UNDER THE POLE – Discovery Greenland


In 2010, Ghislain Bardout together with seven people led his first expedition to dive under the North Pole. They spent 47 days on the ice, pulling heavy sledges, camping and realized 51 dives. The images was published all over the world as the 52 minutes documentary »Deepsea Under The Pole« released on National Geographic Channel.

Text: greenland today, Photo: Lucas Santucci / Under The Pole, March 2015

This second expedition called »Discovery Greenland« started in January 2014 after three years of preparation. The expedition is expected to last 22 months with exploration of the coast, sea and seabed between the Arctic Circle and the extreme North of Greenland.

After two and half months crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the polar schooner »WHY«, the team arrived in Nuuk late March.

The expedition begins
– After visiting the Nature Institute with whom we have scientific collaboration, we sailed north, starting to dive regularly, deeper and deeper, on the coast, in the fjord and under the giant icebergs of Ilulissat, Emmanuelle Périé-Bardout tells. She is both diver and second skipper, as well as head of the Expeditions Communication. She and Ghislain also has their three year old son on board the ship, as the youngest adventurer of this expedition.

– Around Disko Island we collaborated with the Danish scientific team led by John Steffensen, who study the Greenland sharks.

– We helped making images of the sharks, which was released after tagging. The tagging provides information on the sharks swimming speed and migration.

– In this area, we also enjoyed the fantastic show of bowhead whales feeding at the surface. We could approach them as close as three meters, but in a water full of phytoplankton it was impossible to take underwater images.

Further North
In Uummannaq the team worked on a very special program concerning divers physiology in extreme conditions. The programme is lead by french hyperbaric researcher Jean-Eric Blatteau for military hospital of Toulon and BF Systems, a company who heads a long-running research program involving collaborations and partnerships with cutting-
edge institutes and laboratories from the Ministries of Research and Defense. Another research programme on sea ice take place during the spring 2015. This is a cooperation between Under The Pole and the universities of Nuuk and Copenhagen.

– We also spend time with our friend Ann Andreasen from the Childrens Home in Uummannaq. We made diving initiation for some of the kids, and was surprised to see how comfortable the kids were in the water. They are really motivated for diving and discover the underwater world of their region confirming one of the biggest Greenlandic quality : adaptation. These kids can surf on facebook, watching tv and be aware of the last tendencies and by the same time go dogsledding or try diving with no fear, says Emmanuelle.

– We also edited a small film called »Underwater Uummannaq« for the school to show them what we were able to see under water. By this we try to involve people and give knowledge from us to Greenland during the voyage.

Beginning of July, we left Uummannaq, a little bit sad to leave our friends and the community who has been so welcoming to us.

Far North
– We were excited to head for the high Arctic, in the Northern most part of Greenland. Sailing across the Melville Bay, we enjoyed the wild landscapes, and several encounters with whales, seals, polar bears and later muskox in large flocks on land. We met narwhal hunters in the middle of the Melville Bay, and we shared hot drinks and cakes with mattaq (whale blubber) that they offered.

– En route we stopped in tiny settlements as Aappilattok, Nuussuaq and Kullorssuaq. Here we discover the greenlandic hunter’s way of life in North Greenland, as harsh but rich in nature experiences.

Special encounters
– We was also lucky to approach narwhales with our kayaks, a great photographic souvenir to bring home. But the most crazy was diving in Qaanaaq Bay with Greenland sharks.

– We thought it was impossible to meet the Greenland sharks in their natural environment without fishing or feeding, because they live too deep. But this day, at the end of August, while we
 were collecting shells for one of our scientific programmes, a shark appears just upon us. Five minutes after a second 
came very close. We do not know why they were so close to the surface, but in the days after we met eight Greenland sharks in total. We made great images for our documentary and for the John Steffensen shark survey team.

– When we arrived in Qaanaaq, our two deep divers – Ghislain and Martin – were ready to try their first very deep dive. Close to Qeqertat at the end of the bay, they went down to 102 meters. At this deep, everything is dark but you can still see fauna and flora. From the surface and 80 meters down, it was full of colours.

– In Qaanaaq, we edited another short film; »Underwater Qaanaaq« for the local school. We met many great people, and understood even more of the traditional way of life, hunting and fishing. Visiting Qaanaaq was a wonderful experience, and we hope we can come again soon and meet again all our new friends there, Emmanuelle says with longing.

Stuck in the ice
Now the expedition schooner are back in Uummannaq Bay and deliberately frozen into the sea ice for the winter.

– We found a place in front of the small settlement of Ikerasak, where we have been warmly welcomed. During the two months of darkness, the dives went on, and now under the sea ice. In general all the dives give opportunity for filming, taking pictures and recording data.

This spring will be the occasion to initiate other kids and greenlandic people to diving. We also hope to share with them, what we discover under this white world of sea ice, ends Emmanuelle Périé-Bardout.

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