Here's an adventure that will truly leave you feeling on top of the world! It's a North Pole expedition unlike any other, built for those short on time but huge on authentic adventures.
Barneo Ice Camp is a private, seasonal arctic basecamp established and built from scratch every year on an ice floe near the North Pole. Guests use the base as a starting point from which they can actually reach the Pole by way of a helicopter ride and a short walk.
Jake Morrison is Quark's Operations Manager. He's been to Barneo and tells us the camp location each year is determined by scouting trips in advance. Jake sits down with us to tell us everything you need to know about Barneo Ice Camp.
Basecamp Exists Only A Few Weeks Each Year
“The Barneo crew conducts reconnaissance to find where they can build a runway where the ice can withstand any pressure cracks in the middle,” Jake says. “The Making Of Barneo video is quite remarkable. You can see how a huge plane flies in and drops materials and supplies with parachutes, including a couple of old bulldozers to plow a runway to get the jet in later.
The camp is established by the Russian Geographical Society and is shared by the global scientific community. It is built as reasonably close to the North Pole as possible – usually around 89 degrees North. It only exists for a few weeks each year, and adventurers share the space with scientists from around the world.
“When I was there, there were a lot of people from universities in the U.S.,” Jake says, adding the camp looks a bit like a mini-United Nations. “It has flags from quite a few different nations, based on who's there. It's a cool feature they have.”
Camping on an ice floe is a special adventure, to say the least. Flying in and out is also not a routine activity, with pilots needing to rely on radio and GPS more than usual.
“When they're coming in to land for the day, someone at the base looks at the GPS unit and gives the coordinates so the pilot knows where to land, as Barneo is not a fixed airport,” Jake says. “It's a drifting ice station, so it may be located in a different location than where the pilot took off in the morning.”
Barneo Ice Camp Q & A
There are many questions travelers might have for someone like Jake in relation to Barneo. He talks about some of the questions he hears most often.
How and where will we sleep at the camp? Won't it be cold?
“There are barracks-type tents which contain 10 or 12 beds. The tents are heated, but you won't melt through the ice – it's very thick, and the floor is double-insulated as well. The tents are a very comfortable temperature. It's not like you're dressing in layers like you would be if you were sleeping in a tent outside.”
What's the weather like so far north? How should I dress for the arctic?
“It depends, just like anywhere else. It can be quite sunny and beautiful. It could snow, or it could be windy. It's all part of the adventure, and Quark supplies info on what to pack for your trip, and supplies special-edition parkas, exclusively for Barneo. You may also want to check out Quark's online gear shop.”
What will we see at the camp?
“You can go for a walk to see what the scientists are up to. When I was there, they had a huge probe they had drilled really deep into the ice, and were taking different samples from it. That was quite cool, being able to see first-hand some of what they're doing there.
“They also had some pretty cool carvings in the ice – like a polar bear statue and a whale tail, for example. At night, there are all sorts of presentations and briefings to keep you entertained and enrich the experience.”
Will we see wildlife, like polar bears?
“They've seen bears at camp before, but it's not likely. Guides usually carry guns for safety if you go any further than the usual radius of the camp.”
Can we mingle and talk with the scientists?
“Absolutely! There are a couple of rows of tables, where we eat our meals, so you can choose who you sit with. It's nice to be able to just sit with a scientist and talk about what they did that day.”
What's the food like at Barneo?
“Quark is having the meals catered from Longyearbyen. That's one of values of traveling with Quark, eating some really good food.”
How do we get from Barneo to the North Pole?
“The Mi8 helicopter gets you as close as possible, then you walk the rest of the way. When I was there, it was a five- or 10-minute walk. And it's not like you're walking in a straight line to get to where you're going; it's definitely a little bit of a challenge, which is part of the fun – to actually find 90 degrees North on the GPS.”
Barneo Was First Established in 2002
The Barneo basecamp has been rebuilt every year since it was first established in 2002. It can be visited each April, but the dates vary depending on conditions.
Guests fly to the camp from Longyearbyen, on the island of Spitsbergen in Norway's Svalbard archipelago. It's a three-day, two-night stay at the camp, with one of the highlights, the trip to the North Pole, happening on any of the three days, depending on conditions.
When you make it to the top of the planet, you can celebrate your achievement with a champagne celebration, a walk around the pole, taking pictures and video – and even making a satellite phone call to anywhere in the world!
It won't come as a surprise to our guests that this is the farthest thing from a typical vacation – even as far as polar expeditions go.
“They're a bit delighted,” Jake says. “There isn't a checklist where people can expect to see the same things every year, because it is different from one year to the next. The little things make it a unique experience.”
Want to learn more about planning your own epic journey to the top of the world?
- Read more North Pole stories from expedition experts and travelers like you
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