Kemi is famous for its ice hotel and its icebreakers that cleave the sea in winter. With 21,000 inhabitants (2016) and located at the mouth of the Kemijoki River, the city has developed around its sawmill and timber industry. In spite of its small town atmosphere, Kemi has long been a large port in the days when log driving was still practiced on the river. The tree trunks were exported directly or after processing on site. In winter, access to ports in the Gulf of Bothnia always requires the use of icebreakers that break through the thick frozen layer to trace the channels essential for navigation and ferry safety. Travellers used to crisscross the icy sea on foot or by sleigh.

"The show was amazing. The great cold and the wind had fallen at once, and together, on the raging waters. ...] As far as the eye could see, it was nothing but a chaos of shattered ice and a succession of parallel ridges which first rose, to become rounded at the top, then fell back down slightly, thinning to the point where they formed a long, thin, jagged strip: the waves raised by the wind, frozen by the cold, and which would remain like this, suspended, until the white season and the thaw. "Kopoli, the reindeer guide, Jean Coué.

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