Voyage of discovery

It sounds like something out of a fantastical Jules Verne novel, but the Polar Pod – a manned oceanographic platform which will drift around Antarctica – is about to become very real.

It’s the brainchild of French explorer and environmentalist Jean-Louis Etienne, who will lead a pioneering scientific expedition to study the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which has a major influence on the Earth’s climate.

The Polar Pod is a fantastic example of how we’re prepared to go to the ends of the Earth to help our customers.

AkzoNobel has been brought on board as exclusive paints and coatings partner and will support the 1,000-ton platform for the next five years, from construction through to the completion of its three-year mission, which is expected to start in December 2023.

Standing 100 meters high, the Polar Pod won’t be motorized, so it will be zero emission, silently driven by the circumpolar current – like an ocean-going satellite – as it gradually makes its way around the Antarctic continent.

It will be supported by a dedicated offshore supply vessel, Perseverance (pictured below), which will be protected by our products. Permanently assigned to the mission, it will leave the nearest port to join the platform on its drift course as it crosses the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

“Partnering with the Polar Pod expedition is a great way for us to help advance scientific knowledge of the pivotal role the Southern Ocean plays on the Earth’s climate and marine biodiversity,” explains AkzoNobel CEO, Thierry Vanlancker. “We’re looking forward to supporting the team and raising awareness of the program as the mission begins to gather momentum.”

Adds Jean-Michel Gauthier, Director of the company’s Marine and Protective Coatings business: “As an industry leader in sustainability and a global market leader in marine and yacht coatings, lowering our environmental impact on the planet is a key aspect of our strategy.”

Polar Pod, view from water (photo)
Polar Pod size comparison with Big Ben and Statue of Liberty (photo)
Polar Pod boat in stormy weather (photo)

Operating in an area that sailors refer to as the Furious Fifties, the Polar Pod will gather data and carry out long-term observations that will be trans-mitted to researchers, oceanographers, climatologists and biologists at 43 scientific institutions in 12 countries. Studies will include: air/ocean exchange measurements, in particular related to carbon; wave dynamics; plankton collection and evaluation of the impact of acidification; acoustic inventory of marine fauna; validation at sea of satellite measurements and aerial observation of marine life.

Continues Vanlancker: “This is a really exciting partnership and a fantastic example of how we’re prepared to go to the ends of the Earth to help our customers and discover pioneering ways to become even more sustainable.”