many fields - pilots, mechanics, engineers, weather forecasters and observers, communication experts, guest services, general staff and explorers.
Barneo offers basic facilities suited to those with an adventurous flair. If you are a traveler looking for luxury and convenience then you should probably select a cruise rather than fly-in. Barneo does not offer shower or bathing facilities, wifi or a restaurant with menu or alcohol however does offer power for devices and can offer private accommodation at additional cost.
Barneo and the ice runway require a huge amount of maintenance and a large contingency of Russian staff can be seen shuttling between tents, taxiways and fuel depots. They make life at the camp comfortable and many of them display their artistic and musical skills through ice carving and mini concerts.
Polar bears, extreme cold, thin ice, large vehicles, spinning rotor blades - the Arctic Ocean is a hazardous place. You are required to follow all instructions and not to stray onto the runway or beyond Barneo's perimeter. If in doubt ask a staff member. You will have plenty of time to explore and get to know the Arctic ice, but do it without jeopardising the safety of yourself or others.
In late April the warmer temperatures begin to take effect. The ice begins to melt and weaken heralding the end of Barneo's short but sweet season. Around April 24 the final passenger flight arrives to collect the last of the visitors after which the camp is dismantled and flown back to Longyearbyen where it is stored until the next year. Being part of this unique experience is seeing passion in action. It takes a special love of the Arctic to warrant the effort required to operate Barneo Ice Camp.