Under the Pole: Discovering the Underwater Forest Animals

They were brought together by the same passion for diving and ocean conservation. Emmanuelle Périé-Bardout and Ghislain Bardout co-founded the ocean exploration program Under The Pole in 2010 and last year launched, with the help of CNRS and CRIOBE, their fourth major voyage that should take place between 2021 and 2030 and take them to the four corners of the world. The goal this time is to deepen scientific knowledge of the marine animal forests in the Mesozoic region, that is, at a depth of 30-200 meters.

The first leg of their journey from April to June 2022 takes them to the islands of Svalbard, Spitsbergen, in the far north of Norway (78°N). It was from their deck, the schooner Why, that the couple intervened via video at the ChangeNOW show, which takes place in Paris from May 19-21, 2022. Ghislaan Pardo made his first return to the origin of Under The Pole: “It comes from a shared passion for diving, the ocean, and the poles. We wanted to know, to understand, what’s going on under the world’s roof. Our first mission, in 2010, consisted of 51 dives into the heart of the icy Arctic Ocean to photograph underwater life under the world’s roof for the first time. Then. This led to the birth of other missions.”

Under the Fourth Pole: Discovering the Deep Regions of the Planet’s Coasts

“This fourth expedition, under the fourth pole, has been dubbed Deep Life, Emmanuel Perry Bardot explains. This reflects the nature of this task. We will be working in the middle zone, this deep region of the coast of the planet. The idea He came to us during Under The Pole IIIAnd In Polynesia, to discover deep-water coral life. We did at least 1,000 dives. This allowed us to realize that there is a real wealth of corals at this depth. Even richer than the surface of the water.

And to add:We also realized that coral can live and thrive at a depth of 172 metres. This was the first time we had seen coral at this depth. This is evidence that these organisms show incredible resistance. From there, we came up with the idea to go explore these deep regions, the underwater jungles of animals, in the four corners of the world.”

The Deep Hope (Under The Pole III) voyage in French Polynesia was an opportunity to make great discoveries about the Mesozoic Reef. Photo: Frank Gasola.

Underwater animal forests, real sanctuaries

It can be hard to imagine what a jungle of underwater animals is. Drawing a parallel to the terrestrial forest, one must imagine a sort of relatively sheltered sanctuary where underwater animals and plants thrive in the midst of giant algae, often kelp, a large algae that can reach 60 meters in length. The real “biodiversity temples” are worth preserving at all costs.

You still need to know them. That’s why Under The Pole launched a new “Deep Life” ride in 2021. “Under water we like to make the invisible visible. At a depth of 100-200 meters there are animal forests that must be perfectly preserved. That is why we have launched a program of almost 10 years. We will travel to the polar, tropical and temperate regions to explore the underwater animal forests. Here we are. In Svalbard, then we go to the Canary Islands, the Caribbean and then maybe the Mediterranean”explains Emmanuel Berry Bardot.

A forest of kelp under the water.  Photo: shutterstock.
A forest of kelp under the water. Photo: shutterstock.

A scientific and human journey

There are currently 14 people aboard the Why, including the couple’s two children who he follows on all of their expeditions. The team consists mainly of scientists, divers, and technicians who take care of the deep diving equipment, including the underwater habitat, capsule.

“The concept of conservation passes through knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, Gislan Bardot confirms. This is what will allow us to live in harmony with our environment. To be able to use resources, but in a sustainable and reasonable way. On this we depend and disclose our expeditions. We can achieve this thanks to the financial, material, human… support that we get. In particular, we are working with Rolex through its Perpetual Planete programme, which has accompanied us since the beginning.”

Deep water diving at Bond Inlet in Canada.  Photo: Under The Pole / Zeppelin Network
Deep water diving at Bond Inlet in Canada. Photo: Under The Pole / Zeppelin Network

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