An ice cold exploration of Finland and ships, told with style and wit by the author of Down to the Sea in Ships. Clare travels on the icebreaker Otso, which is clearing a path through the Arctic Circle.
Reflecting on climate change, Clare discusses A Farewell to Ice by Peter Wadhams who wrote of how changes in the sea ice will impact human life profoundly over the coming years. He also introduces us to the characters of those who do the dangerous work of icebreaking. There is something very appealing about reading about a whole area of work and life about which you know nothing. In this way it is similar to Mark Vanhoenacker’s joyous book about being a modern pilot, Skyfaring.
There are pleasing nuggets of information, as you find in the best travel books. I am looking forward to using the Finnish word kalsarikännit, which is “The feeling when you are going to get drunk home alone in your underwear – with no intention of going out.” I am already familiar with hygge but this is a useful addition to my vocabulary.
Another pleasure of this book was the reminders to read or reread other eclectic Arctic literature, of which Clare is a fan. He reminded me to reread Arto Paasilinna’s Year of the Hare.
This would be a great present for any armchair (or actual) traveller who favours ice, snow and the Arctic. Clare’s turn of phrase is vivid: “The ice stretches to opaque horizons. As the lines of the forest fall away behind us, all bearings seem lost”.