'We are celebrating a hundred years since independence this year: how would you like to travel on a government icebreaker?'
A message from the Finnish embassy launches Horatio Clare on a voyage around an extraordinary country and an unearthly place, the frozen Bay of Bothnia, just short of the Arctic circle. Travelling with the crew of Icebreaker Otso, Horatio, whose last adventure saw him embedded on Maersk container vessels for the bestseller Down to the Sea in Ships, discovers stories of Finland, of her mariners and of ice.
Finland is an enigmatic place, famous for its educational miracle, healthcare and gender equality – as well as Nokia, Angry Birds, saunas, questionable cuisine and deep taciturnity. Aboard Otso Horatio gets to know the men who make up her crew, and explores Finland’s history and character. Surrounded by the extraordinary colours and conditions of a frozen sea, he also comes to understand something of the complexity and fragile beauty of ice, a near-miraculous substance which cools the planet, gives the stars their twinkle and which may hold all our futures in its crystals.
'Magnificent' Robert Macfarlane
Winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year
Our lives depend on shipping but it is a world which is largely hidden from us. In every lonely corner of every sea, through every night, every day, and every imaginable weather, tiny crews of seafarers work the giant ships which keep landed life afloat. These ordinary men live extraordinary lives, subject to dangers and difficulties we can only imagine, from hurricanes and pirates to years of confinement in hazardous, if not hellish, environments. Horatio Clare joins two container ships on their epic voyages across the globe and experiences unforgettable journeys. As the ships cross seas of history and incident, seafarers unfold the stories of their lives, and a beautiful and terrifying portrait of the oceans and their human subjects emerges.
'Tremendous' The Times
From the slums of Cape Town to the palaces of Algiers, through Pygmy villages where pineapples grow wild, to the Gulf of Guinea where the sea blazes with oil flares, across two continents and fourteen countries - this epic journey is nothing to swallows, they do it twice a year. But for Horatio Clare, writer and birdwatcher, it is the expedition of a lifetime.
Along the way he discovers old empires and modern tribes, a witch-doctor's recipe for stewed swallow, explains how to travel without money or a passport, and describes a terrifying incident involving three Spanish soldiers and a tiny orange dog. By trains, motorbikes, canoes, one camel and three ships, Clare follows the swallows from reed beds in South Africa, where millions roost in February, to a barn in Wales, where a pair nest in May.
Horatio Clare is the bestselling author of the memoirs Running for the Hills and Truant and the travel books A Single Swallow (which follows the birds' migration from South Africa to the UK), Down to the Sea in Ships (the story of two voyages on container vessels) and Orison for a Curlew, a journey in search of one of the world’s rarest birds. His books for children include Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot and Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds. Horatio’s essays and reviews appear on BBC radio and in the Financial Times, the Observer and the Spectator, among other publications. He lives with his family in West Yorkshire.