Warming Up to Arctic Tourism


Last week the world looked north, as Svalbard, an archipelago about 500 miles north of the Norwegian mainland, became the place to see the total eclipse of the sun. About a week before the eclipse, authorities on Spitsbergen (the largest of Svalbard’s islands) warned visitors that the destination’s six hotels and other forms of lodging would be sold out during the eclipse and that camping was discouraged due to frigid March temperatures and hungry polar bears.

Well, some 1,500 visitors went anyway, many of them camping. One Czech camper was pulled from his tent and mauled. He lived to tell the tale. Not so the bear.

The fact that Spitsbergen had six hotels, including a Radisson Blu, caught my attention more than the bear attack. It struck me as more natural that a predator would attack a warm meal than that Arctic Spitsbergen could sustain six hotels. In fact, overnights in Spitsbergen in 2014 went up 60 percent and the U.S. is the island’s sixth largest market after Norway, Sweden, Germany, UK and France.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the word Arctic and tourist would never even find themselves in the same sentence. American tourists used to run from snow unless they were carrying skis. The only ice one saw in post cards was in the glass of rum and coke under the palm tree.

“Initially Arctic expeditions were only attractive to ultimate adventurers, but today the range of travel to the Arctic is broad, thanks to the amount of suppliers involved in this kind of travel,” said Ron Fenska, Intrepid Travel’s vice president of sales North America.

The Arctic’s path to being a mainstream destination goes back to at least the 1980s, though it’s never been as popular as it is now. A sketch of the progression might go like this. In 1972, Princess Cruises made Seattle a home port for their Alaskan cruising, a business that multiplied exponentially. Today, Seattle’s status as a major departure point for Alaskan sailing is one of its signature industries.

The popularity of polar bear safaris from the Manitoban town of Churchill on Hudson Bay became extremely popular in the mid- to late- 1990s. Churchill developed specially designed vehicles that took tourists out to see polar bears at about the same time that Antarctic expedition cruises also became popular. Finland took Arctic tourism into a cultural dimension by promoting encounters with the Sami people of Lapland.

Norwegian Coastal Voyages has been carrying European adventure travelers into the Arctic Circle as far back as 1982. In 2007, the company began to market itself in the U.S. under its European name, Hurtigruten, just as it also began to market Arctic winter cruising here. One insider told me the U.S. industry was shocked when Hurtigruten began promoting Arctic winter travel to Americans. “We were concerned about the activities. What would people do?” Kayaking, snowmobiling, safaris, whale watching and many other activities filled that bill.

Now winter has become the preferred time to visit the Arctic for many travelers because of the Aurora Borealis. In fact, Hurtigruten just had its best February ever. You can’t see the Northern Lights in summer when the sun shines all day. The Northern Lights have become a bucket list item for many travelers. Much more recently, Iceland has seen its popularity reach a point where demand has almost exceeded capacity as it nears the million arrival mark and Greenland’s popularity has risen high enough to have its Sermilik Fjord called the “Arctic Riviera.”

In my search through Arctic travel I could find nothing more cutting edge than Intrepid Travel’s North Pole Express package that flies passengers into the North Polar Ice Basin to Barneo Ice Camp from Longyearbyen in an Antonov AN-74, a Russian (Ukrainian) aircraft that was designed to land in the Arctic. Every year, Russian scientists rebuild the ice camp and create an air strip in the process. Barneo’s location at 89°31.5′N 30°27′W is probably closer to the actual pole than Robert Peary ever got. The best estimate today is that he never got closer than 60 miles from the point of the Pole.

The rise of adventure travel has paved the way for many different permutations, none more interesting than the evolution of Arctic tourism. “There’s no question that the concern people have about the melting ice caps due to climate change is fueling their desire to see the Arctic,” said Fenska. “Those people are going out and telling people what they’ve seen and raising awareness about global warming.”

Hopefully it will do some good. A future without polar ice is a grim one. This map shows what the consequences of that scenario would be.

There’s no question that adventure tourism has been good for the business of tourism. When the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) first surveyed the worth of the global adventure market in 2009 they estimated that there was $89 billion worth of adventure travel being sold around the world. Their last survey in 2012 saw that figure escalate to $263 billion.

