For the centenary of Finnish independence in 2017, a group of researchers will board an expedition of a lifetime. Multipurpose icebreaker Nordica will set sail from Vancouver for Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, through the legendary Northwest Passage.
Arctia, a Finnish company providing icebreaking and specialised
multipurpose vessel services in polar areas, has planned this exotic
transit in Arctic waters. They have invited the researchers to see the
Far North with their own eyes..
"Many researchers who study the Arctic may have never visited the
polar regions. This is a unique opportunity, and I am happy that we were
able to organize this expedition, says Eero Hokkanen, Communications
Manager at Arctia.
Arctia Ltd. wants to develop cooperation with the scientific
community. Many institutes around the world with research interests in
the Arctic do not have the logistical means to access the area. Arctia
can offer its fleet and expertise to help. Facilitating knowledge and
data exchange between industry and academia is also one of the
overarching themes of the Arctic Economic Council AEC chaired by
Arctia’s President and CEO Tero Vauraste in 2017–2019.
“The Arctic 100 Expedition demonstrates the idea of using
icebreakers, and not only the limited number of national polar research
vessels, for research purposes in polar areas. In addition to taking
researchers on board during transit voyages, icebreaker operators could
in the future charter vessels to joint ventures of multiple research
institutes in a flexible way. Arctia Ltd. wants to be in the forefront
of this new way of thinking: pooling and sharing of Arctic assets”, Eero
“We want to give the researchers the possibility to concretely
observe their field of interest; to see, what it is like to be on an
icebreaker far up north, where there is ice throughout the year. They
also get the chance to spend time with each other and discuss their
Nordica can accommodate research equipment and containers. Mobile
labs for oceanographers or marine biologists can be set up in cabins. On
this expedition, the passengers are experts in the fields of law,
humanities and social sciences, so they will not need lab space.
However, the Finnish Meteorological Institutes’ new ice and weather
service concepts will be tested for user experience during the
expedition. The FMI will send MSV Nordica ice, sea and weather forecasts
covering a large area between the Bering Strait and Nuuk. A
meteorologist and a sea expert in duty issue the forecast three times a
week during the transit.
The weather will be cold, with freezing sea sprays. For their summer
trip, the researchers will bring their winter clothes – warm parkas,
thick mittens, woolly hat and sturdy boots. Luckily, there is also a
sauna on the icebreaker.
Science communicator Ari Laakso of the Arctic Centre at the
University of Lapland says that the experience will more than make up
for any lost days in the summer sun.
“A few years back we were building an Arctic science centre
exhibition on board Russian icebreaker Lenin in Murmansk. During that
time, we talked about boarding a Russian icebreaker on the Northern Sea
route. It never happened, but now I get to travel on a Finnish
icebreaker, on a route that very few people have ever sailed. This is
truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
An inland person, Ari Laakso is packing pills against motion sickness.
“We will travel for a bit on the open Pacific Ocean, and seasickness is not something I am keen to experience.”
The Arctic 100 Expedition route is some 2400 nautical miles. The map is indicative only.
During the expedition, Ari Laakso will collect interviews as
material for the Arktikum Science Centre exhibition. Professional
photographer Antti Kurola will capture the trip both on video and in
The science communicator says that sailing in the Arctic waters for
several weeks in July will give a very good general picture of the
current circumstances in the Arctic region.
“I will observe the situation in the light of statistical information
and talk with the crew about their impressions. We do not know what the Nortwest Passage will look like in ten years’ time.”
Ari Laakso is looking forward to the expedition both for professional and for personal reasons.
“There are so many aspects to this trip that I am looking forward to.
It will be interesting to see the majestic sceneries of the Arctic and
to talk with the polar researchers, but I am also excited to get to be
part of the small community of passengers and crew. This is going to be
one of the high points of my career as an Arctic science communicator.
It is an honour to be invited.”
Chief Officer Teemu Alstela works on Sisu, a vessel providing
icebreaking services in the Baltic Sea. With his experience of long
periods on sea, he cautions the passengers that internet connections may
be spotty near the North Pole. Impressive as the views on the Arctic
waters may be, you can only watch the icebergs for so long.
“That is what you need books and films for. On deck seven, Nordica
has a great selection of video games and DVDs from the last millennium”,
Teemu Alstela notes that eating is also a great way to pass time. The
Northwest Passage may add not only to experiences but also to the
waistline. The professional chefs of the Nordica canteen serve
breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks all day and night. The crew works
unusual hours – six hours of duty and six hours of rest round the clock –
so they have their meals at not so ordinary times.
The researchers may indulge in the delicacies, however, as there is
also a gym on board. After work and exercise, sleep comes easy in the
comfortable cabins – unless the midnight sun bothers you.
The northern route from the Pacific to the Atlantic has always
fascinated travellers. The first explorer to cross the complete passage
was Roald Amundsen in 1903-1906. Global warming is now opening routes
that marines have wanted to navigate for centuries. The first cargo ship
sailed through the Northwest Passage in 2013.
Nordica will leave the Canadian Pacific port of Vancouver on July 5.
It is scheduled to arrive in Nuuk on the eastern shore of the Labrador
Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean by August 1. The Arctic 100 Expedition
on this fabled route brings together Finnish expertise in shipbuilding
and icebreaking, as well as the Arctic expertise of Finnish researchers.