Lorenzo BRAMANTI interview
after 1 month of expedition in Svalbard

DEEPLIFE scientific co-directeur & CNRS/LECOB researcher, Lorenzo BRAMANTI answers our questions on marine animal forests and looks back at the first discoveries of the expedition. (In French) 

EMMANUELLE & GHISLAIN INTERVIEW
AFTER 2 WEEKS OF SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITION IN SVALBARD

How is this return to the polar zone going?

It seemed logical to start UNDER THE POLE IV • DEEPLIFE in the Arctic. It is not the easiest option because it requires specific logistics and polar diving remains a difficult and tiring practice. Especially in our study area, which involves deep dives (here, 80-100m) and long dives. But the automatisms linked to work and life in the polar zone quickly return.

From a scientific point of view, we are in unknown territory. Very few dives have been made in these regions, especially when you move away from the bases, and there is no information on what is found below 20-30 meters. But this is also what makes this mission exciting, one of those where you get back to exploration by adding a scientific dimension to it.

Beyond the mission, we deeply love these regions which, like magnets, always make us return to them. Here, there is no internet connection, few human traces, a harsh climate but great lights and scenery, and the privilege of witnessing a raw and wild world. 

- After 15 days of expedition, what are the first discoveries you have made, or the first difficulties you have encountered? 

Our objective is to find small Arctic marine animal forests and to study the biodiversity of the animals that structure them (engineer species) as well as the animals that live in the forest (fish, invertebrates, etc.). This is even more interesting in the polar region as climate change effects are rapid and significant. The glacier at the bottom of King's Bay, where we are currently diving, has retreated by nearly 4 km in 15 years. The data collected will make it possible in the future to monitor the evolution of the sites studied. 

Cette première boucle d’un mois est principalement consacrée à la prospection de sites avec Lorenzo Bramanti, plongeur profond, directeur de recherche au CNRS et co-directeur scientifique de DEEPLIFE. Jusqu’ici, nous avons trouvé une petite forêt animale arctique que nous qualifierions plus justement de « jardins » composés d’anémones. De nombreuses espèces d’éponges sont également présentes.

Nous avons fait le choix d’arriver tôt dans la saison pour subir le moins possible le « bloom planctonique » et bénéficier d’une meilleure visibilité dans l’eau mais le revers est une période plus froide et très ventée. Or, ces organismes s’épanouissent souvent dans des zones exposées, avec du courant, ce qui nous rend tributaire de la météo. Chaque plongée monopolise énormément d’énergie de la part de tout l’équipage pour préparer les scaphandres, équiper les plongeurs, dégeler le matériel et l’entretenir, gonfler les bouteilles… Il faut trouver l’équilibre nécessaire entre le rythme intense du travail tout en préservant la fatigue du groupe. 

Comment passe-t-on de l’écriture du projet à la réalisation ? 

That's the magic of an expedition. There is a world of difference between writing a project and carrying it out in the field. There are logistical pitfalls, financial difficulties, and the unforeseen which is everywhere like the air which does not like a vacuum! It is an ecosystem that allows UNDER THE POLE to exist, a crew that is much larger than the one that is ultimately on the WHY. Partners who, through their trust, allow us to carry out this research, a team on land and in the field whose investment in time and energy goes beyond the framework of simple work, scientists who ask questions and process samples, analyse photos and publish scientific articles once the expedition is over. 

Do you have a story to tell us? 

In Ny-Alesund, the scientific base in King's Bay, we met Tommy Jegou, who is currently a logistician for the AWIPEV (Franco-German base). Tommy was on a civic service mission at UNDER THE POLE in 2018 and participated in the whole CAPSULE mission in Moorea. He arrived a month ago in Svalbard where he will spend a year. It was really nice to see him on the dock when we arrived and to meet him on board. For two hours, he guided us through the buildings and scientific installations of the base, explaining the functioning, the scientific protocols and the cohabitation between the different nationalities present.

Such a reunion on the boundaries of the world!

