food / travel

Top Of The World, One Family's Adventures To The North Pole

Now on their third 'Under the Pole' expedition, French explorers Emmanuelle Périé-Bardout and Ghislain Bardout (and their two sons) just can't get enough of the far north.

The Bardout family aboard their WHY boat
The Bardout family aboard their WHY boat
Sélène Agapé

UUMMANNAQ ISLAND — The telephone network is far from optimal on Uummannaq island along Greenland bay, but Emmanuelle Périé-Bardout and Ghislain Bardout wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Three months ago, the couple left their hometown of Concarneau, in France's Brittany, and set sail for Greenland aboard their sailboat, the WHY. Accompanied by a crew of 12 people, this is their third in a series of Arctic expeditions that they plan to continue making until 2020. This isn't just a professional project; it's also a life adventure. Along for the ride are their two sons — Robin, aged five, and Tom, a toddler — and their dog Kayak.

"Sharing is in the DNA of what we are doing," says Emmanuelle, who co-leads the expedition with her husband. "Diving, exploring, sailing, doing research for science, we can't do that alone."

"Underwater polar exploration" Youtube

Under The Pole

The couple has a long-time love affair with the sea. When they met, she was a skipper; he was an energetic engineer passionate about deep diving. In 2010, they embarked on "Under the Pole I," an underwater exploration of Arctic ice floe. Through their Facebook page, they shared breathtaking shots of the North Pole seabed and marine biodiversity.

Pushed by their taste of adventure, Emmanuelle and Ghislain decided to launch a second expedition, "Under the Pole II." They sold their house in France, bought the WHY, and left Concarneau with Robin, who was two at the time, and Kayak. The two-year-expedition took them to Greenland, where once again they kept a logbook of their adventure on their website, and posted photos and videos on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Vimeo to share the experience with internet users all over the globe.

Dogsledding on Greenland ice floe Photo: Emmanuelle Perie Bardout/Instagram

Their images of the Northern Lights, sled-dog rides, and swimming with Greenland sharks captivated their followers and boosted the couple's popularity worldwide. Their notoriety, in turn, helped them fund the third "Under The Pole" expedition and employ a dozen people: including a cameramen, researchers, divers and doctors.

Diving and research

Emmanuelle remembers with happiness the culture shock she experienced when they first arrived in a small village in Greenland during their last expedition. She also explains that social networks are a big part of their journey. "We're trying to communicate as much as possible," she tells. "But even though we're active on social media, in Greenland it's sometimes difficult to find a network."

Pushing the limits of polar diving Photo: @underthepole/Instragram

The crew is trying to find the right balance between diving and research. Scientist divers are working on three subjects during the expedition: natural bioluminescence, deep coral and super predators. They are sharing the results of their research with educational institutions in partnership with the French Ministry of Education.

Emmanuelle had the experience, a few years back, of sharing her passion and discoveries first-hand with a group of high school students. The couple will have an opportunity to do the same later this year, when they plan to return to France for a stint.

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