On 27th September 2022, what is claimed to be the world’s only luxury icebreaker, PONANT’s expedition ship, ’Le Commandant Charcot’, became the first French cruise ship to cross the McClure Strait.
An eastern arm of the Beaufort Sea on the edge of the Canadian Northwest Territories, the Strait is renowned for difficult ice conditions, similar to those of the Northwest Passage.
‘Le Commandant Charcot’ took guests into the heart of the Canadian Northwest Territories, having crossed the Northwest Passage, including the Strait of Fury and Hecla, which this year celebrated 200 years since it was discovered.
She then reached the McClure Strait and Beaufort Sea, before sailing down the American continent to reach the Antarctic.
“We crossed the Northwest Passage in difficult conditions. Thick ice regularly makes the McClure Strait impassable, and weather conditions are always difficult to predict in this region. ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ is designed for this kind of challenge, which for me as a sailor are highlights never to be forgotten,” said the ship’s Captain, Etienne Garcia: “It’s another milestone for the list of records of ’Le Commandant Charcot’”.
The ship had already taken guests to the Geographic North Pole for the first time last July and achieved another first in February, 2022 when the ship reached the southernmost navigable latitude in the Ross Sea.
As well as being the world’s only luxury icebreaker, she is a hybrid-electric exploration vessel powered by LNG. She also hosts researchers on board and provides them with dedicated work areas.
For this voyage, two scientists were on board – Marion Fourquez from the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO) and Nicolas Cassar from the US-based Duke University.
Both specialise in marine microbiology.