Updated: Nov 19, 2022
It was one of the great Monaco’s attractions of the summer season. Unveiled on the 4th June 2022 in the presence of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Mission Polaire, L’Exposition (Polar Mission, The Exhibition) represents a unique experience that is added to the iconic Oceanographic Museum exhibit tour. The innovative showroom, conceived by the synergy of the Oceanographic Institute and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, leads all visitors to touch the ice footprint of the Arctic and the Antarctic, making them interact with explorers, local communities, flora and fauna in a multidisciplinary investigation. A fascinating expo suitable for all ages to have fun and increase their knowledge of the remote polar lands, fundamental for the climate equilibrium of the ecosystems of the Planet Earth.
The desire for adventure, innovation and knowledge is deeply rooted in the history of the Principality, lasting for more than 100 years. Prince Albert I of Monaco, in particular, has been a great pioneer of sea exploration and modern oceanography. Polar Mission is part of a series of initiatives aimed at celebrating the 100th anniversary of his death, including a commemorative expedition of the Sovereign Prince to the Svalbarg archipelago, between Norway and Greenland, to stress the importance of the international cooperation in preserving polar nature. But a special focus is being also put on the safeguarding of polar ecosystems increasingly threatened by extreme phenomena resulting from anthropogenic impacts. Endangered species, rising sea levels, sea water acidification, thawing permafrost together with human pollution, overfishing and overexploitation of underground resources are extremely worrying factors.
“I hope that the emotion aroused by the beauty of the polar regions, combined with the knowledge of their essential role in the scale of the globe will lead humanity to consider them with respect and precaution”, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Robert Calcagno, General Director of the Oceanographic Institute, Prince Albert I of Monaco Foundation has recently stated: “Polar Regions are essential drivers for the global smooth operation. Inform, act, convince ...there is no question of giving up…”. The Chief Executive Office of the most prestigious Monaco’s research and educational centre on the marine environment had a particular interest in those emblematic clusters as witnessed by his recent book: ‘Au Coeur du Mondes Polaires, entre Réchauffement et Convoitises’ (In the Heart of the Polar Worlds, between Warming and Lusts) edited by Editions Glénat. Generating empathy to embrace the environmental cause is the core message, as reiterated by the Sovereign Prince while talking about this new exhibition: “I hope that the emotion aroused by the beauty of the polar regions, combined with the knowledge of their essential role in the scale of the globe will lead humanity to consider them with respect and precaution”.
“Polar Regions are essential drivers for the global smooth operation. Inform, act, convince ...there is no question of giving up…”, Robert Calcagno, General Director of the Oceanographic Institute, Prince Albert I of Monaco Foundation.
More than any other ecosystem, polar biodiversity is vulnerable to rapid environmental change. The extraordinary abundance of natural species also comes from the totally different conformity of the two regions: the Arctic is formed by a floating ice cap while the Antarctic is a continent covered with ice. And the emblematic species that populate these apparently inhospitable territories are many, notably the polar bear(North Pole), the emperor penguin (South Pole), the arctic tern (both North & South Pole), the Southern sealion (South Pole), the humpback whale (both North & South Pole) and the arctic code (North Pole). Thus, “through this exhibition, each of us is invited to become the privileged observer of the incredible beauty of the polar worlds, but also a witness to their great fragility”, outlined Mélanie Laurent, French actress, producer and singer acknowledged as the patron of the showroom.
But what makes Polar Mission an experience not to be missed? MONACŒCOART® had the privilege to explore this novel immersive space that develops in five thematic stages, collecting some fresh inputs and impressions.
Photos >> Exhibition Hall No.1 : Meet the Explorers of the Poles of Yesterday and Today - Matthew Henson and Ada Blackjack ´(Oceanographic Museum, 23rd September 2022) - © Maurice Abbati MOEA.
Explorers of all ages dialogue with us.
In the Hall of Honour of the historic building overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and under the watchful eye of the Prince Albert I of Monaco statue, some of the greatest explorers of the polar regions interact with us thanks to an innovative exhibition design. Life-size totem review the incredible deeds of special men and women that in the two previous centuries have been pushed into unknown regions with basic instrumentation and technology, putting their lives at risk in the name of human knowledge. Among them, Matthew Henson who first reached the geographical North Pole, and Ada Blackjack, a lady of Inuit origins who survived a scientific expedition, contributing sensibly to the scientific research. More recently, Jean Malaurie, Jean-Luois Etienne et Frederik Paulsen were equally key actors as H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, the only Head of State to have reached the two Poles on an exploratory, informative and scientific mission. The collection of memorabilia belonged to each of them during travel missions were particularly interesting as real metaphors of their extraordinary spirit of adventure.
And the near future promises to amaze us as well thanks to high technology and a team of professionals as shown in preview by presenting Polar Pod, a fluctuant 100-metre-high platform (1,000 tons heavy) able to collect scientific data in polar regions facing the highest waves. This futuristic device, designed in 2021 by Yves Gaignet, most popular marine modeler, is integral part of the scientific mission led by the French contemporary explorer, Jean-Louis Étienne.
