“Needed: young researchers to join scientific expeditions organized in conjunction with the International Geophysical Year". A student, this ad posted at the University will change my life; I then would go to Antarctica to live an adventure: participate in the exploration of this huge continent still unknown. At 83, the white continent at the other end of the world still makes me dream.
In 1955, at 23, my student life was easy; being reasonably successfull in my studies at Besançon University, I was living in a well close family whose passion was football. My ambition was to follow the track of my brother Pierrot become a professional "goal keeper" in both the Sochaux and France teams. And I kept wondering for a long time not to have hesitated before telling myself " Why not me ?" in reaction to the ad posted at the University.
At the beginning of this century, Antarctica was the symbol of spirit of adventure. Expeditions by great explorers like Amundsen, Scott, Byrd and the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Charcot had rightly imposed, in everyone's mind, that exploration and adventure were inseparable. By the middle of the century, stories and pictures from these heroic pioneers served as a basis to the organisation of scientific campaigns in Antarctica as part of the International Geophysics Year.
These new explorers motivation changes purpose : it is about starting doing research programs coordinated at the international level to study this continent, a great project which seems a priority for the understanding of our planet. Since then, Science has always been in the heart of antarctic adventure, an adventure which, for me too, changed nature.
Coming after the pioneers time, I have had the good chance to live this transition period, during which research begins "by feeling" and where discoveries linked to exploration or to intuition mix, opening "tracks" which enable afterwards more targeted advances. Plunged into the action, campaign after campaign, the funding of which had to be found, coming bak into the laboratory in order to assimilate the results obtained by my companions and colleagues and prepare new projects mixing my two passions before leaving for a new mission... I did not have, at the time, the vision of a development, the logic of which appears to me today and that has filled my researcher's life with little joys.
Outgoing from University, I then do not know anything about this dawning science, glaciology. After a training campaign, organised by the Americans for the researchers coming from the numerous countries participating in the IGY at the military base of Camp Century in Thule, Greenland, what a shock when discovering Antarctica on board an icebreaker coming from the Arctic.