When Rheged’s Curator John Stokes contacted me about the upcoming exhibition “Adventures” at the Rheged Centre I was thrilled. How exiting to be part of a great display and to do it together with artist Mark Gibbs. Then after the first excitement had cooled I started to think about the theme of the exhibition. How would I relate to the theme and how could my work apply to the idea of adventure? I decided on two contrasting themes within my area of the display. The big adventure as represented by my images from an expedition on the icebreaker Oden in the Bothnian Bay. And the small private adventure would be represented by a collection of contrasting smaller images from the woodlands of northern Sweden. The Oden is a large Swedish icebreaker, named after the Norse god. It was originally built in 1988 to assist and clear a passage for cargo ships through the ice of the Gulf of Bothnia during wintertime. Soon it was modified to also be able to serve as a research vessel and in 1991 it was the first non nuclear surface vessel to reach the North Pole. The Oden is 108 m long and has an icebreaking capacity of 1,9 m level ice at 3 knots. During the winter months there are a lot of icebreakers working to keep the seaways open for traffic in the Gulf of Bothnia both from Sweden and Finland, but none is as powerful as the icebreaker Oden. I boarded Oden at the Port of Luleå in mid-march last year.
For one week I had the privilege to be an observer with access to almost all activities on board. This was not one of Oden’s scientific expeditions. Instead it was all about what Oden was designed for in the first place; giving rapid assistance to ships that got stuck in the ice, gathering and leading convoys of cargo ships when the conditions require and in the meantime keeping the seaways as open as possible for traffic. The contrast between the powerful icebreaker in action and the quiet white icy landscape is striking. After some time it is easy to imagine that you are all alone despite being on a ship but then suddenly you pass by a small colony of grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, with newborn cubs on the ice. When the night falls and if you have a clear sky you can get the opportunity to observe the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. With practically no light pollution everything on the sky is as clear and crisp as your breath in the winter night.