The power of ice

The icebreaker Oden is currently in the shipyard of Landskrona in southern Sweden, where it is being repaired after several years of hard work in the ice-covered Southern Ocean. I had visited Oden many years ago when she had anchored in Stockholm, but my memory of the ship was very vague. It was therefore a great opportunity to visit Oden again, this time on land.

Voices had been raised high last winter, when Sweden was covered by snow and ice, that Oden, who would now be really needed to break up the ice in the Baltic Sea, is not available, but cruising around in the South Atlantic.

Oden was built in 1988 as an icebreaker for the Swedish Maritime Administration, but is now often used for scientific expeditions to the polar South and North Atlantic. The ship is equipped with laboratory equipment and often accommodates up to 60 scientists who carry out experiments, sample the ocean bottom or make measurements. Just a few years ago, an important instrument was added and installed in the belly of Oden: a gigantic multi-beam echo sounder, which allows mapping the sea floor in great detail. Together with all the laboratory facilities, this installation makes Oden an excellent research vessel to explore the unknown parts of the ice-covered polar oceans and their geological histories. The Marine Geology group at the Department of Geological Sciences was the driving force behind the installation of this multi-beam echo sounder.
After all these months of ice breaking in the Southern Ocean, Oden now needs to be repaired. The ice has left its traces. The gigantic turbines need to be fixed or replaced; Oden’s belly is dotted with traces showing how the ship has been battling the ice, the keel has received its share too, and even the part where the multi-beam is placed has been affected. It will take several weeks until Oden can be back in the water and heading for its next mission.

Oden offers a fantastic opportunity for Swedish science researchers. How great to have a ship that can conquer the most distant parts of the world’s oceans, that is excellently equipped with scientific laboratories, and that can accommodate a wide range of scientists. Without Oden and without the participation of marine geologists from Stockholm, we would still not know anything about the bottom topography of the polar oceans and we would not be able to piece together the geological history of these ocean basins.

Interested in reading more about earlier expeditions with Oden? Check out the Southern Ocean expedition; or the Lomonosov Ridge expedition.

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