North Pole Icebreakers

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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North Pole icebreakers belong to a special class of sailing vessels that have enabled explorers to penetrate the most daunting ice fields. The diesel-electric Kapitan Khlebnikov, the nuclear-powered Yamal, and the Kapitan Dranitsyn have been pressed into providing passenger service in the last few years. The increasing popularity of their adventurous itineraries shows that many travelers want to get a closer look at the richness of Antarctica and the Arctic.

The big advantage of these North Pole icebreakers is that they can go where cruise ships cannot. These are not just reinforced ships, but powerful icebreakers that can safely navigate ice fields and flows that might prove disastrous to cruise ships. Special features enable these icebreakers to operate efficiently in the hazardous regions of the North and South Poles. The Kapitan Khlebnikov, for instance, can be operated from two positions: the main bridge, and another bridge toward the rear in case ice must be broken when going backwards.

Itineraries for North Pole Icebreakers

Arctic expeditions in North Pole icebreakers are a revelation for those who think of the Arctic as just a huge iceberg. The islands and archipelagos just within the outer reaches of the Arctic Circle are rich with flora and fauna. The brief summer brings an explosion of flowering plants and food sources for the wildlife to feed on before winter sets in. Passengers on icebreakers can view whales, walruses, birds, musk ox, and polar bears on Franz Joseph Land and the world-famous nature reserve of Wrangel Island.

The Yamal, sailing on one of its adventures from Murmansk, Russia, heads north across the Barents Sea, and breaks into the Arctic pack ice. Here, the awe-inspiring beauty of the wind-polished ice is a vivid contrast to the dark green water. Spectacular fjords, gigantic glaciers, and towering mountains of ice provide a truly unique and exhilarating journey for passengers on these formidable ships.


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