• Tania Wee

Science and Polar Voyages

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

A winning combo of tourism and research

There are a host of benefits to be gained from combining polar tourism and science! Polar expeditions are opportunities to acquire and share knowledge, helping to advance research and protect these ecosystems. Learn about the many advantages of this mutually beneficial collaboration.

Open-air Laboratories The polar regions are relatively unexplored areas and key fields of study for research in glaciology, oceanography, animal biology, chemistry, atmospheric science and human sciences. The North and South Poles are very difficult to reach, posing a financial, material and logistical challenge for research centres, which mainly invest in on-site scientific bases.

Given these constraints, trips to the Poles have been crucial for research since the beginning of polar tourism in the 1930s. They enable scientific projects to be rolled out and draw the attention of patrons and the general public to the importance of studying these extreme regions. The regular rotation of expedition ships provides an opportunity to establish long-term protocols for collecting targeted scientific data, checking its repeatability, comparing it and more. These opportunities make data collection for scientific purposes possible.

PONANT has been involved in this effort from the beginning by taking scientists and naturalist guides with them, who then share their expertise with passengers to raise awareness of the need to protect these fragile environments. However, by designing a ship to be a scientific platform from the outset, the company is going one step further. Le Commandant Charcot is one of the only French icebreakers with onboard research facilities, including wet and dry labs, sonars, beacon-buoys, a salinometer, a corer and a drone.

Becoming actively involved in the protection of the polar regions

Travellers to the polar regions are often willing to help the scientists with their missions. As such, several companies offer citizen science workshops organised by onboard teams of naturalist guides. These workshops let passengers collect additional data, which is then used and published by researchers. There is a whole host of applications for this, including, for example, Happywhale (marine mammal identification), phytoplankton sampling and cloud observation for NASA.

Taking part in these workshops allow you to discover the scientific approaches and daily life of a researcher in the field. Passengers relate much more to the environment and are much more motivated to protect it when they are directly involved in collecting scientific data.

What do we mean by “good data”?

To be useable by research teams, data produced by passengers has to be beyond reproach, i.e. it must respect the described protocols. It must be as reliable as possible, i.e. relevant, easily repeatable, accurate and reproducible.

Sharing the passion for the Poles to better protect them Polar tourism thus provides scientists with a range of opportunities, including the chance to generate new knowledge by working with tourists and the chance to share this knowledge. Polar cruises are not just about observation. They are linked with an educational programme to share knowledge on the areas visited, mainly through series of lectures on different specialities to address the issues affecting the polar regions in a comprehensive way.

Through lectures, discussions and observations with scientists and naturalist guides, passengers discover the many facets of the polar regions and the threats they face. Protecting an environment, region, or species starts with gaining knowledge to better understand it. Everyone who goes on a polar cruise returns as an ambassador for these regions, with a wealth of knowledge and experiences gained from a meaningful journey.


Are you ready for an adventure with the leading experts of the field? Then book with Sedunia Travel.

First published in Escales Ponant

Photos credits : ©StudioPONANT/Nathalie Michel / © Studio PONANT / Olivier Blaud / ©Studio PONANT/Violette VAUCHELLE

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