Standing on top of the world: experiencing the indescribable thrill of reaching the North Pole.
Credit: David De Vleeschauwer
There's no other place on Earth where you feel the fragility of our planet more deeply than when standing on top of the world. To get to 90 degrees north, you will have to board the 50 Years of Victory, the only nuclear ice-breaking ship in the world allowing travellers to join this mind-blowing voyage.
The sound of two-metre-thick ice collapsing under the massive weight of the 50 Years of Victory is almost otherworldly. We are on board a huge Russian nuclear icebreaker, which with 75,000 total horsepower is the strongest ice-breaking vessel in the world. In winter, it guides super-sized cargo ships through the frozen Northwest Passage. Now, during June and July, she is on her way to the North Pole with 100 passengers on board, all of whom want to set foot on top of the world. We depart from the quaint Russian port of Murmansk and sail in the direction of the mythical Franz Joseph Land, where access is permitted only to those travelling aboard Russian ships. If all goes well, we will reach the sea ice in two days. Welcome to the cold Arctic Ocean, the kingdom of the polar bear and the land of silence and endless white.
50 Years of Victory. Credit: David De Vleeschauwer
The 50 Years of Victory, a steel monster built in St. Petersburg in the 1980s, cuts effortlessly through the frozen ocean. Her Russian name is 50 Let Pobety and she is home to a nearly 100-strong Russian crew who see her as their home away from home.