Analysis and Commentary
Irina Orlova: Ice floe found for Barneo 2016 expedition
© Ria Novosti. Valeriy Melnikov

Irina Orlova: Ice floe found for Barneo 2016 expedition

Ms Orlova, on March 18, two helicopters flew to find an ice floe on which the Barneo camp can be built. Did they find it?

I've just spoken with the head of the helicopter crew Yevgeny Bakalov who said they are going to drop equipment on a new floe. I don't yet know its precise location but it's about 70 km from the pole.

What kind of an ice floe can accommodate the camp?

A camp primarily needs a runway — 1,200 meters long and no less than 40 meters wide. It is pitched near the runway. So, an ice floe should be at least two kilometers long. Last year we found a very good ice floe, about five to three kilometers.

How do you deliver equipment for building a camp?

When a befitting ice floe is found, an IL-76 flies from Murmansk and delivers two tractors to it. They even out the runway where an AN-74 will deliver equipment. This is a technical flight and it carries an employee who approves the runway. Then the expedition center's team begins building a camp. Some materials for the camp are just dropped while others are carried by next flights.

When do you plan to open to open Barneo 2016?

Everything depends on the condition of the ice floe. If there are many hummocks and snow, a tractor will have to work for a long time. Ice picks and hands will also have to be used. If everything is okay, it will only take a day or two to pitch a camp.

When will scientists arrive there?

As soon as the runway opens. Once it is accepted scientists and tourists will fly in.

Ms Orlova, in how many expeditions did you take part?

This is my 15th season in Barneo. My husband Alexander Orlov and I were pioneers of this project and we are still working on it. I do not spend a whole month there. I take the first technical flight and then our team starts building the camp. I'm not really necessary at this point — strapping fellows will do the job that they know inside out.

Has the camp changed a lot with the development of technology over all these years?

It has for sure. Ice is dwindling and it is more difficult to find the right floe but it is easier to pitch a camp. There are new tents that two people can put up. Frost and strong wind make our work more difficult. The first tents cracked and burst during frost but we are well prepared for the 15th season. We have our own engineering group that is upgrading the camp.

Tell us about your developments, please.

There are new materials for tents, heat insulators and energy-saving blow heaters. I'm talking as a woman but I'm not an engineer and may forget something. Importantly, this equipment is easy to use. We can regulate temperature in tents — make it +15C or +25C. This is fairly comfortable.

Indeed, almost like at home.

It's just a bit too crowded. As they say, squeezed but pleased.

What plans do you have for this year?

As usual, our scientists will be busy. This year Igor Melnikov, leading research fellow at the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, will carry out his unique program. Earlier, scientists made measurements on a drifting ice floe whereas Melnikov plans to make them at one and the same location at the North Pole where he will get with his team every day.

As usual, tourists and skiers will come and an annual international marathon race will be held. Army servicemen have their own program.

Tell us about the marathon race.

This is the 14th or 15th marathon race. Every year Richard Donovan from Britain gathers a team and they lay a track at a distance of 41 kilometers near Barneo. Importantly, they greet both the winner and the loser — for the will to win. It takes them from four to 16 hours to cover the distance.

They say in such cases: "I'm grateful to be alive!"

Life is very eventful on Barneo, so a month is usually too short for everything.