“NOTHING EXISTS UNTIL YOU EXPERIENCE IT”.
A NEW KIND OF EXPEDITION
Embarking on this exceptional project: Alex Ionescu: cybersecurity expert, adventurer 3.0, and promoter of the expedition. His idea: To charter the Commandant Charcot, the most sophisticated icebreaking cruise ship of our time, which launched in 2021. Then Alex met SEDNA, the nomad polar observatory.
SEDNA’s vision and offerings were immediately welcomed by Alex, and what was initially a private event has since widened in scope to a format that integrates scientific research and engaging sensory activities.
This collaboration unlike anything ever seen before, the fruit of 2 years of labor, has culminated in this new kind of expedition confronting an exceptional and unpredictable challenge. Not the challenge of going farther, higher, or harder, but of putting the sharing of exceptional discoveries and sensations at the heart of the exploit, bringing meaning to human adventure rather than focusing on its extreme aspects.
The voyage itself has a number of goals. First, to conduct real scientific research on the remarkable tool that is the Commandant Charcot. Second, to raise awareness on the ground of the reality of the elements in Antarctica through engaging immersive experiences And finally, to allow the guests of the expedition —including artists, scientists, businesspeople, journalists, and several children—to fulfill their dreams and to come out of the experience more aware, more engaged, and, in turn, more active in the fight to protect our planet.
THE WEDDELL SEA, AN UNEXPLORED REGION
The Weddell Sea was selected jointly by both Alex and SEDNA for its remote nature, its topography, and its ice coverage, which make it one of the world’s last unspoiled areas.
It’s the ideal region for collecting crucial data that will allow us to better understand, evaluate, and predict the effects of climate change on the environment and biodiversity. A never-before-seen itinerary spans the east coast of the Antarctic peninsula, into regions that are very difficult to access and very seldom explored.
The Antarctic Treaty imposes extremely strict conditions on all research or exploration activities conducted in these protected and regulated areas. SEDNA is committed to maintaining a particularly high level of environmental care and adherence to standards during its missions.
A perfect grasp of the issues was necessary to obtain the various licenses and authorizations that were delivered by the competent authorities in France and Chile prior to the organization of this unique expedition. This expertise is a key part of what SEDNA has to offer as an organization.
AN AMBITIOUS SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PROGRAM
A team of 20 scientists involved in no less than 10 different research projects has therefore been able to carry out observations, and to collect data and samples in this very understudied area.
Chile’s new Millennium Institute BASE, headed by its director, Elie Poulin, has carried out research projects in a number of sectors ranging from microbiology in marine and inland waters, to plankton studies, to the ecology of marine, intertidal, and land populations. It has also recorded images and audio to aid in the upcoming creation of an Antarctic Metaverse dedicated to science.
Peter Fretwell, a penguin specialist at the British Antarctic Survey, has conducted ground counts of emperor penguins in a colony in order to calibrate satellite image observations.
Shawnee Traylor, a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has collected numerous water samples in order to measure the quantity of dissolved gas, and in particular CO2, within them.
Yves Plancherel from Imperial College London and Phyllis Lam from the University of Southampton are interested in rare-earth elements and in the nutrients found in seawater, ice melt, and rivers. Footage captured by drone has allowed them to draw up a precise multispectral map of a part of the visited areas.
A French team from the Institut d’Alembert led by Olivier Adam was able to conduct hydrophone recordings in a systematic way in order to identify marine mammals present in the area covered.
The wide variety of these fields of research, coupled with the scientists’ enthusiasm for communicating their passion, allowed them to build a real synergy with their passengers, who were themselves greedy for knowledge and ready to participate in an active way. These moments of exchange, shared experiences, and working on the ground made this journey an unforgettable and enriching one for all involved.
SHARING, AN ESSENTIAL VALUE
As well as the friendly and laidback Alex, this extraordinary adventure was able to see the light of day and operate with full efficiency thanks to the magic touch of a particular duo—namely, the experienced captain Etienne Garcia and the explorer Nicolas “Niko” Dubreuil, with his perfect command of the terrain.
After pushing himself to the limit through a series of exploits during a part of his life spent traversing the deserted icy expanses of Greenland, getting up close and personal with the extreme and at times irremediable, Niko, the founder of SEDNA, now paves the way for the future expeditions he’s always dreamed of, where adventure is found no longer only in physical or technological exploits, but in sharing, exchange, and the search for meaning.
The 4 founding pillars of SEDNA—exploration, science, meeting, and sharing—have helped build connections between participants from varied backgrounds, guests, friends, family, scientists, and crew. A rare chance offered to the scientific teams to conduct their research on the terrain and to share their knowledge and their work in real time with passengers.
INNOVATIVE, PARTICIPATORY, IMMERSIVE, AND ENGAGING EXPLORATIONS
To meet these goals, SEDNA developed a new format known as “useful exploration,” combining academic and participatory science, raising awareness of scientific research, access to uncharted territories, discovery of the surroundings, and engaging, sensory immersive experiences. This gives them the chance to confront reality and leave their comfort zone all while making use of the facilities of a ship that’s fully equipped to fit its purpose.
This model fostered a remarkable spirit of integration and a synergy rarely seen between passengers and scientists, both during activities on the ground and during organized or spontaneous talks. Often, the discovery of the polar worlds is limited to a collection of snapshots and brief glimpses. These are no doubt captivating, but they keep the passenger in the simple role of passive observer of the universe that’s stretching out in front of them.
SEDNA takes you by the hand and transforms you into an active participant in your own expedition through immersion into the harsh realities of icy environments. Through the practice of diving into polar waters, bivouac camping, or cross-country skiing over ice fields, passengers have been able to apprehend the harshness of this world of ice at the heart of Antarctica, and thereby understand the level of physical and mental commitment needed to traverse it.
Any kind of movement has an environmental impact, but through its projects, SEDNA generates positive returns for the environment, thanks in particular to the scientific, human, and social outcomes that result from the spirit and principle of its missions. Additionally, SEDNA offers carbon offsetting plans.
JOURNEYS FROM WHICH YOU RETURN A CHANGED PERSON
An indirect approach that often echoes weeks or months after returning home, during those snapshots of time that simply transform you into someone who’s “not totally the same as you were before.”
A format that urgently needs to be reproduced to provide scientific research endeavors with the means to study our planet’s mechanisms, and to raise awareness among stakeholders throughout society who will in turn be able to enact change. To experience an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, and meaningful adventure in which you can awaken your inner explorer and see the world with the eager eyes of a child.