They’re out on the ice!

Published on 17.03.2010 - Generali Arctic Observer

Zidane, parrain de l'expédition de JL Etienne

Zidane, parrain de l'expédition de JL Etienne

© International Polar Foundation

While most of the Arctic expeditions were in the process of starting their North Pole adventures, Zinédine Zidane climbed aboard JL Etienne's balloon. A few hundred metres below him, just a stone's throw from Ward Hunt, and Pat Falvey's expedition has already abandoned its trek!

No problem for Zidane, though, as the insurance world knows! Which is lucky for him, because the company that bungs him several well-filled envelopes of dosh each year has also decided to sponsor Dr Etienne in his attempt to cross the Arctic Ocean. Clash of the Titans and a great advertising coup: the former footballing genius boarded the pod and suddenly felt as though he had grown the wings of an ardent defender of the environment. There's a definite buzz between the two men and the agreement has now been signed: "Zinédine Zidane will be the sponsor of Jean-Louis Etienne's next polar expedition, called the 'Generali Arctic Observer', said the release published by the insurer on 22nd October 2009. Zidane: "I didn't know Jean-Louis Etienne personally," said Zidane, "but I was very impressed by his crossing of the pole. Tackling the issue of the environment is far from simple in practical terms and we need to continue showing the way. This is a very interesting expedition and I'm sure it'll appeal to the younger generations... we need to stay very humble, but I like Jean-Louis Etienne's approach."

Since then, on 16th and 17th March, Etienne carried out the final tests with his balloon (in fact a copy of his original) on Carroz plateau at the foot of Chamonix. These tests were successful and the explorer was able to observe the balloon being inflated in situ in surroundings similar to what awaits him at the pole, while at the same time dealing with the final technical uncertainties that always crop up with this type of project.

While we're on the topic of Arctic expeditions, the number of ventures has risen since our last report published at the end of January. There will in fact be a total of 13 expeditions out on the Arctic pack-ice this spring. These include two solo treks, with the Londoner Christina Franco, who is repeating her attempt of last year (as she promised at the time), and the Italian Michele Portrandolfo. Amid this scrum of adventurers, there are a number of teams who for obvious budget-related reasons have combined into one and the same expedition. This is the case for the teams of Larsen (Save the Poles) and Jinman in particular. All of the groups scheduled to leave from Ward Hunt are now out on the ice (including Pat Falvey's team, which has already abandoned its quest) and in a couple of days' time we will be publishing their first updates. Apologies for this slight delay, which is due to a few unfortunate technical glitches in your loyal servant's equipment!

'Stay tuned', as they say, because as I reported on 29th January, this coming spring 2010 season in the Arctic promises to be a really exciting one.

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