French polar chief derides Antarctic cruise as a jaunt

January 3, 2014

The head of France's polar science institute voiced fury on Friday at the misadventures of a Russian ship trapped in Antarctic ice, deriding what he called a tourists' trip that had diverted resources from real science.

In an interview with AFP, Yves Frenot, director of the French Polar Institute, said he had no issue at all with rescuing those aboard the stricken vessel.

But, he said, the trip itself was a "pseudo-scientific expedition" that, because it had run into difficulties, had drained resources from the French, Chinese and Australian scientific missions in Antarctica.

"There's no reason to place Antarctica off-limits and to keep it just for scientists, but this tourism has to be monitored and regulated so that operators can be sure of getting help if need be," he said.

The Russian vessel, the Akademik Shokalskiy, became stuck on December 24 in frozen seas, 100 nautical miles east of the French Antarctic base, Dumont d'Urville.

Its 52 passengers—scientists, tourists and journalists—were airlifted on Thursday to an Australian government supply vessel, the Aurora Australis, using a helicopter from a Chinese icebreaker, the Xue Long.

But the Xue Long itself may now be trapped in the ice, and the Aurora Australis has been placed on standby to see if the Chinese ship needs help.

In addition, a French Antarctic vessel, the Astrolabe, which resupplies Dumont d'Urville during the Antarctic summer between October and March was requisitioned for a week to help in the rescue operation.

The trip on the Akademik Shokalskiy was aimed at emulating a 1911-1914 expedition by the Australian explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson.

"This kind of commemorative expedition has no interest from a scientific point of view," said Frenot.

Because of the rescue operations, French scientists had had to scrap a two-week oceanographic campaign this month using the Astrolabe, said Frenot.

"But we are relatively lucky," he said.

"The Chinese have had to cancel all their scientific programme, and my counterpart in Australia is spitting tacks with anger, because their entire summer has been wiped out."

Antarctica has around 80 scientific bases, of which around 40 are permanently staffed and others manned on a seasonal or temporary basis.

Only three bases are inland; the others are on the coast.

"If we want these bases to operate all year round, it is essential to resupply with food and fuel during the brief window of opportunity," Frenot said.

Diverting supply ships to rescue tasks "imperilled" this link, he said.

Explore further: Relief at Antarctic rescue turns to fear for Chinese ship

Related Stories

Relief at Antarctic rescue turns to fear for Chinese ship

January 3, 2014

Australian authorities expressed relief Friday after 52 passengers were safely evacuated by helicopter from a Russian ship stranded in Antarctica, but then raised concern for a Chinese rescue vessel caught in heavy ice.

Rescue underway for Russian ship trapped by Antarctic ice

December 26, 2013

Three icebreaking ships were Thursday hurrying to reach a Russian vessel carrying 74 people on a scientific expedition which is trapped by ice off Antarctica, with Australian authorities coordinating the rescue mission.

Antarctic helicopter rescue underway at icebound ship

January 2, 2014

A helicopter landed alongside an icebound Russian research ship in Antarctica Thursday and began picking up its 52 trapped passengers, after a number of false starts and failed icebreaking attempts.

Winds, rain halt Antarctic ship rescue

January 1, 2014

Strong winds and rain Wednesday prevented the helicopter rescue of passengers on a Russian ship stuck in ice off Antarctica, Australian authorities said, as those onboard rang in the New Year with a sing-song from the deck.

Rescue of icebound Antarctic ship faces setback

December 28, 2013

A Chinese icebreaker that was en route to rescue a ship trapped in Antarctic ice was forced to turn back on Saturday after being unable to push its way through the heavy sea ice.

Ship involved in Antarctic rescue faces trouble

January 3, 2014

(AP)—An Australian icebreaker carrying 52 passengers who were retrieved from an icebound ship in the Antarctic was told to halt its journey home on Friday after concerns that a Chinese vessel involved in the dramatic rescue ...

Recommended for you

Seismologists introduce new measure of earthquake ruptures

March 21, 2018

A team of seismologists has developed a new measurement of seismic energy release that can be applied to large earthquakes. Called the Radiated Energy Enhancement Factor (REEF), it provides a measure of earthquake rupture ...

Conservation costs can be higher than bargained for

March 21, 2018

Sweeping policies that reward people in environmentally sensitive areas for returning their farmlands to nature have been lauded as ecological triumphs. But a new Michigan State University study shows that over time some ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.9 / 5 (10) Jan 03, 2014
It was a media stunt to promote the AGW agenda. The various media companies should be required to foot the rescue bill.
4.3 / 5 (10) Jan 03, 2014
and, in addition, match the bill to make up for the inconvenience
3.5 / 5 (8) Jan 03, 2014
and, in addition, match the bill to make up for the inconvenience

I have to agree, as I've already voiced my position on this.

Given they are supposedly climate scientists, one wonders at the fact there wasn't an actual scientist among them to predict the weather, so as to avoid a change in ice flow direction.
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 03, 2014
I do hope the head of the French Antarctic program understands what science was being performed before he made this statement and this isn't just a knee-jerk response because he is upset.
3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 04, 2014
Amazing how this angle has been ignored by the media.

I guess "AGW propaganda voyage STILL trapped in summer sea ice" doesn't fit the desired narrative?
4 / 5 (4) Jan 05, 2014
Given they are supposedly climate scientists, one wonders at the fact there wasn't an actual scientist among them to predict the weather, so as to avoid a change in ice flow direction.

The self-proclaimed expert on everything confuses climate with weather, and when convenient thinks it's perfectly predictable in what is probably the most dangerous ocean environment on the planet. Antarctic travel is never without risk.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.