Basic facts about Icebreaker Ships

An Icebreaker, as the name suggests, is a ship specifically designed to travel through ice-covered water, breaking the ice along the way and clearing a safe path for itself and other ships.  

In order to be able to navigate through the ice-covered seas, icebreakers require three main characteristics: a strengthened hull, a unique ice-clearing shape, and enough power to enable the ship to break through the ice.

Polar Explorer Icebreaker


The History of Ice Breakers and Arctic Exploration

The first explorers of the arctic seas were the indigenous arctic people, who used kayaks, which, of course, could not break through the ice, but rather were light enough to carry over the frozen water.

Next came the Vikings, who travelled the North Atlantic in the 9th and 10th centuries. They, however, traveled through the mostly ice-free waters of the relatively warm Medieval Period.

The first actual icebreakers date all the way back to the 11th century, when the inhabitants of the shores of the Arctic Ocean invented a special kind of reinforced sailing ship, called Kochi, that was suited for the icy conditions of the arctic seas and serve as the first arctic icebreaker.


Modern Icebreakers

In the 19th century, the first steam-powered icebreakers were built using similar reinforcement measures to create the strongest wooden ships ever built. In 1964, the Russians built an icebreaker named Pilot, which is considered the predecessor of the modern propeller icebreakers.

Today’s Icebreakers are either diesel or nuclear-powered, and serve many different purposes – from keeping trade routes open, through assisting in scientific research to providing cruises for tourists.


Icebreaker in Lapland

Icebreaker Sampo located at Kemi and departs from Port of Ajos in Kemi.

Our own Polar Explorer use as Arctic icebreaker in Swedish Lapland. The Icebreaker was originally built in 1976, and today offers tourists and residents of Lapland a chance to sail the icy waters and enjoy the unique adventure of a 3-hour icebreaker cruise. Rovaniemi, located in in northern Finland, also has fascinating historical sites.