Making a trip per icebreaker over a frozen sea is not something you do every day. So it is certainly worthwhile to make this excursion, because it is guaranteed to be an experience that will forever be in your memory!
Creaking ice, cold wind and to make the experience even more special, you can walk the frozen sea via a staircase and even take an ice-cold dip. You will experience the meter-thick ice mass under your feet, with nothing but a white plain and the icebreaker around you.
Get on board in Kemi
This city in Finland is one of the places where you can take a day trip with such an ice breaker. Kemi is located at the mouth of the ‘Kemijoki’ river and flows into the Gulf of Bothnia three quarters of the year. But the sea is, as it were, enclosed between Finland and Sweden, which is why the other quarter of the year both the river and the gulf itself are frozen and covered with a thick layer of ice.
The icebreaker Sampo
The icebreaker with which you set off from Kemi has the name Sampo. The ship is equipped with a giant steel nose, with which he can effortlessly sail through meters of frozen ice. Once on board you will be welcomed by the ship’s captain and all safety rules will be explained. Then the ship leaves the port and sails towards the open sea.
The first part of the journey the ship travels via the shipping route that is already ‘cracked’. This part of the route sails the icebreaker every day and as a result a kind of waterway has been created with ice floes everywhere, where other ships can also sail normally. After sailing for an hour or two, the captain announces that it is time for the real thing: namely to drill through the thick ice. It is best to admire this spectacle from the bow of the ship and most passengers hang overboard to see how the colossus makes its way through the meters-thick ice.
As soon as the Sampo hits the ice, you hear the ice crack with a deafening noise and it is as if a shiver is going through the entire ship. For a moment you have the idea that the ship is going to collapse, but then the boat pushes itself through the thick layer of ice with an enormous force. The course is continued slowly and large ice floes are pushed aside as if they were not there.
Take an ice cold dip in the sea
This is without a doubt the highlight of the trip! It may not sound very attractive at first, but if you continue, you will have the experience of your life once you float around in the ice floes. Because you would otherwise be frozen to death within two minutes, you naturally do not go into the water unprotected. Everyone who is going to take the plunge is hoisted in a bright orange survival suit.
The suit is made of sturdy rubber and you keep on your normal clothes and shoes. Your hands are also in the suit and over your head comes a protective hood that is sealed at your face with a rubber band, so that no water can enter the suit. Then you waddle like a bloated penguin through a gangway to the ice. Due to the cracking of the ice behind the ship a piece of sea became visible where it is (almost) free of ice and that is where you finally enter the water.
After the detailed and important instructions, the time has finally come to sink into the water very carefully. Because the suit is so thick, you only feel the cold pulling through your body after a while. It is a special feeling to float on your back in the water with only ice and a huge ship in the background. When you have fished out of the water again, it is nice to admire how the other passengers are doing. Back on board, the captain shares a polar bear certificate as a reward for the successful completion of the dive.
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