Famous Explorers and Great Navigators | Ponant Magazine

Exploring the world’s treasures

Samuel de Champlain, Jean-François de Lapérouse and Jean-Baptiste Charcot have one thing in common: they all conquered the most extreme seas and most remote polar regions. Take a closer look at three great explorers whose names were chosen for three of the new PONANT expedition ships.

Champlain, the “tabarnak”!

Navigator, captain, geographer, explorer and more – Samuel de Champlain’s life was entirely dedicated to the sea. Born in Brouage (Charente-Maritime) to a mariner father in 1567 – although the exact date has never been confirmed – his first trips were in the service of Spain. With his uncle, he discovered Mexico, Columbia and Bermuda. In around 1602, King Henry IV of France named him Royal Geographer.

Aymar de Chaste invited him to explore New France in order to establish a significant trading post where he explored the St. Lawrence River all the way to Montreal during this first trip. In 1608, during his third trip, the navigator discovered Lake St. John, the site chosen for a European colony, which on 3 July of that same year, the city of Quebec was founded. Named governor in 1619, Champlain remained there until his death in 1635. His humanist and tolerant values still resonate today in this largely French-speaking Canadian province…

Lapérouse, the “kanak”!

Born in 1741, this lover of the sea, who joined the navy at the age of 15, was taken prisoner by the English during the Seven Years’ War. His first expeditions took him to the Indian Ocean then to the Antilles where he again took up arms against the British. At the age of 40, this valiant sea captain’s fate changed.

Louis XVI offered him the chance to lead an expedition around the world. It had many objectives, notably setting up French bases throughout the North and South Pacific including in Australia. With two ships, La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, Lapérouse set off for an endless adventure. Although we know that he discovered the west coast of New Caledonia, the explorer went down with his ships at Vanikoro (now part of the Solomon Islands) in 1788. His disappearance remains a mystery to this day…

Charcot, the “crack”!

Jean-Baptiste was born in 1867, with the distinguished neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot as his father. At 26 years old, he built his first ship, the Pourquoi-Pas? (Why not?), a name he would use again over the course of his expeditions. The oceanographer liked to push his limits. In 1902, he crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time and the following year, he led the first French Antarctic Expedition and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil then Ushuaia.

At temperatures close to -30 °C, the Captain collected a host of information about the fauna and flora. This mission was a great success and contributed to furthering knowledge of the White Continent. Jean-Baptiste Charcot returned there in 1908 and discovered the island that now bears his name. Until September 1936, when he drowned off the coast of Iceland, the Captain dedicated his life to raising awareness and sharing knowledge about our planet’s poles.

The mission of these three pioneering explorers was to take to the sea and discover our planet’s most remote regions. We are inspired and encouraged by this to retrace their steps.


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