Change in Sweden’s icebreaker plans causes controversy

Photo by Fredrik Sandberg, Scanpix.Sweden’s icebreaking ship “Oden,” which doubles as a polar-class research vessel, has been hired by the US National Science Foundation since 2006. The ship was to cut a passage through sea ice in Antarctica to enable supply ships to reach the NSF’s McMurdo polar station, a scientific base researching the ice sheet in Antarctica. The scientific equipment on board the Oden is said to be vital to this polar research. Now though, the Swedish government wants their icebreaker to stay home.

The government has declared that after the last two severe winters here, which disrupted shipping lanes in the frozen Baltic sea, the Oden is needed back home.

This action has prompted a number of scientists to write a protest article in Thursday’s Svenska Dagbladet, a daily Swedish newspaper, one of whom, Jan Backman, Professor of Marine Geology at Stockholm University told Radio Sweden that he was angered by the decision.

“It came as a shock. The US National Science Foundation are paying the Swedish Maritime Administration money so that if the oden would be needed here then the Swedish Icebreaking Association could hire other icebreakers to do the job in the Baltic. They got ten million US dollars for this according to “Science” magazine,” Jan Backman said.

The professor added that withdrawing the “Oden” was an embarassment to Sweden.

“We are losing a lot of face, it’s very embarassing for Sweden.”

Originally published September 15, 2011

Radio Sweden

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