[Icebreaker at work]

An icebreaker does exactly what it sounds like, a boat that breaks through sea ice using a strengthened hull and a wide ice clearing girth. Recognizing increased seasonal access as both opportunity and hazard, countries like the US have recently increased their interest in developing a new fleet of icebreakers. It takes a minimum of about 8 years to develop and construct an icebreaker. Russia maintains a fleet of about 14 icebreakers compared to only 3 for the Unites States. Meanwhile, Canada operates 21 of the world's estimated 110 icebreakers.

[The Healy, shown in May 2007 in the Bering Sea, is an ice-breaking ship used mainly for science. Photo: United States Coast Guard.]

The largest is a nuclear-powered Russian ship called 50 Years of Victory - which took about 20 years to construct. Its crew and staff of 140 serves about 128 guests. The ship has a dining room, a professional bartender, indoor pool, gym and sauna, a library, store, and other amenities. (Would set you back $30k for a trip in it from Murmansk to North Pole.)

[Plans from 50 Years of Victory.]
[50 Years of Victory crushing ice in the Arctic Ocean.]

The European Union is funding an icebreaker / drilling platform combination called the Aurora Borealis which is scheduled for its first run in 2014. It will be the world's first icebreaker that is also a drilling ship and will operate year-round, although it will only drill in the summer months.

[Aurora Borealis, sheer plan (AWI/SCHIFFKO GmbH visualised by quitte|pruin architekten, Hamburg, Germany)]
[Aurora Borealis]
[Testing the icebreaking capacity of the Aurora Borealis. Tests by Aker Arctic Technology in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: AWI/Jan Meier, Bremen]

Related Post: Thawing Continent(s) and Moving Islands

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