Categories Collaborations Finland Hotels Life Changing Experiences Recent Discoveries Scandinavia

Finland: Icebreaker Sampo – Swimming in Subzero Temperatures

Monday, January 22, 2018
Finland: Icebreaker Sampo – Swimming in Subzero TemperaturesLike5

Breaking the Ice on an Icebreaker Sampo
in Kemi, Finland

Sleeping Under The Stars

Everything you need to know!

SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS, IN THE MIDDLE OF A FROZEN SEA

ON BOARD AN ICEBREAKER TO SWIM IN DEEP ICE WATER!

WHY KEMI

It’s really a whole new feeling when you realize you’re in charge of your life, your thoughts, and your actions—or inaction. Being in an isolated area with nothing but endless horizon of ice and nothing else in sight has had a huge impact on me. It felt almost like everything away from here had no significant value to me anymore and, at the same time had all the value in the world.

I could go on and on about how this trip has helped me grow, but instead, I felt that this journey has helped me realize that nothing is quite impossible… at least for me.

It was not as scary as I imagined, to put two steps forward, go to the places I always dreamed of going to. It was a little nerve wrecking out of excitement, but physically, not impossible.

I always believed that overthinking about something allows us to give ourselves ‘valid’ reasons why we should not ‘just go’.  

The success of this journey, is the result of what would happen if we would give ourselves permission to do something we have never done before.

I decided to explore a new little town called Kemi, situated by the Bothnian Bay, at the mouth of river Kemijoki, and it is part of Lapland region. The town has a population of around 21,000. The main export in Kemi is the two large paper and woodpile mills which is also visible from almost anywhere in town. Kemi, is also home of the world’s largest snow castle (reconstructed every year to a different design) and is located right near the sea side villas.

Finland is the only country in the world where all ports would freeze and that means trouble for towns when there are no more imports and food would be scarce. The 75 meter vessel was built to operate in extreme arctic conditions up to 16 knots. In the northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia it kept lanes free for shipping for nearly 30 years.

The main reason I decided to fly to Kemi was really for the Icebreaker Sampo, which was built in 1960 An incredible and mind blowing experience that has been on my list of things to do ever since it became open to tourists in 1988. I booked online on Visit Kemi’s website and was able to move forward.

Picture this: sleeping in a Seaside glass villa in the middle of the frozen sea, surrounded by nothing but icy water and at night gusty winds. The occasional foxes, deers and rabbits footprints can be seen on the snow near your room but it’s too dark you don’t dare go out! During my stay, I did not sleep for 3 nights, looking up at the stars, admiring the serenity and inner peace I was in. The Northern Lights can be seen right from your room on a clear sky, but I was not there for the lights nor did I see them as it was too cloudy those nights.

I was there for the experience on the Icebreaker and the swim in almost -25 degrees celsius!

WERE TO STAY

The Seaside Glass Villa was one of the most exciting locations I have stayed in. The title says it all. A glass villa from all sides, on the frozen Bothnian Bay, which made it an extremely exciting location!

It’s a modern room as compared to the wilderness found in the North. As it celebrates its’ one year anniversary, the Seaside Glass Villa is an experience for those looking to be in Finland but not into the wilderness. But, the idea of being on a frozen bay is adventurous enough! The room is 21m2 one bedroom villas with a small kitchen and bathroom and is well heated. You are also warned on the 13 minute challenge of hot water for those who love long warm baths because after that, it drops to zero degrees! 

I stayed in room 23 which faces the bay at large and a couple of footsteps near the forest. Breakfast was served at 7am and despite the sun coming out at 10am, I found it not a problem at all to wake up (or not sleep) at 5am to get ready for a full day of adventure. I also booked the Icebreaker Sampo Cruise through their website and they sent me back an email with all the information I needed to prepare myself for the trip.

If you are traveling with kids, an extra bed could be placed in the room. You also have an option of booking the newly opened two story bedroom villa. During the winter season, the Snowcastle would be built and the children would absolutely love it there!

I spent 3 nights in Kemi. My days were full of adventure, despite the days being very short. Sun would rise at 9:45-10am and sunset would be at 2:30pm. The temperature was around -10 and -5 on good days. Taking the Icebreaker cruise was the main focus of my trip to Kemi and I highly recommend it. One evening, I went for a snowmobile ride at 8pm with Lapland Safaris and Pauli was my guide until my thumb froze. Literally froze! It was scary at first and I tasted the frostnip as a result of my gloves being apart from my hand for the sake of my camera! 

