Polar explorer Icebreaker

Polar Explorer Icebreaker guided tour

Introduction

Welcome aboard! We are pleased to host you on the Polar Explorer icebreaker cruise and invite you to explore the 7 decks of this unique ship tour that will take you all the way down to the machine room and up to the captain’s bridge. During this tour you will discover and experience how the icebreaker operates and navigates through the ice-covered waters in rough Arctic and Antarctic seas.

 The icebreaker is a unique vessel. Unlike other ships, the icebreaker has a specially designed reinforced hull to withstand the pressure of the ice, an ice-clearing shape to cut a channel through the frozen waters, and the great power to push through sea ice.

The Polar Explorer icebreaker was built at 1976 in Germany as an ice-class, anchor-handling, tug and supply vessel. The ship is used to towing large barges around the world from Norway to Brazil. It also handles anchors for oil rigs in the Arctic Ocean and brings supplies, such as water and food, to crews on oil rigs.

The Polar Explorer is 78 metres long, 14 meters wide and 22 meters high and has 7 decks.

It can navigate in water that is a minimum of 5 meters deep.

During our stop at sea, the depth is approximately 10-15 meters. This is where you are welcome to swim in floating survival suits.

You’ll be able to watch how the ship starts breaking the ice as soon as it leaves the quay.

Our tour includes 7 stations; you can see signs directing you to the stations all over the ship. You don’t need to follow the stations according to numerical order. You can visit any station during the cruise. Just reach your desired station.

You are free to enter any areas on the icebreaker except those with “crew only” signs.

During the cruise we’re going to have a stop for approximately one hour. At that time you’ll be able to swim in a survival suit in the freezing cold sea water. It’s absolutely safe and does not require any swimming ability.

swim in floating survival suits

Swim in a survival suit

To avoid the line, please make sure you know the swimming time confirmed for you at check-in. You can always verify the time with the info point staff.

Station 1 “Main Deck” is located beside the info point. We recommend you to start the  tour from here.

Station 1: Main deck (back of the icebreaker)

You’re now on the main deck of the Polar Explorer – at the rear of the icebreaker. This is deck number 3 where you enter and exit the ship, and is also the main deck and the biggest deck.

You can see the large winches with the steel cables used to handle anchors and extract stuck ships. These cables are 2,000 meters long.

This deck is also used to store water, food and other necessities for delivery to oil rigs in the Arctic Ocean. It is 350 square meters in size and can fit up to 6 buses or about 30 cars.

Swimming activities will start from main deck. You can also exit to walk on the ice cap when the ship makes its stop. For your safety, follow the instructions of the crew, they will indicate if the ice is thick enough for a walk.

back deck

Main deck

 To continue the tour, you can enter the door on the right side for that leads to station 4 – the machine room. You can also take the stairs up on the left side and proceed to station 3 – the cafeteria or go to station 2, the front deck. Please watch your step since the deck and the steps might be slippery.

Station 2: Front deck (face of the icebreaker)

You are on the front deck of the Polar Explorer – the face of the icebreaker. This is deck number 5. Please watch your step since the deck and the steps might be slippery.

Front deck

Front deck

This is the best view point. On clear days you can see many kilometres ahead. From the sides of this deck you can observe the ice breaking. To see above the railing, please use the steps. The best view is from the sides, not from the middle.

How does an icebreaker actually break the ice? The specially built bow has a 45-degree angle and two swords to crack ice up to 2 meters thick and push it down and sideways. The sound of ice breaking is powerful!

There is also a bow thruster in the front of the ship that can move the bow sideways and an azimuth thruster in the middle of the ship that can steer the ship in any direction. This means that the ship can maneuver with great precision.

Two massive anchors are attached on the both side of the bow. Each of them weighs as much as 2,100 kilos. A third, spare, anchor is located in the back of the main deck.

To continue the tour please return to the door and take the stairs up to station 7, the captain’s bridge or take the stairs down to station 3, the cafeteria. Please watch your step since the deck and the steps might be slippery.

Station 3: Cafeteria (belly of the icebreaker)

The kitchen on the ship is called a galley. The Polar Explorer’s original galley now houses the cafeteria.

