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Dumont d'Urville

For this destination on the white continent, the magic still operates.

The polar station of Dumont d'Urville in Terre Adélie is located 2700 kms south of Tasmania.

5 to 6 days are necessary to cover this distance with the French icebreaker Astrolabe, subject to good weather ...

A little more if things go wrong!

We left Hobart on October 22, 2006 aboard the Astrolabe.

A light breeze was blowing over Tasmania that day, but a few days later I understood what the words "" howling fiftieths "meant ...


“The sea quickly turned white and the anemometer was constantly showing 40 to 50 knots of wind. "

It was only after 5 days of crossing approaching the 60th parallel that we found better weather. And it was the next night that I heard the first chunk of ice hit the Astrolabe's hull. A deafening noise that still echoes in my ears today. When you wake up the ocean turned white, punctuated by growlers, those blocks of ice well known to solo sailors. Then the Astrolabe quickly returned to the pack.

But in these latitudes the weather can change quickly!


We were stranded for 3 days, the wind was blowing at 75 knots.

Xavier, a captain used to these latitudes, was not worried, the play of the tides would do the job by freeing the ice around the boat, and the Astrolabe would find her way to Adelie Land. But that year, a thick pack ice still extended a hundred kilometers from the coast, preventing us from a better approach. The unloading of the personnel and the material was thus carried out by multiple rotations in helicopter.

Astrolabe in the ice floe.jpg



The polar station of Dumont d'Urville represents France well. It is good to live there. We have the impression of being in a small provincial village with its post office and croissants in the morning! And his “Mayor”, Patrice Godon, knows his stuff. He was trained by Paul-Emile Victor in the 1960s. In short, things are going well!


On our side, our mission is simple: Bring as many images as possible for Oceans, Jacques Perrin's next film.


Patrice had given us carte blanche to circulate on the ice, while imposing on us a maximum operating radius. We should never endanger the lives of rescuers who would come to help us in the event of a problem. As far as I was concerned, my first security was to take, apart from a change of clothes for each of us, a set of boards thick enough for our quads to be able to pass through an opening that would have formed on the ice floe during of our return to the station. I had learned this technique on Lake Baìkal with Andrey Baranovsky and Genady Misan.


That year the conditions were ideal. The weather was still cold and dry, and the ice was reliable. There were numerous icebergs at Dumont d'Urville around which there was still a swimming pool, an opening to open water created by the reflection of light on their north face. These water holes were always frequented by a multitude of Adelie and Emperor penguins. The diving conditions were "easy" and the only difficulty lay in the current which could have taken us adrift under the ice ...

Wedell seals were most often found on pack ice in the middle of nowhere, where it was impossible for us to poke a hole in a meter thick ice. The only solution was to immerse yourself in an existing fault nearby. This rift opened and closed to the rhythm of the swell and I only had 12 seconds to cross the ice floe before the noose closed on me.


"I only had 12 seconds to cross the ice floe before the noose closed on me."

Underwater, the spectacle is as fascinating as ever, the ice has taken on the green color of the algae that grows in spring, while the squeaking of the iceberg reminds us that the watch is alive and well. The monster moves and talks to us, it's up to us to decrypt his messages ...

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