A British travel writer evokes the magic of the Baltic Sea

Ice trap

Icebreaker: a Voyage Far North. By Horatio Clare. Chatto and Windus; 213 pages; £14.99.

“ICEBREAKER” by Horatio Clare, a British nonfiction writer, is an encounter with the void. It describes ten winter days on a Finnish icebreaker, one of a fleet that works at perilously close quarters with ice-trapped cargo ships in the Bay of Bothnia at the northern limit of the Baltic Sea. It is a silent region, almost empty of birds and animals, tideless and still. He writes of seeing silence, and the ship itself seems to him no more than “the tip of a pencil line trailing off into empty space”.

By the end of the journey, the “shuddering emptiness” has got to Mr Clare. He describes a nightmare in which he foresees a world populated solely by humans and machines: “no bird…no flourish of being in landscape, no iteration of spirit in form”. It is the culmination of a steady drumbeat through the book about…Continue reading

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