19 January 2016
The plaque of Pourquoi-Pas? has been replaced on its cairn in Petermann Island by the crew of L’Austral, a vessel of the Compagnie du Ponant
During his second voyage in Antarctica, Jean-Baptiste Charcot stayed on Petermann Island (Antarctic Peninsula) from January to November 1909. He erected on this island, at the top of Megalestris hill, a cairn on which he affixed a lead plate with the names of 30 officers and crew of the Pourquoi Pas? The original of this plaque is now in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, but a replica, made by France, was put in place some years ago by the United Kingdom. The cairn and its plaque were listed as Antarctic Historic Monument (HSM 27) by the Recommendation VII-9 of the Consultative Meeting of the Antarctic Treaty of Wellington in 1972.
At the end of the Antarctic tourist season 2014-2015, a tour operator visited Petermann Island and found that the plate was detached from its wooden base and lay on the ground. He put the plate between the stones of the cairn to avoid any further damage and informed IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators), of which his company is a member. The Executive Director of IAATO, Kim Crosbie, then alerted IPEV and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAEDI). It was decided to ask the Compagnie du Ponant, French company organizing tourist trips to Antarctica and IAATO member, to make refitting the plate, on behalf of France, at one of its passages on Petermann Island during the tourist season 2015-2016.
As a result, the crew of l’AUSTRAL repositioned on January 13th 2016 the plate of Pourquoi-Pas ? on the cairn after having carefully cleaned it. The work was coordinated by Nicolas Dubreuil, Head of Expedition Corporate at the Compagnie du Ponant, and made under the direction of Olivier MARIEN, Master of l’AUSTRAL, and José SARICA, Expedition Leader.
This very fine achievement will allow thousands of tourists who annually visit the site* to recall those exceptional men who participated in the human adventure in Antarctica in the early days of the twentieth century.
Thanks to all people involved in this work.
Director of IPEV
* Petermann Island occupies the 6th rank in the list of the most visited site in the Antarctic Peninsula. During the 2014-2015 season, more than 9500 visitors have landed on this island (source : Iaato)