Science

White Odyssey “: French Explorations at the Poles – Sciences et Avenir

“White Odyssey”, by Stéphane Dugast, will air on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 8:45 p.m. on Ushuaia TV. Re-broadcast on 10/27 at 9:40 pm and will then be available to channel subscribers for 60 days after its first broadcast on 13.

To bet, you’ve never seen such pictures, except obviously if you’re already a fan of poles and polar expeditions. Tracked machines like dark mini-tanks claw their way through hostile ice, sometimes pushed by men we imagine exhausted. But so gripping that the movie “White Odyssey” and its black and white stock footage, alternating in a tight montage with current color images and comic book-style drawings (when the story turns into a beautiful legend or an unfiltered tragedy) , creates an electric shock. Then the memory of these incredible French explorations of the 20th century arises, in the dangerous worlds of the Arctic and Antarctica.

“I hate the cold”

Because it is only today that a true history of this past of three quarters of a century ago begins to be built. After the heroic characters that were Amundsen, Scott, Charcot … and before the conquest of space, which made the eyes of humanity turn to the sky and the moon. Today, the poles are once again the stuff of dreams and many humans aspire to step on them. But if they make the news again, it is for much more prosaic reasons. Because its environment, from the Antarctic ice to the sea ice to the Arctic ocean, is threatened by climate change. Because the subsoil, at the bottom of the ocean or in the crust under the ice is (or will be) coveted for its riches …

In this case, for the first installations on the North and South ice, it will have counted first of all a man, whose name the youngest no longer knows: Paul-Emile Victor. Is it because the founder of the French Polar Expeditions (EPF) is systematically referred to by his acronym “PEV” and the institute in his name is always called IPEV? Determined not to be forgotten, their daughter Daphné and their son Stéphane (1) created an endowment fund that, for the first time, on Saturday October 9, 2021, gave the National Museum of Natural History, several… “Víctor Trophies “(2).

It is no coincidence that Stéphane Dugast’s film was premiered there, the director having co-written the PEV biography (3) and presented a biopic about him in 2019, humorously titled “I horror al cold.” “White Odyssey” broadens the field, while recalling that the many missions of French scientists could only be carried out thanks to the famous EPF mounted sometimes with pieces of rope, sometimes with substantial help obtained from a minister, but also in the 1940s with the Americans. . PEV, a man who became somewhat of an “expedition entrepreneur,” says Daphné Victor. Then we find those he transported to the summits of the globe, these “missionaries” measuring the wind, the temperature, the earth’s magnetism … Often confined in their wooden huts, without comforts, places susceptible to conflagration in catastrophic fires. Some happened, the images exist, they are spectacular.

In the commentary there are names that everyone thinks they have heard without always knowing what they cover: land of Adélie, base of Dumont d’Urville, Concordia … We discover in black and white the first famous ice cores, these immaculate extracted cylinders of the great Antarctic glaciers that enclose atmospheric bubbles that date back to very ancient terrestrial periods. Tens of thousands of years, hundreds of thousands, or even more than a million. The deeper we go, the more we go back in time. The pioneer of this scientific investigation, the then young Claude Lorius, explains it with good humor in front of a small simple drawing on the wall – remember this Frenchman who knew how to convince the film to go drilling among the Russians, transported in an American plane.

Become “an animal”

In the comics, the beautiful story that continues to swell is also written, where are the bubbles that come out of the ice cubes immersed in his invigorating whiskey in a cold area, which inspired the idea of ​​rediscovering past atmospheres … We don ‘No we will forget those impressive moments when we see men, like ghosts, running in the blizzard to achieve this or that scientific measure. Where, on the contrary, in good weather, finally let yourself be carried away by a team of solid sled dogs to discover what is behind the horizon. Except for Laurence de La Ferrière, few women testify: no one ever went there in heroic remote times.

In charge of the Dumont d’Urville scientific station in 2009, it was especially in 1997 for her solo journey from Antarctica to the South Pole that we meet the explorer (4). He says that he developed all his senses during this expedition, searching for the slightest color in the general white or the slightest smell. He even tells of having felt himself to be “an animal”. As for Daphne Victor, during the debate after the preview screening of the film, she admitted her immense regret, including anger, at not being able to accompany her father, unlike her siblings. But the EPI at the time, he said, had told him shortly before his death in 1995 that a woman on a men’s expedition, “screwed up the b … and would distract them from their work.” Now they are more and more numerous in scientific teams. The times, and not just the weather, are also changing at the poles.

1) The researcher Jean-Christophe Victor, another son of Paul-Emile Victor, famous among the general public for his program “The reverse of the letters” and founder of Lépac (laboratory of prospective studies and cartographic analysis) with Virginie Raisson and Laurence Capitaine, passed away in late 2016.

2) They were awarded a “Victor d’Honneur” to the famous glaciologist Claude Lorius and a press report trophy to Michel Izard for “Mission Terres Australes”, a series of TAAF TF1 television reports, during the evening “Polar Night” , at the end of the national season “2021, the Polar Summer”.

3) “Paul-Emile Victor. The dream and the action”. By Daphné Victor and Stéphane Dugast, ed. Paulsen, 2020.

4) “Alone in the Ice Wind”, Book of the Month Edition, 2000.

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