Cruising to the North Pole Aboard a Nuclear Icebreaker
Russia, and previously the Soviet Union, has by far the largest and most e§cient icebreaker ·eets. Indeed, Russians are also the oldest and most experienced icebreaker operators. £e reason for this is purely geographical because Russia has 164° of longitude facing the Arctic Ocean, and the Northeast Passage has become a major commercial waterway (in contrast to the Northwest Passage, where only two commercial cargoes have ever made a transit). Political and military considerations have also applied, which were, for a long period, why nearly all the Soviet Arctic was e¢ectively a closed territory (until 1991 only three foreign ships had made a transit, and very few others had entered its waters). £ere have been many rapid changes in Russia from 1990: the consequences of several made tourist voyages to the North Pole a practical proposition. £ere are many aspects of these voyages that, with one exception, were aboard atomic-powered icebreakers (the Russian term is atomic ledokol – ‘icebreaker’ – rather than a nuclear one). £ese are described by a series of separate themes. £e author has accompanied 18 North Pole voyages to 2008, lecturing on historical geography, thus most of this chapter reports direct personal experience. £e role of Russian icebreakers in polar tourism, more generally, is discussed by Splettstoesser and Headland (2009).