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World Explorer, Scientist Speaks at Embassy

World Explorer, Scientist Speaks at Embassy

Published on December 19, 2012
Jean-Louis Etienne Shares 35 Years of Mountain, Maritime and Polar Experience.
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See more photos of this event on Flickr.

The most famous living French explorer spoke at the French embassy the evening of December 14, sharing over 35 years of travel and research in a seminar-style speaking engagement with an international audience.

Jean-Louis Etienne, now 66, presented remarks and a 13-minute video during a conference titled "Oceans and Ice Caps: What the Poles Tell Us About Our Future."

A doctor by training, he described his simultaneous careers as a physician on expeditions, a scientist, an adventurer and, when not in the field, a public speaker and conservationist.

Dr. Etienne has led or been a part of expeditions to the farthest-flung corners of the earth — including Mount Everest, worldwide sailing journeys, and both poles — since 1975.

Several of his trips have marked firsts in their respective categories. He acted as the on-board doctor for the lengendary Pen Duick 6 racing yacht during the 1977-78 Whitbread Around the World competition. In 1986, Dr. Etienne became the first man to travel alone to the North Pole. The trip involved cross-country skiing while pulling a sled of supplies in total solitude for 63 days.

In partnership with the American explorer Will Steger, Dr. Etienne organized the Trans-Antarctica project between 1989 and 1990. Crossing the Antarctic continent via the longest possible route, the 4,000-mile journey took place over seven months with the help of a dogsled team.

In 2010, the explorer completed the first crossing of the Arctic via hot-air balloon. The trip was also conducted alone.

When asked what wisdom he had to give those interested in his adventures, Dr. Etienne cited the quality of perseverance. "You don’t know what you’re capable of if [one has] never confronted" one’s limits, he said. "Persevere, no matter what you’re doing."

He described his first-hand experience with global warming, and how his travels lend him credibility as a public speaker. "The adventure [aspect] is a very good link between science and education," Dr. Etienne said. Having been there himself, "when you talk to groups, the impact is very strong."

During opening remarks, the Ambassador of France to the United States, François Delattre, said he was "delighted" to host Dr. Etienne, calling him "one of the greatest explorers of our time."

The event in Washington was part of a five-date tour through the United States, which included stops in Boston, Shreveport, La., Birmingham, Ala., and Reno, Nev.


Read the introductory remarks by Ambassador François Delattre.

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