There isn’t too much to explore around town but the activities would fill your day. If you are stopping by Kemi, I would suggest you combine it with another destination, maybe drive to Rovaniemi or Sweden! During my stay, the snow castle was being built and had one week left for the opening. This would have probably been a great experience if I had stayed longer… But then again, there is always a next time!

Swimming in the Bothnian Sea

THINGS TO DO

Snowmobile – Hunt for the northern lights    

It was 8pm and temperatures dropped to -10. Lapland Safaris HQ happen to be by the Seaside Glass villas so it was only a 1 minute walk for me to get started. Snow gear was provided for me from head to toe (including shoes). I was briefed on using the snowmobile and we cruised on to the frozen sea and into a neighboring island! I was brought to of one the cabins where we had snacks by the firewood and warm berry juice which is my favorite after my first trip to Finland last year! Pauli helped me set up my tripod and waiting to catch some lights in the sky. 

Ice Karting on the frozen sea

Karts are almost the same as used indoor karting, but with studded tires and more powerful engines. Race track is located on the icy sea nearby the Kemi Snowcastle.

Icebreaker Sampo

One of the most incredible experiences of my life. Still unsure whether it was the cold, the icebreaking notion of being in the middle of the sea with nothing but ice surrounding you from every side of the boat or the exhilarating winds that would swing you from side to side as you hold on to the icy rails of the boat trying to to slip. I couldn’t help but picture myself on The Titanic (minus the glam) only, in the arctic and realized how my dream has turned into reality. The Icebreaker cruised for 2 hours until it stopped in the middle of nowhere and we were able to get off the ship, walk on thick ice (20cm of snow above sea water)! I heard the crew from far had called me in to brief me on swimming in -25 degrees celsius water as she dressed me up in a wet suit. My heart was pounding but things were moving too fast to realize what was going on and before I knew it, I was stepping down, holding on to the rails and onto an opening of icy cold dark water. The excitement froze my brains and I wasn’t even thinking of anything but to get in. I finally did and it felt as if I was a pro…until I lost balance and the water pressure turned me over onto my back. I was laughing, amazed and my heart was beating out of my chest and never had I thought about what was under that dark, icy water until after 20 minutes of swimming! It was an experience I will never forget!

Olokolo Ride in the Frozen Sea

The Olokolo, pulled by a snowmobile. Experience the Arctic Sea and the beautiful islands around that offer a great possibility to see the local wild life. Good chance to get a glimpse of the Sea Eagles, Elks or other wild animals. Within the warm comforts of the Olokolo nest you can observe the ever varying sky above and the beauty of the nature around. Make sure that once you get inside the Olokolo, you remove your jacket as it can get really warm inside thanks to the heaters!

Arctic Adventure Island

In summer, you can go kayaking and island hopping on to the neighboring islands! In the winter you can take a snowmobile and have an ice fishing experience where you learn how they break the ice to fish! You can even enjoy the Aurora lights by spending the night in the cozy Olokolo nest. Cosy and warm Olokolo nests are a convenient way to stay overnight in Arctic conditions! It is one of the most unique adventures you can ever have right on the frozen sea!!

HOW TO GET THERE?

From the UAE

 

I flew with Finnair on a 6 hour direct flight to Helsinki and then took a 1.5 hour flight to Kemi. It was an incredible experience to land on snow and walk from the plane to the terminal in icy weather conditions. Flights from Dubai to Finland on the aircraft have no entertainment system so make sure you are aware. Also, the best seats on the plane are row 10 or 24 which are exit seats and is worth the extra 200 dhs per way! 

Important Information 

* The best time to get on the cruise is during winter when the ice is thick enough for the icebreaker to cruise the sea

* The Icebreaker Sampo used to be in the service of the State of Finland until the year 1987. You will hear plenty of interesting details of the Icebreaker, about ice and breaking the ice etc.

*  Regular cruise duration is four hours. The Snowmobile-Sampo Safari Cruise program includes three hours’ time on board; whole safari programme takes about 7 hours.

