It’s been already two months since we arrived in French Polynesia. Two very intense months on the WHY and back in Concarneau. Our field team has emptied about 3 months worth of equipment and food that had been loaded in a container and shipped from France. In the ambiant humidity, surrounded by mosquitos and getting poured on by the storms, it wasn’t exactly as picture-perfect as we had imagined. Luckily, Robin and Tom, together with their nanny Camille, were enjoying the beach, climbing coconut trees or cleaning the beach to ‘’save the fishes’’. After two weeks of this kind of work and necessary maintenance on the boat, we rewarded ourselves with a hike ending at the ‘’Col des cocotiers’’ or ”coconut pass’’, offering a panoramic view on both sides of Moorea. Meanwhile, back in France, Ghislain was presenting the Capsule to the Press, and completed the first trials by spending 24 hours straight in it, together with Sylvain Pujolle and Erwan Marivint. This later phase of project is a success and is very encouraging for this incredible adventure which will be taking place in 12 months in French Polynesia.

During Ghislain’s absence, we had a massive setback: our dog Kayak had to be sent back to France. Upon his arrival in Polynesia, Kayak was tested positive for Leishmaniose, and was given 3 days to leave to the country. This was a real shock as he was tested negative upon his arrival in Hawaii. He must have been contaminated by mosquito during the stopover in Hawaii. Today, Kayak is simply a healthy carrier of the disease which is very common in a lot of countries, except here in Polynesia (and understandably, they want to keep it that way). Whilst we are away, Kayak has found a new home with BIlou and Sophie, together with his labrador best friend Grib. Thank you my friends, we could not dream of better hosts for Kayak for the year to come. That being said, every single time, when I get to the WHY with the dinghy, I miss my best friend Kayak waiting for me at the bow. I can’t wait to meet him again.

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

The last months have been really full-on at our headquarters, between the construction and the tests of the Capsule, the logistic to organize for our scientific programs, the implementation of a web-based platform for Educational programs, as well as different events in which we took part in. On July 7th, the team from Concarneau arrived in Polynesia, together with Aldo Ferrucci. Aldo is a rebreather dive instructor, specialist in deep diving. We made contact with him last January as we wanted all the team to get some training upon its arrival in Polynesia, before starting the scientific work on mesophotic corals. This 10-month program will be very intense for the divers, with deep dives and a long working sessions at the bottom. The objective for Aldo was to train all the different teams of divers to be fully operational with the JJCCR rebreather – the machine we use to reach our working depths (120, 90, and 60m) – but also to imagine and anticipate all the emergency situations that can be faced underwater, properly using underwater scooters, as well as working seamlessly with the rest of the team underwater but also with the safety team at the surface.

Those three weeks with Aldo have been extremely beneficial for all of us, irrespective of our initial level of experience. I personally like his approach which goes beyond simply  learning new skills, but which also requires to use thinking and common sense. The fresh rebreather users like me now have a much better understanding of the machine itself, which will become an incredible working tool once the experience kicks in, opening for us new perspectives. Ghislain and Julien, who will be focusing on the 120M zone, have dived down to 150M and are fully ready to to their work.

Some dives took place under the boat, on a sandy bottom, to learn some drills. Other dives took place outside on the reef. We have discovered the incredible bio-diversity present in the channels (sharks, rays, turtles, barracudas,…), the pacific blue, and the amazing water clarity flooded with life. Ghislain, Julien and Aldo were completely stoked after their deeper dives where life was indeed present. We can now only hope for a strong collection of data during the next few months.

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

Something unique this month was also the number of people present onboard. Ghislain and I wanted to make sure that our team, including the team from the office, could experience what life on the field looks like. In Huahine and Raiatea, we had to rent a house in order to make some room on the WHY! Our Medicook (our Doctor who is also our cook) managed to keep everyone fit and healthy with her food, especially as we came back from our dives usually famish! Despite the numerous dives, the long hours of refilling the tanks and preparing gas mixes (thanks Julien!), the sailing, the maintenance, the long dishwashing sessions, the kids who never stop, and the viruses, well the atmosphere onboard mirrored the individuals of this team: super positive!

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

Aldo has been instrumental in this positive vibe. Despite having experienced some of the most challenging expeditions, or worked on most high level movie sets, he arrived onboard with the most fresh, humble and positive attitude! His passion for diving and life underwater is not only intact but also contagious. His tiramisu is by far our favourite dessert onboard. Thank you Aldo, we can’t wait to have you with us again!

© Aldo Ferrucci / Under The Pole

In August, we started our workshop with Laëtitia Hédouin, which gathers international scientists who will embark and work with us on mesophotic corals. The objectives are to learn and identify the corals will be searching for, to get the first samples, try the ROV (underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle) which will be used for scouting dive sites, and to test the communication system between the divers and the surface. Two weeks of training gradually becoming the first days of actual scientific on-site protocols. The excitement is high, and we can’t wait to be yield the first results…whilst hearing the sound of humpback whales around the island of Moorea!

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

© Aldo Ferrucci / Under The Pole

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

© Franck Gazzola / Under The Pole

© Ghislain Bardout / Under The Pole

Emmanuelle