Review: “Icebreaker” by Horatio Clare

Cosmic dust is covered in ice and gives stars their twinkle. Sea ice spreads over the polar saltwater and works as an Earth conditioner. Have you ever wondered, how amazing this solid form of water is?

Ice has many different states and as many names. Northern seafarers now them well.

If interstellar ice may expand your awareness of space, then permafrost will blow up your sense of time. Deep inside the Arctic seabed is permafrost from the last ice age. It is many thousand years old and encapsulates huge methane plumes. When the ice will melt, the gas will erupt. Methane is twenty-three times more effective in raising global temperature than carbon dioxide, writes Horatio Clare quoting Peter Wadhams, one of the world’s leading authorities on sea ice.

10 days in a row the Welsh-British writer Horatio Clare spends on a Finnish icebreaker Otso, who works in the Bay of Bothnia, helping ships that are stuck in ice. Horatio loves ships. When Finnish embassy invites him to step on board, he doesn’t hesitate and starts a freezing voyage that results in a wonderful book “Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North”.

The book isn’t just about the ice and the icebreaker. It’s also about Finland. On 2017, when the book came out, Finland celebrated 100 years of independence. Between the paragraphs about experience on Otso, Horatio Clare tells stories of Finnish silence and many different kinds of it. Stories of fights for freedom and of Finnish women, who were first women in the world to be able both to vote and to run for office (since 1906).

Author writes about smart building blocks of national welfare and of educational system that you can truly envy. He also tells about high suicide rates in Finland, about alcoholism and loneliness in the Internet age. There is also the sad story of Estonia catastrophe in 1994, that I remember well (a family friend of mine overslept and the ship left without him, sweet dreams saved his life) and of the amazing national epic “Kalevala”.

Nevertheless the main character is ice. During his voyage, Horatio Clare starts to see it as a being. A beautiful and endangered being.

I read “Icebreaker” in just a few sittings. Partly because the author writes so well, the sentences stick to each other like lovely crystals, and partly because I wanted to get off that ship as soon as possible. “Ships magnify and transfer moods and there is no way off them.”

This is an environment where you are left face to face with your inner ghosts and deepest fears. As strongly as Horatio Clare paints the surreal and dreamlike scenery outside Otso, he also manages to give you a taste of the claustrophobic and melancholic nightmares that hide in the corners of cabins.

Life on a ship is not for everyone. “This is why you make Tem the captain, for his miraculous ability to synthesize and broadcast well-being.”

Yet as soon as I left Otso and closed the book, I already wanted to go back. There, where the frozen sea and colors on horizon make you freeze in awe. When the author steps on ice in the middle of the sea for the first time in his life, he is euphoric. The depth and height is erased. “The sky begins in the snow under your boots.”

“Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North” Horatio Clare, Chatto & Windus, 2017

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Ledus klāj kosmosa putekļus, tāpēc zvaigznes mirkšķina. Jūras ledus klāj planētas polāros sālsūdeņus un kalpo par Zemes kondicionieri. Ledum ir padsmit dažādu stadiju un nosaukumu.

Dziļi Arktiskās jūras gultnē dus ledus no pēdējā ledus laikmeta, tūkstošiem gadu vecs un iekapsulējis metāna gāzes sprādzienu. Kūstot Arktikas virskārtai, draud iespēja atbrīvot seno gāzu kambarus. Gaisā tie izlaistu intensīvu indi, kas 23 reizes pārsniegtu mūsdienu rūpju bērna – oglekļa dioksīda – ietekmi.

10 dienas britu rakstnieks Horācijs Klērs pavada uz somijas ledlauža Otso, kas atbrīvo Botnijas jūras līcī iesprūdušus kuģus. Horācijam patīk kuģi. Atsaucoties Somijas vēstniecības piedāvājumam kāpt uz klāja, rezultātā top grāmata. Tā nav tikai par ledu un ledlauzi, tā ir par Somiju, kurai pērn, kad grāmata iznāca, apritēja 100 neatkarības gadi.

Starp paragrāfiem no Otso komandtiltiņa, autors stāsta par somu klusēšanas paveidiem un brīvības cīņām, par sievietēm, kas tieši Somijā pirmo reizi ieguva tiesības balsot, par labklājības gudrajiem stūrakmeņiem un apskaužamo izglītības sistēmu. Arī par augsto pašnāvību skaitu, alkoholismu un noslēgtību. Par Estonia un par eposu “Kalevala”. Tomēr stāsta galvenais varonis ir ledus. Brauciena laikā Horācijs Klērs to sāk uzlūkot kā dzīvu būtni.

Grāmatu izlasīju dažos vakaros. Gan tāpēc, ka Horācija Klēra teikumi virknējas kā burvīgi kristāli, kas liek iekšā kaut kam kust, gan tāpēc, ka gribēju pēc iespējas ātrāk tikt no tā kuģa nost. Tā ir vide, kas zem palielināmā stikla liek katra iekšējos rēgus, bailes, garastāvokļus. Tikpat spēcīgi kā uzburto sirreālo ainavu, kas plešas aiz borta, autors ļauj sajust kajītes kaktos glūnošo klaustrofobiju un melanholiju. Darbs uz kuģa nav domāts katram. Par kapteini var kļūt cilvēks, kas komandai dod sajūtu, ka viss ir labi.

Tomēr kad kopā ar Horāciju nokāpju no klāja un aizveru grāmatu, gribas atpakaļ. Tur, kur aizsalusī jūra un saules krāsotais apvārsnis liek sastingt brīnumā. Kad autors pirmo reizi mūžā jūras vidū izkāpj uz ledus, viņu pārņem eiforija. Nav atskaites punkta ne dziļumam, ne attālumam. “Debesis sākas sniegā zem taviem zābakiem.”

“Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North” Horatio Clare, Chatto & Windus, 2017