Isbrytaren Oden på expedition vid norra Grönland
I/B Oden on expedition to North of Greenland. Photo: Ida Kinner

Icebreaker Oden

Icebreaker Oden is one of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear icebreakers. Even on the drawing board, this 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 cooperation 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. In August 2021, Oden visited the North Pole for the tenth time. This icebreaker has also served in Antarctica for five seasons under the auspices of a cooperative Swedish-American 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 after the expedition.

Technical details about Oden, fact sheet by the Swedish Maritime Administration (pdf).


The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and the Swedish Maritime Administration have, through their successful cooperative arrangement, developed the icebreaker Oden into one of the world’s premier platforms for conducting research in polar regions.

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

Tentative timetable for IB Oden 2021 - 2024

Year Expedition Geographical area Partners Acronym
2022 Postponed: Arctic Ocean Paleoceanography Lomonosov Ridge SPRS, ECORD ArcOP 2022
2023 Atmospheric rivers and the onset of sea-ice melt Arctic Ocean SPRS, open to partners ARTofMELT, Polar Research Process
2023 Planning is stopped: Eurasian-Arctic shelf-basin interactions of climate-cryosphere-carbon-contaminants Northeastern part of the Arctic Ocean SPRS EURASIAN ARCTIC C4, Polar Research Process
2024 North Greenland Earth-Ocean-Ecosystem Observatory Northern Greenland SPRS, open to partners GEOEO, Polar Research Process