Photos >> Exhibition Hall No.2: Enter the World of the Inuits - handicrafts and furniture made with reused natural elements (Oceanographic Museum, 23rd September 2022) - © Maurice Abbati MOEA.
The Inuit world under the magnifying glass.
Going up to the first floor through the iconic monumental staircase, we were immersed in a journey that led us to think from the point of view of the populations living in the Arctic Circle. Their daily objects, their traditional costumes, the craft rowing boats as well as the hunting weapons, the minimalist design of the furniture and other handicrafts made from recycled material from the natural world, following an innate approach that makes sustainability a model of life, makes us plunge into the Inuit dimension. This is the essential part of a collection that came to us thanks to the donation of Jean Malaurie to the Oceanographic Institute. A life spent in contact with those populations over a period of 70 years leads us today to hear their eco-message based on an ancestral respect for the natural world which is expressed today with the technologies of the modern era.
Photo >> Exhibition Hall No.3: Breaking the secrets of North and South Pole - the essential antarctic krill and the iconic arctic fox (Oceanographic Museum, 23rd September 2022) - © Maurice Abbati MOEA.
The wonder of biodiversity through their best ambassadors.
The Océanomania main hall emerges as imposing as an iceberg to show the emblematic species of the North and South Poles in their polar whiteness. An extraordinary Nineteenth and Twentieth-century collection of naturalized fauna are shown for the entire exhibition space from the smallest (krill, essential nutrient) to the largest (polar bear) well describing life at both Poles, with all its differences and similarities. Interactive spaces and information panels form a welcoming ice pack where to know more about their lifestyles, migratory routes and habitual feeding within a specific ecosystem whose survival depends on each component. Hence the need to fight so that no piece of the puzzle disappears.
Photos & Videos >> Exhibition Hall No.4: Traveling in Immersion from the North Pole to the South Pole - amazing experience in augmented reality (Oceanographic Museum, 23rd September 2022) - © Maurice Abbati MOEA.
Be a single whole with the world of the Poles and its creatures through an amazing sensorial screen.
The curtain then opened on the IMMERSION hall, a unique synergy of high technology at the service of oceanographic knowledge especially created for the Oceanographic Museum. Thanks to 40 projectors continually broadcasting five different sequences of breathtaking scenes (on 650 m2 of a 9-metre-high immersive screen) a reconstruction in high definition of Arctic and Antarctic environments showing all the wild and powerful beauty of its distinctive elements. To float alongside immense banks of krill while whales are feeding on it or face to face with a polar bear or a killer whale, contemplating the Aurora Borealis in a starry night aroused within us a great emotion and sense of wonder. The extensive interactions of the screen with the movements of visitors and the sounds of nature that surround them at 360 degrees makes it even more exciting. A stage particularly loved by this summer’s audience that we can bet will continue during the two years of showcase.
Photos >> Exhibition Hall No. 5: Understanding the Challenges of Polar Scientific Research - face to face with scientists and emblematic figures engaged in the preservation of the Polar territories (Oceanographic Museum, 23rd September 2022) - © Maurice Abbati MOEA.
North and South Poles scientists reveal to the public.
The final space aims to give a face to scientists working to keep the knowledge of polar regions. Through a series of interactive stations visitors-reporters are informed about the latest scientific data collected at North and South Pole. This information also describes the impacts on the poles resulting from the changes in action on Planet Earth. Global warming, in particular, accelerate the melting of the polar cap having consequences on all the oceans of the Earth. The protection of the biodiversity is a prior target of Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation that is fostering the creation of new marine protected areas and increasing the knowledge of polar biodiversity putting in place climate mitigation strategies to prevent the climate shock, starting from our daily commitment. Human beings, in fact, are able to make a difference. We found the set-up particularly effective and educational to humanize the most scientific concepts pushing visitors to deepen their understanding through a multidisciplinary approach.
Interview with Fabien Dumont (F.D.), Animation and Education Service at the Oceanographic Museum.
MONACŒCOART®: The choice of polar regions is quite clear by analyzing the history of the explorations promoted by the Prince’s Family for more than a century. So, my question is what makes this exhibition innovative?
F.D.: I think that the direct involvement of visitors in the discovery of the polar regions accompanied by the first explorers of North and South Poles or both make this exhibition unique. The gradual unveiling of the polar environments including a face-to-face with local fauna up to immersing yourselves next to the polar fauna in the real heart of the Poles allows the public to realise the significance of this natural treasure to be preserved for the benefit of the whole Planet.
MONACŒCOART®: Can you give me three terms to define Polar Mission?
F.D.: First of all, it comes to my mind the Awareness of the Polar regions in a crescendo of expectations. Then, Exploration and finally Biodiversity in all its most significant aspects
MONACŒCOART®: Are you going to include this special section as an integral part of Musée Océanographique?
F.D.: Polar Mission will be open to the public for two years but most of the exhibits come from the personal collections of the Oceanographic Institute. The public response has been very positive so far with special regard to the IMMERSION, a nice surprise for everyone. Meetings with schools, started since the inauguration last June, have been also planned already. ***
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By Maurice Abbati