Total Pole Airship

Expedition News-Official Website

From 15.04.2007 to 15.06.2008 - Status: postponed

The airship

The airship

© International Polar Foundation

Jean-Louis Etienne is getting ready for a new adventure. After his expedition to Clipperton with the aim of drawing up a report on the state of nature of this unknown atoll, the renowned French explorer returns to the North Pole.

His new expedition, Total Pole Airship, takes place within the framework of the International Polar Year 2007-2008. The objective of this expedition is to measure the thickness of the pack ice covering the Arctic Ocean. In order to do this, the expedition will fly right through the Arctic Ocean, through the North Pole, aboard an airship. Attached underneath the airship, an apparatus (EM bird) will instantaneously record the thickness of the sea ice. L'EM-bird is an apparatus developed by the German Alfred Wegener Institute; it records instantaneously the ice thickness profile above which it flies. How does it do this? By emitting a laser frequency, an echo describes the pack ice's surface, while the low frequency electromagnetic radiation analyses the lower surface. The result of these measurements will constitute a reference value in following the evolution of climate change.

Why has he chosen an airship? Up until now, helicopters were usually to make such measurements; but, helicopters have a very small range and, moreover, they consume a lot of fuel. In order to extend the surface which can be explored and in order to avoid high consumption of fuel, Jean-Louis Etienne got the idea of using an airship.

Expedition planning

  • April 2007, in a couple of weeks from now, the expedition will fly over the North Pole in order to calibrate the EM-bird;
  • In July of this year, Jean-Louis Etienne will board the airship and carry out the first flight trials.;
  • Autumn 2007, the airship will undergo campaigning in France;
  • Spring 2008, the expedition will take off towards the Arctic polar regions;
  • by mid April-May of the same year, it will be flying over the entire Arctic pack ice in order to proceed with the EM-bird measurements.

Educational project

At the same time this new adventure is underway, an educational project shall, of course, be developed within the theme of "Global Warming and Energies of the Future". This project will be lead in cooperation with the Ministry of Research, the National Education and the Hall of Science in Paris. It will be sponsored by Unesco within the framework of its Decade of the United Nations activities for the education of sustainable development.

For the moment, Jean-Louis Etienne's team is over the Tignes Lake, in Savoie, at 2086 metres in altitude, for a final rehearsal of the operations to be lead over the pack ice next April. The purpose was to test and configure the underwater wire-guided robot (ROV), the role of which will be to recreate a reversed bathometry of the lower surface of the pack ice.

By the same occasion, the team followed advanced under ice diving lessons and the members were able to train for various tasks awaiting them under the pack ice: helping to operate the ROV, surveying, taking photographs and videotaping.

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