North Pole

Total Pôle Airship expedition with Jean-Louis Etienne.

When Jean-Louis Etienne contacted me at the end of 2006 to go with him to the North Pole in April 2007, I of course immediately said YES!

I had such fond memories of the expedition to Clipperton a few years earlier that I had to leave with him and his team.

For a wildlife cinematographer, the North Pole is certainly the last place to go ! Neither polar bear nor seal on the ice floe, neither any beluga nor narwhal below!

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So why go there? I had to shoot the underwater images of his scientific mission, which initially consisted of calibrating the measuring devices that will be used to measure the entire thickness of the sea ice. Then the measuring devices would have been embarked on the Pôle Air Ship, the airship which would have ensured these measurements by flying over the entire pack ice from East to West. Unfortunately, a fire will reduce the airship to ashes a few months later while it was still in its hangar in Aix-en-Provence ...

But of course, apart from my work, the North Pole is particular by the geographical position it represents and by the human adventure linked to the expedition to get there.

 

The trip to Svalbard is just a plane trip like any other. It is after that it gets complicated! The problems started with a wait of almost 10 days in Longyearbyen at Mary Ann's house. The Russian-made airstrip at the North Pole split lengthwise in half. Annoying to land the planes! No more air connection possible between Norway and the pole.

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Never mind, if the Ruskoffs won the war against Napoleon and if they won in 1942 at Stalingrad against the Germans, it is no coincidence. And I confirm, after making 8 winter expeditions on Lake Baikal, the cold is their domain.

They therefore collected the snow from the pack ice, melted it and injected the fresh water obtained into the crack. Fresh water freezing faster than sea water, the cold weld worked perfectly and quickly the Antonovs were able to land again.

The Russian camp of Barneo receives everyone. There are of course scientists of all nationalities but also wealthy tourists who want to pay for the trip.

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Whatever, there are the Russians, the Japanese, the French, etc… each one works according to his own time zone since no one has changed the time. The North Pole is always on time for its country.

The whole French team was already there when I arrived. So I got the last free bunk in tent # 4, the one near the door, where the snow never melts. It was the price to pay for days without nights.

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The dives were very well organized by Guislain Bardout. I reconnected with a world of ice in crystal clear water, but without the penguins and seals of Antarctica.

"In the hole !"

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Bad weather was then announced and I left with Jean-Louis Etienne a few days earlier than expected. In these regions you have to leave when the weather allows it and never take the risk of postponing your return trip.

I do not think of going back to the North Pole one day but the human adventure will always remain engraved in my memory.

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Jean-Louis Etienne