Russian specialists open airfield at Cape Baranov Ice Base on Severnaya Zemlya
© AARI, Andrei Paramzin

Russian specialists open airfield at Cape Baranov Ice Base on Severnaya Zemlya

The Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) has opened an airfield for heavy wheeled transport aircraft at the Cape Baranov Ice Base on Severnaya Zemlya, Russia’s largest hydrometeorology observatory. Notably, the new runway will support the operation of North Pole drifting Arctic expeditions.

An-72 and An-74 aircraft operating from Khatanga have already flown in polar explorers, food and expedition equipment to Cape Baranov. The snow-covered airfield can receive transport aircraft of any class.

According to AARI Director Alexander Makarov, the Cape Baranov Ice Base will resupply Arctic expeditions, including drifting North Pole stations. In 2022, these stations resumed operations after Russia deployed an ice-resistant platform.

“The new runway will be a key element in the system of resupplying high-latitude Arctic expeditions and rotating the personnel. Transport aircraft will deliver crews and freight to the Cape Baranov Ice Base. Other aircraft or helicopters will then deliver them to drifting stations or expeditionary ships. We are currently preparing to rotate some of the North Pole-41 expedition members. It is not possible to land an aircraft near the drifting station because there is no appropriate ice floe. Two Mi-8 helicopters will fly polar explorers in. We are planning to rotate six of the ship’s sailors and four expedition members. This operation is quite difficult because helicopters can barely reach the expedition area,” Alexander Makarov said.

Workers started preparing the new runway at the Cape Baranov Ice Base ahead of the North Pole-41 drifting expedition. Unlike many other Arctic and Antarctic airfields, this runway has a permafrost layer, rather than a glacier, under the snow. The runway had to be compacted layer by layer, for greater durability, following the first snowfalls last autumn.