Etienne Jean-Louis (France)

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Etienne Jean-Louis

Etienne Jean-Louis

© Etienne Jean-Louis

French doctor and explorer Jean-Louis Etienne has dedicated his all life to exploration. In 1986, he became the first person to reach the North Pole solo, hauling his own sledge for 63 days. Since then he has led numerous expeditions to polar regions as well as to remote places like the french atoll of Clipperton in the Pacific, where he led a team of researchers to draw up an inventory of biodiversity and produce a report on the state of the marine environment. In 2010, he fulfilled a long-standing dream: to cross the Arctic Ocean in a hot-air balloon.

Personnal information

  • Doctor - Explorer
  • Born on 9th December 1946 at Vielmur, Tarn
  • Doctor of medicine
  • Former Intern at the Hospitals of the Midi-Pyrénées Region
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics and Food Engineering
  • Graduate in Biology and Sports Medicine
  • Chevalier of the National Order of Merit
  • Chevalier of the Order of Legion of Honour
  • Chevalier of the Order of Services to Education
  • Member of the Academy of Technology
  • Gold Medal from the Geographic Society

As a doctor specialising in nutrition and sports biology, Jean-Louis Etienne has taken part in numerous expeditions to the Himalayas, Greenland and Patagonia, as well as in the round-the-world sailing race aboard Pen Duick VI with Eric Tabarly.

In 1986, he became the first person to reach the North Pole solo, hauling his own sledge for 63 days. In the spring of 1987, he took a group of adolescents to the magnetic north pole in the islands of northern Canada.

Between July 1989 and March 1990, he was co-leader with the American Will Steger of the International Transantarctica Expedition, which was successful in achieving the longest crossing of Antarctica ever recorded, 6300 km, using dog-sledges.

An indefatigable defender of our planet, Jean-Louis ETIENNE led a number of educational expeditions between 1990 and 1996 aimed at making people aware of the polar regions and understanding the role that they play on life and the Earth's climate. In 1991-1992, he set sail for Patagonia, South Georgia and the Antarctic peninsula aboard the polar sailing ship Antarctica . His expedition in 1993-1994, was to the volcano Mount Erebus, while in 1995-1996, he spent the winter on Spitzbergen.

Since then, not a year has gone by without him returning to the lands that he loves so much to sail off Spitzbergen or Antarctica.

In the spring of 2002, he accomplished Mission Pack-Ice, in which he drifted for three months in the Arctic pack-ice aboard the Polar Observer as part of a research and information programme about climate warming.

His latest expedition, from December 2004 to April 2005, took place on the French atoll of Clipperton in the Pacific, where he led a team of researchers from the Natural History Museum, the IRD and the CNRS todraw up an inventory of biodiversity and produce a report on the state of the marine environment.

Jean-Louis Etienne has made contributions to numerous scientific missions. His expeditions are always in support of Life and Earth Sciences education programmes in conjunction with the Department of National Education and the National Centre of Educational Documentation.


  • "Médecine et Sport de Montagne", Editions Favre (1983/87/90)
  • "Le Marcheur du Pôle", Editions Robert Laffont (1986)
  • "Transantarctica", Editions Robert Laffont (1990)
  • "Pôle Sud", Editions L'Esprit du Temps (1991)
  • "Les Pôles", Editions Flammarion (1992)
  • "Antarctica", Editions Gallimard (1992)
  • "Expédition Erébus", Editions Arthaud (1994)
  • "Le Pôle Intérieur", Editions Hoëbeke (1999)
  • "La complainte de l'Ours", Editions JC Lattes (2001)
  • "Mission Banquise", Editions du Seuil / 7è Continent (2002)
  • "Médecine des randonnées extrêmes: des Pôles aux plus hauts sommets", Editions du Seuil / 7è Continent (2004)
  • "Clipperton, l'atoll du bout du monde", Editions du Seuil / 7è Continent (2005).

List of major accomplishments

  • Climbing expedition to Patagonia the Fitzroy massif.
  • Doctor aboard Father JAOUEN's Bel Espoir for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.Attempt on the trans-Atlantic record with Alain COLAS.
  • : Round-the-world race on Pen Duick with Eric TABARLY.
  • "Sailing and Climbing" expedition to Greenland.
  • Expedition to the Himalayas to Broad Peak (8050 m).
  • Expedition through the canals of Patagonia aboard Gauloises III, first crossing of the Hielo Continental.
  • Expedition to the North Face of Everest.1985Attempt to reach the North Pole.
  • First solo expedition to the North pole.1987Expedition to the magnetic north pole with a group of adolescents.
  • First South-North crossing of Greenland.1989-90"Transantarctica" expedition, the great crossing of Antarctica
  • 1991-1992: "Antarctica-Foundation Elf" educational and scientific expedition to the Antarctic peninsula, South Georgia and Patagonia.
  • "Erebus" expedition to the active volcano in Antarctica
  • 1995-1996: Winter on Spitzbergen aboard the Antarctica2002Mission Pack-Ice, drifting on the Arctic Ocean aboard the Polar Observer
  • 2004-2005 : Clipperton expedition
  • 2010 : He set off alone from the Svalbard Archipelago on 05 April aboard a hot-air and helium balloon. He wanted to get to the Canadian Far North by passing over the North Pole. But head winds made him pass some 200 kilometres from the Pole and hade him land, on 10 April, in Northern Siberia. After a flight of 3,631 kilometres. Etienne thus finished what he calls a trilogy. A trilogy that will have seen him to be the first man to reach solo the geographical north pole by pulling his sledge behind him for 63 days (1986) and to drift for four months, still solo, aboard the Polar Observer nacelle, making a considerable number of scientific observations (2002). The objective of this 2010 expedition was to draw the world's attention to the regression of the ice-barrier and its consequences for the life of the indigenous peoples, to the Arctic biodiversity and to the climatic chaos at the planetary level that its disappearance would entail.
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