When you are signing up with a North Pole icebreaker cruise, one of the main attractions on offer is the ship, 50 Let Pobedy, which will take you to the Frozen Frontier. It is a nuclear-powered Russian behemoth, powered by two nuclear reactors and generating 75,000 horsepower. It was specifically designed to clear a path for cargo and research vessels.

50 Let Pobedy means fifty years of victory in Russian. With the capacity to smash through a multi-year build-up of ice up to three meters thick, she is the largest icebreaker ever built! However, before you get to boast about riding her, we thought you should know what an icebreaker actually is and how it works. Just so you are best prepared.

So, without further ado, let us sail right into the thick of things!

What Is an Icebreaker Ship?

As the name suggests, the main function of an icebreaker ship is to, well, break the ice. Literally. In essence, it is like a huge tank – built to ram through the thick pack of ice and floes on the poles. In essence, this is a ship with a very specialized design that does most of its work by charging headlong into icy waters where nobody else dares go.

During the winters, seasonal ice can clog up many maritime routes across the world. Usually, this happens in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and other areas of import. They achieve this by strengthening the hull of the vessel to withstand much higher amounts of pressure than normal ships. This is what allows them to smash through the ice.

By doing this, they not only clear the way for other vessels but also help escort them through the thick ice. This can be commercial, research, or freight vessels. They also heavily support research programs in polar research – as you will find out when you make plans with Poseidon!

How Does It Work?

The engineering that goes into creating an icebreaker is amazing, to say the least. As we mentioned earlier, the key to an icebreaker is a strong hull. This idea has been around since the 11th century when polar communities around the Arctic used reinforced hull boats to navigate the ice.

Nowadays, icebreaker ships boast a double hull that has two layers of water-tight surfaces at the vessel’s bottom and sides. The steel used to create these hulls is also resistant to the extremely low temperatures of the poles, as well as thick enough to retain their shape and strength in the face of thick pack ice.

Speaking of shape, the hulls of icebreakers are rounded instead of being pointy. This is to reduce the pressure they take and distribute it over a wider area to take less damage. This is in conjunction with a sloping – sometimes rounded – stem and sloping sides. When coupled with the high-strength steel that is resistant to brittle fractures in low temperatures, this makes them virtually indestructible.

The other main contributing factor to the success of icebreakers is powers. There are no two ways about it: you need power if you want to smash through the ice. And you need a lot of it. Modern icebreakers, be it diesel or nuclear power, have this covered and readily spear their way through floes.

But they do not do it how you think. Icebreakers do not simply do a bull rush and charge into ice, hoping for the best. If they did that, the pack ice would stop them sooner than later because it goes on for kilometers at times, and nothing has the power to push against that. Besides, if you spend too much time pushing ahead, the ice might close up behind you and trap you.

Instead, icebreakers employ a sawing strategy, where they smash in and then back out before ramming again. They do this repeatedly, opening up paths a little at a time. However, this constant movement does not allow ice to close up behind their wake and trap them. It wastes a lot of fuel this way, but it gets the job done.


Icebreakers are a marvel of modern engineering, and to be able to see one in action is a rare treat indeed. Which is why you should travel with us! The 50 Let Podeby might look like a monster, but she is a gentle giant. Fitted with a gourmet restaurant and other things you don’t expect on an icebreaker, she is designed to get you to the pole and back in style!

Besides, what could be a better icebreaker at a date than a tale about an actual icebreaker? Don’t miss out on this experience! Sign up with us now!

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