Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North review – Horatio Clare signs on for a journey of discovery

A seemingly bleak 10-day mission in the Bay of Bothnia is the source of surprisingly vivid insights into the Finns’ national character

“Would you like to travel on a government icebreaker? I think if you do the journey, something will come of it.” Something does and to Horatio Clare’s great credit, since this could have been a book-length advertorial, he recognises the invitation by the Finnish embassy, to mark the centenary of the country’s independence from Russia, for the PR exercise it is. Nevertheless. Clare, whose Down to the Sea in Ships (2014) chronicled his experiences sailing with the Danish Maersk container company, leaps at the chance.

His berth is aboard the Otso: 7,000 tonnes, 100 metres long, 40 metres high. Its bridge bristles with technology; its engine room, provisioned with 50,000 spare parts, roars with scarcely contained power. It has two saunas (one for officers, one for the ...