Under The Pole: discover underwater animal forests

The same passion for diving and the preservation of the seas brought them together. Emmanuelle Périé-Bardout and Ghislain Bardout co-founded the Oceanographic Exploration Program Under The Pole in 2010 and launched last year, with the help of CNRS and CRIOBE, their fourth major expedition, which was to take place between 2021 and 2030 and take them to the four corners of the world. This time, the goal is to deepen the scientific knowledge about the marine animal forests in the mesophotic zone, that is, between 30 and 200 meters deep.

The first phase of their expedition takes them from April to June 2022 to the islands of Svalbard, Spitsbergen, in northern Norway (78 ° north). It was from the deck of their boat, the schooner Why, that the couple intervened at the video conference at the ChangeNOW show, which takes place in Paris from 19 to 21 May 2022. Ghislain Bardout first returned to the origins of Under The Pole: “It comes from a shared passion for diving, for the oceans and for the poles. We wanted to know, to understand what is happening under the roof of the world. Our first mission, in 2010, consisted of 51 dives in the heart of the icy Arctic Ocean for “for the first time filming life underwater under the roof of the world. This gave rise to other missions.”

During Pole IV: discover the deep regions of the planet’s coastlines

“This fourth expedition, Under The Pole IV, has been dubbed Deep Life, explains Emmanuelle Périé-Bardout. This reflects the nature of this mission. We must work in the mesophotic zone, this deep zone of the planet’s coastlines. The idea came to us during Under The Pole III, in Polynesia to discover coral life in deep water. We made no less than 1,000 dives. This made it possible for us to realize that there is a real wealth of corals at this depth. Even richer than on the surface of the water.

And to add:We also realized that corals can live and bloom at a depth of 172 meters. It was the first time we had seen corals at this depth. This is proof that these organisms show incredible resistance. From there, we came up with the idea of ​​exploring these deep zones, these underwater animal forests, in the four corners of the world. “

The expedition Deep Hope (Under The Pole III) in French Polynesia was an opportunity to make great discoveries about mesophotic corals (deep corals). Photo: Franck Gazzola.

Underwater animal forests, veritable shrines

It can be hard to imagine what an underwater animal forest is. By drawing a parallel with the terrestrial forest, one has to imagine a kind of relatively protected sanctuary, where underwater fauna and flora bloom in the middle of giant algae, very often seaweed, a macroalgae that can grow 60 meters long. True “temples of biodiversity”, they deserve to be preserved at all costs.

You still need to know them. That’s why Under The Pole launched this new “Deep Life” expedition in 2021. “Under the water, we want to make visible, the invisible. At a depth of 100-200 meters, there are animal forests that absolutely must be preserved. That is why we are launching a program of almost 10 years. We travel to polar, tropical and temperate zones to explore these underwater animal forests. Here we are on Svalbard, then we are going to the Canary Islands, the Caribbean and then probably the Mediterranean ”explains Emmanuelle Périé-Bardout.

An underwater forest of seaweed.  Photo: Shutterstock.
An underwater forest of seaweed. Photo: Shutterstock.

A scientific and human expedition

Currently, there are 14 people on board the Why, including the couple’s two children, who accompany them on all of their expeditions. The team consists mainly of scientists, divers and technicians who take care of scuba diving equipment, including an underwater habitat, Capsule.

“The notion of conservation goes through knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, emphasizes Ghislain Bardout. This is what will allow us to live in harmony with our environment. To be able to use resources, but in a sustainable and justified way. It is on this that we trust and that we formulate our expeditions. We can achieve this thanks to the financial, material, human support … that we receive. We work especially with Rolex through its Perpetual Planete program, which has followed us from the beginning. ”

Deepwater diving at Pond Inlet in Canada.  Photo: Under The Pole / Zeppelin Network
Deepwater diving at Pond Inlet in Canada. Photo: Under The Pole / Zeppelin Network

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