Of the various jobs on ships, one of the most important and often neglected professions is that of ship’s cook. Deckhands are sailors who perform manual labour like cleaning and serving meals to passengers, but the responsibility of making those meals falls on the shoulders of the ship’s cook.

Cooking on board is very unlike cooking ashore. There are few major differences: What’s on Board is What You’ve Got – there are no supplies available at sea; Then, there’s the limited space, cooking from scratch, motion of the boat, limited fresh water, limited equipment and the same “customers” every day, a few times a day.

However, the vessel has water-making equipment that produces up to 5 cubic meters of fresh water per day. That’s very essential for long voyages.

It needs to be noted that ship galley jobs pay very well and that’s a major attraction to being a ship’s cook. In addition to this, the job offers a very high level of exposure not just to various destinations but also to a variety of international dishes and cuisines.

There are sitting areas on two decks. The galley is on deck number 4 – over the main deck and under the front deck. Another sitting area is available downstairs on deck 3, at the same level as the main deck.

On deck 3 you’ll find a room that used to be the ship’s hospital, but now it’s used as info point and the icebreaker souvenir shop. Because they spend months at sea, all ships have to have an isolation area for sick crew members to avoid spreading an infection. In the past, this hospital room was equipped with 2 beds, and closets with medicines and first aid items.

Doctors were not always available at sea, but ships’ crews are trained in rescue operations and first aid.

The sitting area near the hospital was once a living area. It used to consist of 7 air-conditioned cabins for crew members, each cabin with its own toilet and shower and one bed. Now you can see there are still 2 cabins remaining for use by crew members who stay aboard the Polar Explorer all the time. Other cabins have been removed to create spacious areas for tourist passengers. There are another 6 double cabins on the upper decks for the Polar Explorer crew members.

To continue the tour please go via the main deck to station 4, the machine room, or take the stairs up to station 2, the front deck. Please watch your step as the deck and the steps might be slippery.

Station 4: Machine room (heart of icebreaker)

Before entering the noisy machine room, listen to this explanation now. Once you’ve heard the explanation, put on your ear protectors before you go inside. You’ll find the ear protectors before the staircase leading down. Please remember to return the ear protectors after leaving the machine room.

After passing the narrow corridor, on your left, you’ll see 8 green cylinders – this is one of the ship’s two massive engines, manufactured by the German company Mak. The part you see is the top of the engine. The top of the engine has one of the motor heads open, showing the pistons running at their peak. The engine is like an iceberg – you can see only the top. If you look down thought the next floor, you will see the entire body of the engine which is about 4 meters high, 10 meters long and 2 meters wide.

This 8 cylinder-engine alone provides about 4,730 horsepower. In addition to this engine there is an identical engine on the other side of the room. These two engines bring the power of the ice-breaker to 9,460 horsepower. A 365-degree thruster of 1,000 break horsepower – the power available at the shaft of an engine – can be used when necessary. Offshore, the thruster is normally mostly on standby. Altogether, the maximum available power is 10,460 horsepower. That’s equal to the power of 77 Toyota Corolla cars or 21,000 Olympic class rowers.

This engine power is needed not only to cut a channel through the ice, but also to carry cargo or pull another ship or an oil rig via the channel.

8 cylinder-engine

8 cylinder-engine

The fuel used for the icebreaker is diesel. Consumption is 500 litres per hour.
There are a few tanks with a total capacity of 984 cubic meters – almost 1,000 tonnes of fuel. We are now moving at a speed 7 to 9 knots. At this speed, over ice that is 1 meter thick, the icebreaker consumes 500 litres of diesel per hour. Imagine that the Polar Explorer can sail continuously though the ice for 1,968 hours. That’s 82 days of non-stop movement and icebreaking! This is a very important feature for ships sailing long distances through difficult icy waters with no possibility to refuel.

There are two diesel generators and one shaft generator that provide electricity all over the ship. These are located behind each engine.

The white pipes you can see in the middle are the engine cooling system. The system is similar to the kind a car has, but uses only sea water. The same system produces fresh water for daily use.

