by Terence Baker | January 01, 2007

A swimming excursion from the Sampo


A swimming excursion
from the Sampo

Watching gigantic ice floes break apart in the eerily quiet expanse of polar oceans might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for groups who otherwise have seen it all, a few companies offer this once-in-a-lifetime experience (book now, before all the polar ice melts).

Sailing from the town of Kemi in Finland, Sampo Tours (011-358-1625-6548; takes up to 150 people on trips that slice through ice up to 25 feet in thickness. The Arctic adventures -- which run from the middle of December to the end of April -- give cruisers views of massive chunks of ice, the occasional Arctic animal, Lapland settlements and, during overnight jaunts, the breathtaking light show of the Aurora Borealis,the Northern Lights.Special survival suits allow the truly cold-blooded to jump into the water.

Another company braving the chill is Arcticvoyager (011-47-77-624440; Based in Tromso, Norway, a fleet of four boats includes the icebreaking Origo, whose seven-day adventures head to the Norwegian Arctic island of Svalbard, also known as Spitsbergen. Spotting walruses, whales and polar bears is a highlight of the tour.

The Southern Hemisphere offers some fantastic icebreaking opportunities as well as the Aurora Australis,the southern equivalent to the Northern Lights, but the icebreaking boats venturing down there tend to go on multiweek excursions, too long for the vast majority of incentive trips.