Adventure travel as we know it today used to be called “ecotourism,” a movement that began with explorations of rain forests in such tropical places as Costa Rica and Thailand. Today, it’s moving through terrains that only the great explorers, like Robert Peary, ever got to in the past. If it seems strange that people can find the comfort of a Radisson so high in the Arctic, remember that on his second expedition to the North Pole in 1906, Peary had a player piano installed in his expedition ship, the S.S. Roosevelt; an extravagance that no Arctic tourist enjoys today.

Russia's arctic military moves seen as NATO missile shield response


MOSCOW, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Russia's weekend announcement of a permanent military presence in the arctic is partly a response to NATO sea-based missile defenses, a Russian expert says.

Anatoly Tsyganok, a retired colonel and head of the Center for Military Forecasting in Moscow, told the InfoRos online newspaper Saturday's announcement that the Russian Northern Fleet had returned to the arctic on a permanent basis is likely a move to counter the U.S. Aegis ballistic missile defense system.

The ability of the Northern Fleet to patrol the territory east of the Barents Sea will greatly enhance the strategic potential of the Russian Navy, Tsyganok told the publication.

If NATO ships equipped with missile defense systems are sent to the Arctic Ocean, the capabilities of the Russian strategic nuclear forces will be put at risk, and therefore the task has fallen to the Northern Fleet to counter foreign sea-based missile defense systems, the analyst told InfoRos.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency says that of July 2013, there were 28 Aegis ballistic missile defense-equipped ships in deployment, including five cruisers and 23 destroyers -- of those, 16 are assigned to the Pacific Fleet and 12 to the Atlantic Fleet.

The Atlantic elements were first deployed in 2011 as part of the first phase of the United States' European missile defense shield efforts, which have long been viewed by Moscow as a potential threat to its nuclear deterrent.

Washington insists the anti-missile shield is not targeted at Russia but to protect Europe from attacks from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

Another advantage of establishing a permanent arctic military presence will be to allow combat ships to traverse a northern sea route "from the west of the continent to the east and vice versa," Tsyganok said.

Russian Navy Commander Viktor Chirkov said Saturday that an arctic expedition of troop ships led by the heavy nuclear-powered missile cruiser Peter the Great had plowed through 2,000 nautical miles of ice to make a landing on the northernmost point of the island archipelago of Franz Josef Land.

"The expedition is performing the task of gathering information about changing the navigation and hydrographic conditions, proof of maps and nautical sailing directions, hydro-meteorological observations and geodetic survey points in the archipelago, as well as studying the possibilities of sailing ships in the high latitudes," Chirkov said.

First Deputy Minister of Defense Arkady Bahini hailed the achievement as a signature moment for Russia's military history.

"We have come here -- or rather come back here -- forever because it is a native Russian land, and the tasks that are performed today ships of the Northern Fleet is the first part of a mission set by the president of Russia (Vladimir Putin) and minister of defense (Sergei Shoigu) for the development of and improvement of the entire Northern Sea Route and the adjacent arctic zone," Bahini said.

Also part of the Arctic plans is the improvement of a Russian airfield on the New Siberian Islands archipelago in the country's Far East. Bahini said Shoigu has set a target of expanding and lengthening the runway airfield there to accommodate heavy military transport aircraft such as the An-72 and An-74.

"Construction of the airport will be conducted using the latest technology," he told Interfax. "This relates directly to runway surface, which must meet the rigorous climatic conditions in the arctic. During installation coating materials will be used to withstand the extremely low temperatures. This will be a permanent airfield."

2013 North Pole: Last Degree ski expeditions


(Newsdesk) The Russians at Barneo Ice Camp, the Base Camp for the Last Degree skiers, report that 6 ski teams are already on their way to the Geographic North Pole.  

Last Degree ski Expeditions - 89°N start, 110km


Australian veteran polar explorer Eric Philips is leading the Greenpeace Save the Arctic expedition to the North Pole. Eric explained to ExWeb, "Greenpeace will lower a flag and specially-constructed capsule to the sea bed beneath the North Pole, containing more than 2.7 million signatures in support of preserving the Arctic Ocean as a sanctuary; and a message to the future - did we act in time? The capsule will remain on the sea bed for a few decades until it is released and eventually found."