*  The Icebreaker Sampo is docked at the Ajos Harbour. If you arrive with a car, set your navigator to address: Sampotie 137, 94900 Kemi and follow the Icebreaker Sampo signs. Free parking place in the port, please follow the instructions.

*  To prepare for the arctic winter time and activities, it is highly recommend to dress in warm layered underwear and thick outdoor clothing. 

*  The City center is 1km away from the seaside villas

*  Luggage carrying service is provided with extra cost

*  Additional cleaning during the stay with extra cost.

Once in a while, we all need to make these ‘once in a life’ kind of trips and make sure that it is not once in your life. A lot of people have come up to me saying that this is my once in a lifetime trip… I am trying to show you that these trips don’t have to be. Every once in a while, someone will catch your eye. In my case, it was always somewhere. Somewhere you can’t seem to get out of your head—a once-in-a-lifetime kind of place and sometimes it takes you off guard so much that you might even have to pinch yourself. This trip was a personal trip for my soul and I would always go back to it in a heartbeat!

Visit Kemi for more information on your stay and activities.

Travel Junkie Diary

A bohemian traveler

Leave a Reply

Follow @ traveljunkiediary
  • Would you go to furthermost place on earth? 
I’m so excited to announce our 5th destination release on @travelwithtjd 
Join us on the 1st-6th of May 2020 to the Northernmost Settlement on earth and explore the Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole on an Arctic expedition. In this packed polar journey, we have the chance to encounter some arctic wildlife, Kayaking into the glorious glaciers, snowmobiling into the earth’s depends fjords, enjoy husky safari, taste the culinary Arctic experience and learn so much about our beautiful planet.
Few tips on the trip: 
During May, it will be the start of the midnight sun, and so, the sun will not set below the horizon
As flights on our packages are not included, I always suggest to find the best flight deals through @wegoarabia which will give you a range of flights to chose from, matches your budget and connecting flights
Please get in touch if you would like to join this expedition, also, keep in mind that you will need a certain fitness level to join. 
Due to safety circumstances, we can only have 6 guests in one group. 
#TravelwithTJD #CreateYourReality
Photo by @dennisstever
  • Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The archipelago is composed of nine main islands. 
We visited Pyramiden, 2 hours by boat from longyearbyen, and known as a Soviet Ghost Town, an abandoned Russians coal mine settlement sold to the Soviet Union back in 1927. When we arrived, they told us that they have seen few polar bears around and so had to stay close. 
Barentsburg, the second largest settlement in Svalbard with about 450 inhabitants, mostly, also, Russians... Some of the other islands have amongst scientist and researchers. Needless to say, Longyearbyen is the northernmost capital on earth.
I also want to thank the team at @arcticexpedition.no who were so incredible with us, it wouldn’t have been the same without them, despite me being a little afraid of walking out, they assured our safety ☺️ Make sure you join us on our next @travelwithtjd in May to Svalbard once again!#TravelwithTJD
  • With thousands of years of history frozen in time, the Arctic, for me, is as a place where we can freeze our former selves and visualize what we can achieve what’s found in stories,  books and inspiring people that made it this far. 
It’s just you, the land, and your thoughts, and you can't leave until you've wrestled with yourself and emerged a survivor. 
But then again, the light is much more intense up here and everything looks different because of it. The sun hasn’t set in a couple of months, and you can see things much more clearly when it is light all of the time. 
I’m addicted to the Arctic, it has been so for the past two years as @dennisstever and I set a mission to work together to conquer it on @travelwithTJD 
Thanks to @dennisstever for capturing this moment.
Thank you to the wonderful team @arcticexpedition.no for making this a memorable experience ❤️
  • Im at the Earth’s northernmost inhabited settlement and I made this happen!!
A Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Svalbard is home to the ‘King of the Arctic’, which is the Polar Bear, followed by whales, Arctic Fox, Birds, Seals, Walrus and Reindeers. Svalbard is 600 miles away from the North Pole, the farthest place on earth I have ever been. This is not a dream...I created this beautiful reality. #TravelwithTJD @travelwithtjd @visitsvalbard
  • I’m not sure I can’t explain in words exactly how I felt at that moment. Right, scratch that... I can, because I froze. 
In so many ways. 
Ive always felt that my moods could be best explained in photos (and music) and that’s why I’m drawn to photography because it allows me to portray what’s going on inside when words fail. 
