Monthly Archives: March 2014

North Pole Skydive part 5: Longest flight delay in history…

My wife and I have surely an issue with flights in Russia. Once we missed the connection the day before Christmas Eve in Sheremetsova and had to arrange new tickets to our final destination in Hanoi. The story is a long one, but it surely included some tension, and we were almost thrown out of the country, as we had no visas, so our little stay at the airport (that was almost 24 hours) was close to become an international diplomatic conflict. However, that trip ended with about USD 2000 shorter and celebrating Christmas Eve in the air.
But I guess the kids are used as we once spent Christmas Eve on a bus in Sri Lanka, without any luggage, but with great company….

Today we almost lost a participant due to a visa issue. The problem was that the visa expired (as the waiting for a weather window has been so long) and it had to be extended with a couple of days. Really just a standard procedure, but nevertheless it took 5 persons about 6 hours at the immigration office.

I have spent today, as most other days in Murmansk with the normal routine:
Train, Eat, Work, Train, Eat, Work, Train, Eat, Work, Sleep.
Not so bad, but now eventually the waiting might be over.

We had a briefing this evening about the Barneo skydive and it seems we are leaving with the massive IL76 jet tomorrow morning. Weather permitting, I will be going to sleep in a tent at the pole tomorrow. No blog update from there, I assure you.

By the way, I found this article in Swedish about this years camp.

http://swedish.ruvr.ru/2014_03_30/Expedition-Barneo-13-ar-i-Arktis-4621/

I was also told by Dimi, the chief that the camp has already had 2 visits by an ice bear with 2 cubs. Interesting you think, but these are no teddy bears. It is actually unusual for the bears to roam so far north, but clearly the global warming is changing things.

Vaya Con Dios.

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North Pole Skydive part 4: Waiting for Weather and How to Swim in Russia

Waiting for a weather window. Depressing and its becoming the most delayed flight in history. But not much to do about it.

Today I went to the local swimming pool. It was actually the third time I went there. The problem is that you cannot book in advance, but once you get there, it may be full.

However, today I was successful. Barely.

I was told that it is not that much people in the pool on Saturdays, so I would be ok if I got there at about 1 pm. I knew the swimming slot started at 1, so I was there 15 minutes before, in order to change etc.

When I got there, there was a small que up to the Kassa, the counter. Just 6 or 7 people. But it was very slow moving and not much happened. After surely 10 or 15 minutes even the Russians startet to get very annoyed and upset. Apparently there was some problem with the “computer”… So eventually the lady stopped trying to work on the computer, and just charged us and gave me a small ticket. It was not very cheap by russian standards, it costed like 6 euros.

Then I had to take this ticket and go to the next counter, the Administrator. There, I was supposed to change the first ticket to another one.

Next stop was the wardrobe where i handed in my jacket and shoes and instead I got a pair of old plastic sandals.

Finally on my way to the pool. So I was pointed in the direction of the locker room, and got changed. Once there, after changing, I had to hand in my clothes in another counter, and got a fourth ticket. Now I was ready to swim. Only problem was that now the time was way past one, and I knew that I could only swim until 1.45…

It is actually an olympic size pool with about 10 lanes. Of course I walked around and looked for the fastest lane, when yet another lady came up to me and tried to explain, in Russian, that I could only choose among lane 6 or 7. Not really Fastlane there, I tell you. I am not the best swimmer, but at least decent. I have no problem with slower swimmers, but here, the problem was, as in Singapore, that there was no discipline. Nor was there any difference in speed between the two public lanes. Mine was crowded with people swimming breaststroke, double back stroke and one just kicking. One or two wouldnt Swim to the right, but swam in the middle of the lane all the time. Quite annoying.

After 30 minutes the time was up, as it was 1.45 now, and I guess it was time for the next group. I did, however, get to swim 2000 meters during those 30 minutes.

Very interesting experience to swim in new countries. I have to say that Singapore with its many many 50 m outdoor pools that are open until 10 pm and cost 50 cent is unbeatable.

On my way back to the hotel I tried to get a haircut, but I could just find a hairdresser for women.

Stay tuned.

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North Pole Skydive part 3: The Kit

This is the third blogpost in a series of an epic trip, The North Pole Skydive.

The aircraft that is to take us to the Barneo Ice cap is a big wide body jet airliner. Currently beeing used also in the search operations after the MH370 outside Australia.
It easily carries the weight of the 2 tractors that are to be dropped at Barneo, plus a lot of fuel, supplies etc etc.

The exit ramp opens in the rear, and is both very high and wide, so it takes about a second before the wind hits when jumping. And the wind hits hard. The IL76 can only reduce the speed to about 300 km per hour, which is very much in skydiving, only that is apparently an experience!
It takes about 45 tonnes of load, when it has so much fuel that is necessary back and forth to the North Pole.

Some pictures of the beast and the loading.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilyushin_Il-76

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=g11Ugx86SLQ

The plane that will, once the landing strip is built on Barneo North Pole, will shuttle tourist from Svalbard is an equally amazing Antonov 74. Specifically designed for arctic conditions, and can land on a 600 meter landing strip “if necessary”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonov_An-74

The Kit I will be wearing on my jump is as follows :

  • Merino wool and GoCoCo long underwear
  • GoCoCo Compression socks (http://www.gococo.se)
  • GoCoCo Ski socks
  • Long Bibs of therman long underwear, polartec
  • Houdini Houdie
  • Warm windproof vest
  • Klattermusen GoreTex Ski wear
  • Icebug Sorix (http://icebug.se/produkter/sorix/?device=t)
  • Windstopper and Polartec Balaclava
  • Warm and windproof Hat
  • Polar Hat
  • Big Thinsulate inner Mitts plus GoreTex outer shells.
  • Ski Goggles
  • That should do it.
    Once on the Ice, I will get the great opportiunity to make use of my other cold weather gear .- the Marmoth 8000m Parka. I sure wont freeze in that….