The team consists of 16 persons. Other two guides who are with this team are Russian Lyudmila Korobeshko, who did the Seven Summits in a female record time of 293 days last year, and Audun Tholfsen, who skied and kayaked with Timo Palo from the North Pole to Svalbard in 2012. The team flew in on April 5 and plans to be finished on the 14th. Among other polar guides on the ice this year are American Doug Stoup from Ice Axe Expeditions, Norwegian Inge Solheim, Belgain Alain Hubert, Norwegian Bengt Rotmo guiding for Borge Ousland Expeditions, and PolarExplorers, with well known guides Keith Heger and Nancy Moundalexis (dogsled team), Brit  Philip Hayday-Brown and Russian, Mikhail Lamakin. The first British Scout team, Scouts on the Pole, will also be heading to the Pole. They are trained by Antony Jinman.

News sources report about a British-America woman, Vanessa O'Brien, who is getting ready to ski the last degree to the North Pole and will then claim the world record for, according to her, competing the Explorers' Grand Slam in the fastest time ever. She has climbed the Seven Summits and skied the last degree to the South Pole. The last degree ski covers 10% of the full route and the rest she flew by plane. With the North Pole again the same. Compare "climbing" Everest to Base Camp and climbing it to the top.

The claim has no ground, as according to the Rules of Adventure, first of all it requires a full South Pole route (coast to 90°S) and a full North Pole route (land to 90°N) - as it requires climbing mountains to the top - and secondly it should be the 14 highest mountains, not the Seven Summits. This has only been achieved by Park Young-Seok from Korea.

Ice Camp Barneo

Coordinates April 7: N 89˚ 37' and W118˚ 16'. 

Weather: Temperature -27°C, wind southwest, 10m/sek, visibility over 10 km. 

Distance from the pole 42 km, drifting northeast. 

32 tourists in camp 

On route 6 groups. 

Barneo Ice Camp is a temporary camp that is build by Russians near the Geographic North Pole every year. It serves as a drop off point for Last Degree (110km) and partial route skiers as well as scientists and other high Arctic ice visitors. The Barneo helicopter also picks up the full distance skiers upon arrival at the Geographic North Pole (if any). 

Expeditions/ adventures/ projects with RSS feeds can be followed in the 

ExplorersWeb Expedition List

Expedition links:

North Pole to GreenlandFyodor/Fedor Konyukhov's websiteFyodor/Fedor Konyukhov on FacebookMLAE-2013 websiteMLAE on FacebookBarneo Ice Camp


Ice Camp Barneo 2013 is openCars and dogsled departed from the North PoleArt Mortvet and the Polar Pumpkin made it to the North PoleHeads up: Gavin Bate and team to 1996 Magnetic North Pole  

Russian drifting arctic base Barneo reopens with political agenda


Russia’s drifting polar station Barneo re-opens this year just some 110 kilometers away from the North Pole. Before it closes on April 25 the facility is expected to host talks of the Arctic Council envoys for the first time.

Barneo station has been established annually since 2000, at 89 degrees north latitude, becoming the center of research, sports and tourism in the Arctic.

The base, sponsored by the Russian Geographical Society, is operational for only around a month, with the closing of this year’s project scheduled for April 25.

The Barneo complex consist of an ice camp and a runway – and has to be built from scratch every year as it’s impossible to keep a landing field on drifting ice for more than one season.

The month of April provides the perfect conditions and timing for erecting the base as the polar night ends by then, but the sun is not yet strong enough to start melting the ice. This period of the year is also characterized by the absence of strong winds and moderate temperatures, which rarely fall lower that minus 30 Celsius.

The station’s name – Barneo – is nothing, but a joke by the Russian polar explorers as the weather conditions at the base are the complete opposite of the ones at the tropical island of Borneo in South East Asia.

The location for this year’s base was found via satellite in the middle of March, with helicopters performing a scouting mission after that.  

Since March 26, the Russian air force has performed three flights from the northern city of Murmansk to the Barneo 2013 location, delivering around 50 tons of equipment and food, two tractors and 20 expedition members required to establish the base.  

“The cargo drop is performed by parachute from low altitude,” Evgeny Kirillov, the spokesman for the Russian Northern Fleet, told RIA-Novosti. “The pilot changes the pitching (raises the plane’s nose upwards seconds before the drop) and the cargo rolls out of the bay due to its own weight.

“The Russian Air Force pilots are the only ones, who are capable of performing such manoeuvres in super-high Arctic latitudes,” he added.