At the other end of the room is the work station for the engine room staff. It has a variety of equipment to be used in order to repair or manufacture parts while at sea.

In the middle of the machine room you can see a door with a glass window. This is control room.  Please proceed through that door to continue the tour.

Station 5: Control room (nerves of icebreaker)

You are in the control room, where the chief engineer monitors the sensors and analyses the condition of the motor. It also contains important operational equipment. The marine chief engineer is a key member of the crew aboard the icebreaker.
His task is to oversee the entire marine engineering department on the vessel. He is responsible for the maintenance and operation of all engineering equipment. In addition to the chief engineer there are 3 more engineering team members on board.

engine

Engine

In the control room there is a variety of sensors for control and maintenance.
These range from the simplest, such as oil and overheating controllers, to sensors that will show serious faults that require immediate attention by the engineers.

All equipment can be operated automatically and thanks to the modern alarm system, the control room can be left empty and without monitoring for 12 hours at a time.

To continue to the next station, please go out of the control room and follow the sign to Icebreaker Theatre.

Stage 6 Icebreaker theatre (memory of icebreaker) 

Welcome to Icebreaker Theatre. This auditorium-style room had a different use during the Polar Explorer’s industrial age. Four huge cement tanks were located here, each of which could store 50 cubic meters of cement. Cement was needed for oil industry. After oil is discovered in the bed of the Arctic Ocean, deep holes are drilled to extract it. These holes are tunnels out of which oil flows under pressure and so they have to be kept open. For this reason the walls of the tunnel had to be reinforced with cement. The task of the Polar Explorer in those days was to supply cement to oil extraction sites in the Arctic Sea.

Icebreaker ships all over the world perform multiple tasks. Some only make the channels in the frozen seas for other ships. Others, like Polar Explorer, are multi-functional. The construction and appearance of each icebreaker ship can be very different, depending on its function. The main secret of the icebreaker is hidden under the water – its strong hull and bow to break the ice. The hull’s sides are designed in a special way so that the ice cannot press against the vessel under water if it gets stuck. This specific construction is what make the ship an icebreaker and gives it its “Ice Class” designation.

Enjoy this 10-minute video about different icebreakers in the world in different times.

Once you’ve finished watching the video, return to main deck and chose the direction to the next station of the tour. Please remember to return your ear protectors after leaving the machine departments.

Station 7: Captain’s bridge (eyes of icebreaker)

Welcome to the captain’s bridge. This is the eyes of the icebreaker. You are now at a height of 14 m above the sea. Panorama windows let you observe front and back decks, and the sea all around.

Why it is called “bridge” if it doesn’t even look like a bridge? Traditionally, sailing ships were commanded from the quarterdeck. With the arrival of paddle steamers, engineers required a platform from which the captain could inspect the paddle wheels and where the captain’s view would not be obstructed by the paddle houses. A raised walkway connecting the paddle houses – literally a bridge – was therefore provided. When the screw propeller superseded the paddle wheel, the bridge was no longer an actual bridge, but the name remained.

The bridge of a ship is the room from which the ship can be commanded. When a ship is underway the bridge is manned by an “officer of the watch” aided by an “able seaman” acting as lookout. During critical manoeuvres the captain will be on the bridge, supported by the 1st Officer at the wheel and sometimes a pilot if required.

Multiple equipment and systems are used to manoeuvre the massive ship in the frozen sea. You can find a gyro compass, dual radars, GPS, autopilot, electronic charts and various communication equipment.

The ship has two steering posts, one in the front part of the bridge, which is used for sailing forward, and the other in the rear to facilitate port mooring, anchor handling and, in the past, cargo supply for oil rigs as well.

In order to enter the maritime territory of another country the vessel must contact the local port and hoist the flag of that country. That is why you can see, in the back of the room on the left, a selection of world flags that are flown from by the ship at the entrance to the maritime borders of different countries.

Thank you for touring our ship. We hope that you enjoyed this tour and that you will share this unique experience with your friends at home.

Want more? Read about Rovaniemi attractions, in Finish Lapland.

 

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