    When going through my kit, the instructors had some major issues with my headwear. Jumping as a tandem, I wont be using a helmet, hence I need other head protection for the cold. Despite my great gear, I was forced to go buy myself a third hat, the polar hat. When looking around in town, the first one I found and liked was a Canada Goose, looked great, but costed Euro 220…. Then I wound anther brand which was on sale for about Euro 15. I was tempted to buy the Goose one, but it just didnt make sense.

    The russians were, however VERY impressed with my great Icebug Sorix Winter boots, http://icebug.se/produkter/sorix/?device=t , I must say they are amazing, and for the polar adventurers the spikes on the Sorix are just perfect. In fact perfect for any extended stay in the cold….

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    North Pole Skydive part 2: The Team

    This is the second blogpost in a series of an epic trip, The North Pole Skydive.

    Welcome back to post number 2. The expedition is on the way, and the first team and helicopters are now landed and have identified a good spot for the most northerly landing strip in the world.
    The Tractors, which are to make the landing strip are to be sent and airdropped tomorrow or Saturday at latest.
    The interesting thing with the logistics, is that unless the tractors can be landed and a strip can be made, there is practically no way to evacuate the first guys from the Barneo Camp. There is simply no way to land, except for the helicopters, which have a very limited range of flying, comparing with the IL76 ot Antonov 74, which flyes from Longyearbyen at Svalbard, once the landing strip is completed on the ice

    Now this blog is a short post about the team. Clearly, I am (as often before??) the odd one. But in this case, I might seem to be the most normal bloke.

    There is the russian air rescue rangers, all really hard core guys, many of them have skydived the North Pole many times. Some of them have been contracted to set up a similar camp on Antartctica due to their experience, working for the Argentinians. The head of the expedition, Dimitriy, is the head caracter of the film I posted in my last post. I believe he has put up the Barneo camp 8 or 9 times, if I remember correctly. It may have been more.

    My tandem pilot is a nice guy with a couple of thousand skydives under the belt. Not really promising that he has the grim reaper on the back of his jacket…. I am not a small guy, but this fellow is a head taller than I…

    The party which I am with are quite international, one cosmopolitan, an american, a czech, a russian guy, a brit. And I.

    Common denominator for these guys is that all have about, or many more than, 1000 skydives and or BASE jumps. 4 of them have in common that they have skydived Everest. Yes, that is the big mountain in Nepal.

    The comopolitan is Omar Alhegelan, and if you know skydiving you have heard of him. One of the absolute pioneers of Freeflying!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeflying

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=u3AmZ6aJldI

    More than 17000 skydives under the belt and he was part of the First Everest Skydive in 2008. Also one of the handful that left an airplane and skydived into another one, without using the canopy….

    Stay tuned, next post about logistics, planes, airstrips.

    P

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    North Pole Skydive part 1: The Trip

    This is the first blog in a series of an epic trip, The North Pole Skydive.

    As some of you know and others have figured out, I am, weather permitting, going to the North Pole. Every year, there is a camp set up on the ice cap by Russian teams, close to the North Pole. The purpose with this camp is for a yearly handful number of adventurers, tourists and scientists.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barneo

    Every year, the camp is also closed after a month of business or so.
    There is even an Arctic marathon each year.

    Most people fly in from Svalbard on a round trip with an Antonov 74, perfect for the arctic conditions.

    I have, however, the opportunity to be part of the pioneering team. There is an incredible logistics involved, which I will post in a later post. In general, it includes flying in with 2 helicopters from Franz Josefs land to the ice cap. The choppers will get fuel dumped by a wide body jet an Illusion IL76 so they can continue to the North Pole to set up a camp. The IL76 is no small jet, it is currently beeing used in the search for MH370 outside Australia. The IL 76 then takes several trips from Murmansk to drop supplies to the camp, including 2 tractors needed to make the runway at Barneo, so the Antonov 74 can land from Svalbard.

    All supplies are dropped by parachute from the IL76. So will I. I will skydive a tandem jump and hopefully help with setting up the runway before the other tourists arrive from Svalbard Longyearbyen.

    To get an understanding of how far North it is, imagine a 4 hour journey with a jet liner from Murmansk up north and you get there.

    An ITV film about Barneo
    http://www.itv.com/news/2013-04-12/barneo-science-camp-ice-north-pole-lawrence-mcginty/

    A more raw Russian docu about life at Barneo
    http://russia.tv/brand/show/brand_id/42387

    Currently, there is a small delay in waiting for the lift. The helicopters are on site and scouting for the best spot. Just now I am waiting in Murmansk for departure, after some transfer in Moscow.

    Stay tuned for the next post….

    P

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    Skiing and cross country skiing

    I have been spending the last couple of days in Norway, Trysil for great skiiking and great company. Mostly, I’ve been telemarking, but I also had the opportunity to do two sets of cross country skiing. The first was an 8 km fight against the elements – dusk, whiteout, wind, drifting snow and no tracks. It was a fight against mind and nature, but well equiped, the experience is always better – Fusion, X-Kross and GoCoCo are permanent supporters!
    The second one was a very nice 22 km trip around the fjell. Magic weather, even though the tracks could have been better.

    Now on my way to Continental Europe.

    Next week, new challeenges. It will be an (or a series of) awesome blog update(s).

    Trust me.

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