Wednesday 2 August 2017

A moment with Nicolas Dubreuil, Ponant's polar expedition leader

#expeditioncruising .'s editor, Roderick Eime, caught up with Ponant’s Polar Expedition Leader, Nicolas Dubreuil, on a whirlwind visit to Sydney.

“You have two lives,” Nicolas reminds me, “the second life begins when you realise you only have one.”

At that instant, I knew I was speaking with a man whose code reflected not only my own but that of thousands of expedition cruise converts.

Dubreuil is like no Parisian I’ve ever met. This wild-haired PhD in computer science threw away a perfectly good academic career to spend his time on the polar ice cap and now lives in a tiny hut in the wilderness of Greenland.

His first expedition was from Vancouver to Anchorage at the age of 17. Since then, he has been spending more than eight months each year near the poles, having travelled across by kayak, on skis, on a sleigh, on foot and under water. From Alaska to South Georgia, via Nunavut, Spitsbergen, Siberia, Iceland, the Antarctic Peninsula and Greenland, he accompanies and guides expeditions for athletes, scientists and film crews. Nicolas has been a Ponant expedition leader, guide and ethnologist for 12 years and has been sailing across the polar regions for over 20 years.

“I became tired of leading these ego-driven explorers who wanted to stand like a hero at the North Pole. ‘Here I am am all alone on the ice cap’ they would say to the camera as the film crew and I stood back making tea.

“So it was with a bit of a surprise when I joined Ponant as an expedition guide after all that 12 years ago. I was sure it was a mistake when they showed me this comfortable cabin with Tv and shower and everything. All I had for the gala dinner was my t-shirt and parka.”

As delighted as he was to be aboard Ponant, Nicolas wasn’t always a fan of tourism in places like Antarctica.

“At first I was against this kind of tourism in polar regions, but Ponant has helped change my mind. At the beginning I knew nothing of Ponant and this ‘expedition cruising’ thing. But it is clear to me now that Ponant has the [pauses] esprit, the spirit of adventure that is so important.

“Some remote places we visit have seen less people than the moon. That’s amazing. And I can bring my parents! And the luxury is in the crew and the facilities on board. You don’t have to camp in a windy tent to experience these locations.”

And you certainly don’t have to be Nicolas Dubreuil to appreciate the wonders of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Details of all PONANT voyages including itineraries, pricing and shore excursion highlights are available at

Contact your travel agent, or PONANT on Australia: 1300 737 178 or + 612 8459 5000 / New Zealand: 0800 44 32 62, or email to request more information or assistance.

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