An icy open sea extends ahead. Underneath, 75 metres of steel is pushing its way through the cold ice, powered by a strong diesel engine.
Icebreaker Sampo, built in Helsinki in 1961, is cleaving the northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia. Sampo was on official duty as an icebreaker until 1987, assisting commercial vessels in navigating the wintry sea to their destinations. Today, the vessel braves the seas offering memorable experiences to 150 tourists at a time.
The four-hour cruise culminates in the passengers floating in the newly opened water. Moving about in orange floatation suits is as awkward as it must be for an astronaut to walk in space. The icy sea radiates coldness through the suit, but the passengers are overjoyed at the opportunity to play among blocks of ice in the water.
The Helsinki shipyard, nowadays Arctech Helsinki Shipyard, has built more icebreakers than any other shipyard in the world. That is also where icebreaker Sampo was built in the 1960s. The latest vessel manufactured at the shipyard is Polaris, the world’s first icebreaker to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG). The goal of the 115-metre vessel is to offer more environmentally friendly service in the demanding conditions of the Baltic Sea for the next 50 years.
Finnish exports in the wintertime have relied on the tireless work of icebreakers since the beginning of the 20th century. Since 1971, icebreakers have made it possible for marine traffic to continue along the entire coast throughout the year. In the future, this expertise will be used even more around the globe, as the world turns to the Arctic waters!
By Hannele Tavi, ThisisFINLAND Magazine 2017