The polar explorers also descended to the ice-floe on parachutes. Building a landing was their primary task as the rest of the supplies – as well as the tourists – are brought to Barneo by Antonov An-74 cargo-passenger aircrafts.

The Ice Camp is the heart and the main infrastructure component of the expedition as the staff and guests are housed in specially designed heated tents, in which the temperature is kept between 15 and 18 Celsius.  


Barneo has been an ultimate attraction for thrill-seekers from all over the globe since 2008.

Around 250 tourists visit the station every year in order to perform a ski or a helicopter trip to the North Pole and experience other extreme amusements such as dog sled riding, parachuting, diving in the Arctic Ocean and ballooning.

But Arctic adventure comes at a price, with the offers ranging from around €16,000 for a three-day visit, which includes a helicopter trip to the Pole, to over €40,000 for a 21-day ski expedition to the top of the world.

The scientific activity will also remain high at Barneo with researchers from Russia’s Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring Agency, State Oceanography Institute and their colleagues from Norway and the US spending April at the base.

In 2013, the station will also become a palace for politics for the first time in its 13-year history.

“A friendly meeting of the ambassadors from the Arctic Council states is scheduled to take place at the base in mid-April, with Arctic cooperation being on the agenda,” Aleksandr Orlov, the head of the Barneo ice base, said. “The Foreign Ministry’s ambassador-at-large, the country’s envoy to the Arctic Council, Anton Vasilyev, will represent Russia at the talks.”

The Arctic Council, which unites Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US, was established in 1996 to address the issues of the resource-rich Arctic region and its indigenous people.

Satellite Spots A Rare Plane Being Used By Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps


According to Google Earth, the satellite image below was taken in July, 2010.


Although it’s not recent, it is worth a look as it shows a quite interesting and somehow rare bird: an Iranian Antonov An-74T-200 on the apron of the airport of Sirri, Iran’s small island in the midst of the Persian Gulf, east of Hormuz.

The aircraft is one of the 11 such cargo aircraft (including seven white colored An-74TK-200s) believed to be operated by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and used to carry equipments and revolutionary guards across the country.

The type of aircraft can be determined by the characteristic unusual design feature in which the high engines exhaust are placed over the wing’s upper surface to boost lift by means of the Coandă effect.

Egypt takes one more An-74T-200A twinjet


Ukraine’s Kharkov State Aircraft Manufacturing Company (KSAMC) has delivered third An-74T-200A multirole transport aircraft to the Egyptian air force.

The contract signed in 2003 called for delivery of three aircraft following an international tender ran by the Egyptian defense ministry. The order was three firms and six options. The first aircraft delivered to the customer in 2005, second in 2009.

KSAMC is negotiating with the Egyptian customer on firming up the option. The manufacturer hopes it may receive follow on orders for 18 more An-74 family aircraft.

Meantime, Ukraine and Egypt are negotiating on setting up a maintenance center in the Egyptian territory to support Antonov aircraft in service with Egypt and neighboring countries. It may open in 2011.

Boeing may use Antonov An-72 as platform for FCA bid

Boeing may introduce a Soviet-era military transport jet as a new option for the US military's need for a new fleet of small airlifters, the airframer told Flight International in Washington, DC yesterday. 

The Antonov An-72, a 70-seat jet with over-wing-mounted engines (pictured below in Aeroflot livery), is one of the options Boeing is considering to enter the US Army's pending Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA) competition, says George Muellner, Boeing vice president for Air Force Systems. 

A Boeing evaluation team has visited Antonov headquarters in Kiev, the Ukraine, and both companies remain in active discussions, says Muellner.

The FCA competition is on hold for two months to allow army officials time to discuss blending the programme with a US Air Force requirement for a new light cargo aircraft fleet. Muellner says Boeing's plans will not be decided until the army unveils the final requirements for FCA.

As another option, Boeing also is in discussions to Alenia to join the Global Military Aircraft Systems team that plans to offer the Alenia C-27J Spartan. Raytheon and EADS CASA North America also plan to compete, offering the CASA C-295, CN-235, or both, depending on the army's final requirements.

The An-72, if Boeing were to offer it, would be the only jet-powered aircraft in the competition.


© ASU Trading GmbH 2015, All Rights Reserved.  |  Email us