A majestic vessel, Arctic Icebreaker Sampo takes you on a truly unique cruise; the thundering sound of more than 3 500 tons of steel crushing the thick ice of the Gulf of Bothnia leaves even the most seasoned seafarers awestruck.
Operational since the early Sixties, Sampo ploughed open the frozen seas of Finland for trade vessels for 25 years before ending up as a tourist attraction in the northern port town of Kemi in 1987. Sampo quickly became popular with locals and visitors alike, and why wouldn’t it have: How many regular people have the chance to board an icebreaker and witness it in action?
The colossal clash between the massive bulk of steel and the thick coat of ice is an extreme experience in its own right, but it’s not all a cruise on Sampo offers.
You’ll get a guided tour of the ship complete with visits to the engine room and the captain’s bridge, but THE thing to do is to swim in the frozen sea. Yes, you read right, but don’t worry; it’s not obligatory and if you decide to take that leap of faith, you’ll be geared up with a survival suit.
With expert guides helping you through the process, getting into the waterproof suit is pretty simple and hey presto – you’re ready for a refreshing bath! We admit that the idea of floating between blocks of ice in a frozen sea does seem quite frightening, but you can’t deny it also looks like fun!
Inside the suit, the desire to get into the water is irresistible. A couple of steps down to the edge of the ice and in you go.
Once in the water the feeling is incredible. You will soon realise that it is warmer (or less cold, depending on the point of view) in the water than on the ice. As a matter of fact, the water is never colder than zero degrees – any less and it would freeze.
Floating in icy water is a totally safe activity, and you don’t need to know how to swim because the neoprene suit makes you float. On top of that, the watchful eyes of the staff are on you all the time as you frolic in the Bothnian Sea.
Rather than swimming, the best way to enjoy the icy pool is to float still near the stern of the icebreaker and enjoy the colours of Finland: the blue of the sky and the white of the ice.
A cruise on the icebreaker Sampo makes for great party talk later on as it gives a whole new meaning to “breaking the ice”.
A little hike on the Gulf of Bothnia gives a perspective to how thick the ice really is – you could drive a tank over it. Sampo breaks it like twigs underfoot.
Sampo is a remarkable ship where the crew lets you climb on the command bridge as well as go down to the engine room to listen to the powerful roar.
Land ahoy! Here’s a good tip: make sure you white balance your camera meticulously before boarding Sampo.
So what are you waiting for? Get on board and let Sampo give you a run for your money!
Take a look at the geographical shape of Finland and you’ll see why people call her “The Finnish Maiden”. At the tip of her thumb is the only part of the country where peaks rise 1,000 metres above sea level. Nestled in those peaks you will find a tiny village called Kilpisjärvi, home to roughly a hundred year-round residents.