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When ice floes stretch to the horizon in the Arctic Circle, threatening to strand ships, icebreakers are in their element. For big vessels, they can turn quickly to avoid big blocks of ice, and can stop fast. Icebreakers, like the one transporting Associated Press reporters and international researchers through the Northwest Passage, are the battering rams of far northern climes. The country also has the only nuclear-powered icebreakers – and one became the first surface vessel to punch its way through to the North Pole in 1977 .
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