The WHY back to the Arctic ice pack

After almost three years in the Pacific waters, we had almost forgotten. The cold. The humidity. The bad weather. The snow. The condensation inside. The stove that backs up and smokes us when we close the lazarette door. The filter under the sink that has to be cleaned before and after washing the dishes. The doubt that creeps in when trying on Robin and Tom's TPS (survival suit) - "is this really sensible?" - and the feeling of being in our place as soon as we find ourselves out in the open. Putting on four layers of clothing before going on watch. But also the day that stretches on and on. The low-angled light and the fulmar petrels hovering over a golden ocean. The satisfaction of feeling the WHY vibrate under sail. The gradual appearance of the first patches of pack ice. The sound of ice on the hull. All these details that are so many emotions and that come back by little touches until they are familiar to us again. These few days before the WHY becomes our "home" again.

Pour ce convoyage septentrional, nous avons embarqué un équipage particulier, l’équipe « du bureau » de Concarneau, celle qui fait exister au quotidien Under The Pole. Ni marins, ni plongeurs professionnels, ils sont responsables de la logistique, de la coordination scientifique, de la communication, de la gestion administrative, de la sensibilisation, du sponsoring. Et pour mener ces tâches difficiles et parfois ingrates, nous sommes persuadés qu’il faut se nourrir du terrain. Nous avons donc décidé de faire ensemble cette traversée de Tromsø à l’archipel du Svalbard. Encore nous fallait-il saisir la fenêtre météo qui permettrait de monter en cette première quinzaine d’avril, ce qui reste assez tôt dans la saison. Malgré le froid, le vent, la mer et le mal de mer, l’équipage a été enthousiaste et volontaire, prenant les quarts, aidant à la cuisine comme à la manœuvre.

Le succès d’une expédition dépend d’une somme de missions accomplies, pour la découverte, pour la science, pour l’image, pour la sensibilisation. Mais ces réussites et les souvenirs qui resteront sont conditionnés par l’ambiance du bord. De l’alchimie qui se crée. Et dans la nuit de jeudi à vendredi, quand nous étions tous sur le pont pour regarder le WHY se frayer un chemin dans les plaques de banquise, on pouvait déceler dans les regards cette émotion propre à la découverte des régions polaires. Ce magnétisme qui, malgré la rudesse du climat, nous donne envie d’y revenir encore et encore.

Dans quelques jours, l’équipe d’« expédition » arrivera à Longyearbyen pour démarrer les plongées dédiées au programme scientifique sur les forêts animales sous-marine de la zone mésophotique. Mais c’est cette petite équipe hétéroclite qui aura mené le WHY à bon port. À 78°16 Nord très exactement !

Emmanuelle et Ghislain

UNDER THE POLE IV • DEEPLIFE • 2021-2030 RECOGNIZED AS AN
OFFICIAL PROJECT OF THE "OCEAN DECADE"

We are proud to let you know thatUNDER THE POLE IV • DEEPLIFE • 2021-2030 is officially recognized as an officiel project of the United Nations Decade of ocean sciences for sustainable development (the "Ocean Decade" project), coordinated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

The mission of the Ocean Decade is to develop solutions based on ocean sciences for sustainable development, creating the link between mens and ocean.

Travelling around the world, carried out by the French National Centre for Scientific Research and a consortium of international scientists,UNDER THE POLE IV • DEEPLIFE • 2021-2030 project will contribute to:
– Collecting the knowledge necessary to understand the effects of multiple stress factors on the underwater animal forests of the mesophotic zone (30-200 m of depth),
– Developing solutions to protect, manage and restore habitats and biodiversity,
 Highlighting the invaluable value of the ocean and the ressources it provides.
 
The scientific directors of the project are Laëtitia Hedouin (French National Centre for Scientific Research / French Island Research Center and Environmental Observatory) and Lorenzo Bramanti (French National Centre for Scientific Research / French Laboratory of Ecogeochemistry of Benthic Environments).For any further information related to the program, please contact our scientific coordinator Myrina Boulais: myrina@underthepole.com.
 
Thank to all of our sponsors and partners who have confidence in us, and without whom our awareness and research programs would just not be possible.

GO ON AN EXPEDITION WITH UNDER THE POLE
"BETWEEN TWO WORLDS" BOOK RELEASE IN OCTOBER

It is a pleasure to share the story in pictures of these four years of underwater exploration of the mesophotic zone, from the Arctic to French Polynesia, as well as the CAPSULE program.

A book written by Emmanuelle and Ghislain Bardout, published by Ulmer editions, photos taken by Franck Gazzola and a preface written by François Gabart and Virginie Valentini-Gabart. Thank you all for your contribution.

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