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#Southern Ocean Mission: goals achieved!

The Southern Ocean Mission was completed on 6 November. Upon returning to the port of Reunion, the scientific teams disembarked from the Marion Dufresne and left floats and moorings behind them in the Southern Ocean. Revisit this adventure through an interview with the mission’s director, Stéphane Blain, and through the eyes of two journalists who followed the teams for nearly a month.

Review of the mission

Interview with Stéphane Blain, a professor at UPMC, an oceanographer at the Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography (LOMIC) who jointly lead the Southern Ocean Mission with Sabrina Speich of ENS Paris and Hervé Claustre of the Villefranche Oceanographic Laboratory.

Stéphane Blain, you’ve just returned from the mission. What are your first impressions after spending a month at sea?

As always for missions on this ocean, it’s been intense. We had to modify the schedule and the strategy in accordance with weather conditions and various unforeseen events.

It went very well, with a fantastic atmosphere of collaboration between the scientific team, the Polar Institute’s team and the crew. So I’m very happy with the campaign, which has achieved all of its goals. 

The team is eager to find out what will be revealed by the data processing and the analysis of the samples that were collected.

What manoeuvers were carried aboard the Marion Dufresne, and what types of measuring instruments were deployed in the course of the mission?

Four main types of operations were carried out. 

  • Water samples and in situ measurements in the water column with the help of the rosette-CTD system while the ship was at the stations.
  • Measurements and the collection of surface water samples while the ship was under way.
  • The deployment of four instrumented moorings, which will be recovered during a campaign in March 2017.
  • The deployment of 10 Bio-Argo floats which will drift in the Southern Ocean, regularly transmitting the measurements that they take.

Do you have some figures to give us about the mission?



12 000




22 °C  


-1.4 °C  


4 800 m  


Now that you’re back from the Southern Ocean, what are the next steps for the mission?

The mission will continue through data processing and sample analysis. A very large part of this work will be completed by summer 2017.

In March 2017, there will be the campaign for recovering the instrumented moorings on the Marion Dufresne, and October 2017, there will be a meeting of the scientific teams to exchange all of the results and discuss their interpretation.

Real-time data


The data transmitted by the Bio-Argo floats are accessible in real time via a digital platform.

More information

The mission log

Before setting sail on the Southern Ocean, Yseult Berger, a journalist for Science Actus, confided her desire to closely follow the mission so that she could share this adventure with the public. 

During the mission, she shared the daily lives of the scientific teams and lived in accordance with the rhythm of the Marion Dufresne and the Southern Ocean. She transcribed her experience via a journal that was posted throughout the mission on the Science Actus website.


“When you’ve never been on an oceanographic ship, seeing that everything starts with tiny bottles immersed in meticulously gridded areas of water is quite moving.”

“I became aware that it’s truly through the persistence and rigor of science that we’re able to establish robust facts. It takes a crazy amount of patience to shape the understanding of the world around us.”

“The researchers that I came to know on this oceanographic campaign have a modern ecological consciousness: immanent, without unnecessary exacerbation.”


The eye of the mission – it’s him! For 1 month, Julien Boulanger followed the SOCLIM mission scientists to the Southern Ocean.

> Explore Julien Boulanger's photo documentary on our photo gallery.

The adventure in 3 highlights

The Marion Dufresne
The bottle: a water sample at 4,000m depth
The views of Kerguelen, a wild and preserved island

And what’s next?

Next March, Stéphane Blain and a number of scientists will be setting sail once again for the far south to retrieve particulate traps, and new data will be available to be shared.

In early spring 2017, there will be an exhibition on the Southern Ocean Mission at the Cité des Sciences, Paris, where you’ll be able to find all of the photos, 360° videos, and more from this astonishing experience. In the meantime, you can continue to follow the mission on Universcience.TV, which will air a documentary web series.

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