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Icebreaker Oden


Oden at the entrance of the Petermann Fjord in 2015. Photo: Martin Jakobsson

Oden is one of the world’s most powerful icebreakers. Even on the drawing board, the icebreaker was being prepared for research work in polar regions. Oden has continued to be adapted for research tasks, and is currently one of the premier platforms for research in polar oceans.

Working in co-operation since 1991, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and the Swedish Maritime Administration have regularly conducted research expeditions using Oden in polar regions. On 7 September 1991, the icebreaker became the first non-nuclear-powered vessel to reach the North Pole, and since then, Oden has been to the North Pole on seven more occasions. This icebreaker has also served in Antarctica for five seasons under the auspices of a co-operative Swedish-U.S. research arrangement.

Oden’s extensive flexibility, with research containers, scientific laboratories, and deep ocean winches, enables researchers in many different disciplines to use the vessel based on their particular needs. The vessel has been used with great success in marine geology, oceanography, ecological research, and atmospheric research in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Efficient icebreaking

Oden is extraordinarily manoeuvrable in heavy ice, thanks to the special design, with its square bow, specific hull shape, ice knife, propellers with nozzles and oversized rudders. Thrusters at the bow sprays jets of water to reduce the vessel’s friction on the ice, and a healing system for wiggling the vessel side-to-side further enhances the ability to navigate the ice.

The main machinery consists of four engines in a diesel-mechanical system that delivers an output of 24,500 hp. The two propellers with nozzles each measure 4.5 metres in diameter and are designed to cope with the ice load of polar oceans.

The Oden research platform

The scientific equipment on the icebreaker is extremely flexible, and can be customized for each research expedition. The scientific equipment includes laboratories and laboratories housed in containers, freezer storage, and storage containers. The research laboratories are prepared for water, sewage, compressed air, and electricity.

The main laboratory on the foredeck is designed to be used for various research purposes, and the fixtures and fittings can be customized based on specific needs. The permanent equipment includes fume cabinets, a clean air system, refrigerator, freezer (to –80 °C), gas lines, and seawater intake. A multi-beam echosounder enables 3D mapping of the ocean floor.

Navigational and meteorological data are collected continuously during research expeditions, stored on the vessel’s computer servers, and made available to researchers during and afer the expedition.


The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and the Swedish Maritime Administration have, through their successful co-operative arrangement, developed the icebreaker Oden into one of the world’s premier platforms for conducting research in polar regions. An ongoing co-operative agreement ensures that Oden will remain a leading research vessel for many years to come.

The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat represents the icebreaker Oden in scientific enterprises in both national and international contexts.

Download a brochure about the icebreaker Oden (1.3 MB)

Read the Swedish Maritime Administration’s fact sheet on icebreaker Oden (pdf)

Other vessels

Several other vessels have been chartered by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and used as expeditionary ships: 50 Let Pobedy (LOMROG), Louis S. St-Laurent (Tundra Northwest 1999), SA Agulhas (SWEDARP 1997/98), Polar Queen, now called Ernest Shackleton (SWEDARP 1996/97), and Akademik Fedorov (SWEDARP 1991/92, Tundra Ecology -94 and SWEDARP 1999/2000 and 2002/03).


The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and Swedish Research Council have established a shared roadmap for support to research projects in polar regions outside Sweden.