@dennisstever and I spent a week in Finland for the midnight sun, exploring the summer season. He probably took a thousand shots of this moment and encouraged me to keep going despite the cold waves splashing on me. 
But, I’m thankful, because, after a while, the cold numbed me, so I caught my breath, looked around and realized how F*** amazing it is to feel alive!
  • Often, I am noticing more and more on social media highlighting what society identifies as their body flaws and how we are beautiful and ordinary because of it, categorizing it as ‘empowerment’. I’m all for positivity but, I feel it’s giving mixed signals and it’s becoming repetitive, focusing on body goals. Again. 
Loving yourself, or accepting yourself doesn’t start with just accepting your body or its ‘flaws’, that’s not how we become ‘ordinary’, and the constant focus on bodies is directing the false message, denoting how our looks comes first and preaching about it (constantly)is not ordinary. 
Whatever happened to beauty from within? Or education? 
Are we truly loving ourselves if we put our body ‘flaws’ constantly out there on social media waiting again, for others to approve and congratulate you?
Is that not just promoting more “What’s on the outside counts more than what’s on the inside?”
Acceptance and beauty is deeper than that, because, surely, a body’s ‘ordinary’ image, is not solely what we should or should not be celebrating. 
Imperfections comes from the inside... Our actions, reactions, our weaknesses, strengths, our challenges and triumphs, our anxieties.
Loving oneself is accepting our heart and mind’s inability to function today but still give tomorrow another chance. 
We are beautiful for how we make others feel, for being there for one another, for lifting each other, for forgiving, for loyalty, for being there for your children, for your family, for strangers and for those around you and definitely not because we have or have not accepted our bodies and those around us. 
Whoever you are... our ‘imperfections’ in our souls are what makes ordinary and learning to accept it, is what makes you beautiful, and that is what we need to be sharing. 
So let’s highlight what’s on the inside, instead of just purely focusing on the outside. Because, that’s the only way we can truly love ourself, and not by perfect or imperfect bodies.
  • Not your typical photos on my feed... but, why not? I’ve been feeling lately a little uninspired to pick up my camera the past 2 months, so, I didn’t force it, and yesterday, I finally did. 
My collection of images posted on Instagram, are spontaneous memories of living through joy, love, passion, achievements, sadness and struggles. 
My journey, my soul and those in my life, expressed in words and photography. 
I shoot for what is important for me and not for what is expected of me. I post when I want to, and not when a schedule says it’s time to. 
I might have fewer ‘likes’ on some images than others and I’m not consumed by it because my reality is keeping me ‘disconnected’ from social media ... In my real world, I have those around me who make me love with every heart beat, laugh till my stomach hurts and lift me up till my hands touch the sky. 
My intentions is to always stay true to myself first, to my passion, to my photography. I believe that’s the only way one can create something extraordinary. Thank you for all the support throughout the years, or if you have just followed... thank you for your messages and your words of encouragement. 💫
  • Home at Beit Douma, this is how a traditional restored 19th century Lebanese mountain home looks like from the inside. Douma is one of the best-preserved villages in Lebanon, lies at an altitude of over 1000 meters.  The name in Phoenician means “calm and rest”, in Greek it means “house”. 🇱🇧 #Home
  • I believe in giving people time...Time to process the good and the bad because there is something so beautiful about unforced bonds. 
I’m a forever kind of person. I don’t have room for temporary. I believe in big love, of growing old with your friends and soulmates. I believe in being there for people through thick and thin. I believe in not giving up when things get tough. I believe in relationships that can make it through everything... 💫
  • Will probably delete this later but just couldn’t NOT post this video! I’ve always dreamed raising a golden retriever since I was a little girl, and in February, it became a reality. This was Charlie at 3 months and slide over the photo number 2, today at 8 months. 2 more weeks and I’ll be back with him!!! Share your advices on raising a Golden ❤️ I would love to hear your experiences.
  • I read once that some people have the ability to magnetize the people they need to help push them even further into greatness. Some take them for granted, some don't see it because they are too blind. But for those who can see it, be grateful for it, because even if you think you don't need them, one day you might understand the chemistry 💕
  • Bird’s eye view from @joalimaldives 
I can never get bored of this view! 😍