DeepHope finishing on a high note

DeepHope is complete.

Like any program, it was destined to end eventually. And here we are, after 12 months of roaming in Polynesia, sailing from island to island relentlessly, diving day after day to 120 m and beyond, this exceptional program is complete. Or at least the field work is, since the lab phase has only just started, with the analysis of thousands of samples, measurements, and photoquadrats collected.
Under The Pole Ghislain Bardout DeepHope

Copyright Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

For those who lived it – specifically the divers – DeepHope will remain an extraordinary program, of those we dream of, of those we learn from, of those we will hold dearly to our hearts. It’s not every day we live through such an adventure: its scientific quality, its duration, its geographical span, its location, the amount of technical equipment used, its complex logistics to supply provisions, and above all, the repeated involved dives, are what make DeepHope a great mission and a remarkable success. A challenge, or rather a multitude of challenges which require rigor, humility, and patience to achieve.

How to be sure that everything goes well ?

When preparing an expedition and then leading it in the field, a question eats away at us daily, sometimes overwhelming us: how do we ensure it goes well? How can we complete these challenges we set for ourselves, accident-free? How can we keep out of reach of something irreparable? Over the course of time, and drawing on my experience, I have learned to get an overview of the financial burden of an expedition, of losing expensive and supposedly essential equipment, or of the recurring issues pushing to permanent adaptation. I have known for a long time that the material accounts have no value over time – they are merely means – and only experiences and results stick. But above it all, the good health of the team prevails. A priority topic when leading expeditions like Under The Pole, during which the engagement has always been called for. If I speak to it here, it is because DeepHope presented a risk factor particularly hard to grasp: the succession of very deep dives at a sustained pace, over a very long period, and with numerous divers. In my discussions, prior to departure, the hyperbaric physiologists with whom I exchanged were referencing a 1% accident risk for the diving profiles we established. It’s huge: it means that – statistically – on the 800 deep dives accomplished, we should have had 8 accidents linked to decompression. And we did not have any. Evidently, this percentage should not be taken literally and must be contextualized to understand the limits of its field of application. Nonetheless, it conveys two items: a relative ignorance (or a limited knowledge) of the physiology of decompression from deep incursion dives and statistics associated with it, and all in all a high level of risk. I am convinced that few challenges can never be achieved, that everything is a matter of resources, organization, and experience. But faced with an inexact science like diving physiology, how can one safely repeat hundreds of dives, sometimes daily in the 120 m zone, for 12 consecutive months? How can one reconcile ambitions, wishes, and egos, in a team made of enthusiasts and experts of deep rebreather diving? Finding answers to these questions, that was the biggest challenged of DeepHope, and to have achieved it together, as a team, is what made it a tremendous success. Diving down to 100 m depth is never trivial; repeating this type of diving even less so; and it is a true feat to accomplish it in a context of sustained work, and with the lack of privacy that life on a sailboat offers – admittedly an expedition ship, but of modest size. As months, miles, and dives went by, everyone on board had to dive deep into their personal hidden resources to take on their responsibilities and preserve the family atmosphere on board. Each of us accepted the rules, played by them, and submitted to the requirements of a high-profile program. And together, we got the job done, without accident. Beyond the scientific results, this is the first reason why DeepHope will forever be remembered as an exceptional and unique program. So, move than ever – as I always say – Good job everybody.
Under The Pole Ghislain Bardout DeepHope 2

Copyright Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

DeepHope: a successful collaboration and a new model for the scientific exploration of tomorrow 

Scientifically, DeepHope is the largest program ever conducted with Under The Pole. It shows with resounding success the advantage of a combination of expertise to meet a scientific exploration challenge. Never before could the researchers gathered around Laetitia Hédouin have led the dives we did, and in the same way, we could have never accomplished the in-depth study they imagined. But together, we just completed one of the largest studies ever done in the world on deep corals. An example of fruitful collaboration and a future model – in my opinion – of what scientific exploration could look like tomorrow.
Laetitia Hédouin under the pole deephope

Copyright Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

I understand better today the importance of coral reefs for the planet, these oases of life, hosting 30% of oceans’ diversity, similarly to tropical forests on land. As dives went by, going down into the heady blue of the depths or waiting a few meters below the surface on long decompression stops, I got caught up in the game. Why did we discover a cover of Leptosiris solida corals from 80 to 100% at 90m depth, on the Makatea reef? Why did we find more species, of bigger sizes and larger quantities at 120 m in the Gambier than anywhere else at the same depth? Why did we find, deeper at the latter location, a Leptosiris hawaiensis coral down at 172 m depth, making it the deepest coral in the world? Some of our findings can make you wonder. But the program’s quality, the precision employed and in the end the quantity of scientific data collected will soon bring answers of course, but also a new wealth of knowledge on the importance of deep coral reefs in our understanding of reefs. Though since we were surrounded by valuable scientists as fascinated by their research as we are of submarine exploration, I will not get into the assessment and scientific prospects of this campaign, and I will let them speak to it.

Copyright Ghislain Bardout / Under The Pole

Good job everybody.

I truly believe in the power of group work, in the combination of everyone’s knowledge, in shared experiences, in the strength of partnerships. DeepHope is a beautiful example and I want to acknowledge everyone who contributed to this success: the team onboard Why for their trust, the support team in France for their presence despite the 12h time difference, the scientists and the research institutes for the seriousness of their research and their infectious passion. Thank you to all of our partners and particularly ROLEX, AZZARO, and the REGION OF BRITTANY as well as BORDIER, FRISQUET, and HONDA, without whom none of this would have been possible. Finally, I salute Emmanuelle, my alter ego in life, who leads Under The Pole by my side, and Robin and Tom who are opening up to this world at the pace of our adventures. And as always, a loving thought for Kayak, who couldn’t be part of the team in Polynesia, but who got a promotion in the North Pacific during the conveying of the WHY: he became “KAYAK” North Pole French Inuit Trans-Pacific Dog.

Copyright Benoît Poyelle / Under The Pole

It is now time for the whole Under The Pole team to take a break in July, before starting again on August 1st for the Capsule program: another challenge, ever greater.
Happy sailing to you all, and until next time.